An eulogy for Nigerian Street-hop sensation Mohbad who sadly passed away on September 12, 2023.
When I reviewed Mohbad’s sophomore EP ‘Blessed’ released in June 2023, I borrowed the famous words of Anne Frank who said:
“Beauty remains, even in misfortune. If you just look for it, you discover more and more happiness and regain your balance. A person who’s happy will make others happy; a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery.”
To an extent, this quote resonates with the life of the sensational talent Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba aka Mohbad whose music offered solace and delights to listeners even though he endured a career that was painfully robbed of the same.
From all indications, Mohbad searched for happiness but barely found it, yet his music offers a good time and makes burdens lighter.
In the ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’, Frank opined that a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery. Indeed, Mohbad courageously navigated life’s vicissitudes. He bravely fought for the chance to be what he knew he could become, and although we will never get to experience the full spectrum of his greatness, he leaves us with enough to celebrate him.
Truly, beauty remains even in misfortune, and a big misfortune it’s to lose a star whose fire was reigniting in preparation to illuminate the industry.
Uniqueness, distinction, and special are qualifiers that have been flimsily thrown around in Afrobeats. However, for Mohbad, these words do justice to his abilities.
His unique voice, his stunning one-liners, his playful lyrics, the honesty with which he draws listeners closer, and his swaggering delivery that straddled Fuji and Hip-hop made Mohbad a special talent yet an easily relatable artist.
His decision to do music was not a happenstance nor a hobby. For Mohbad, music was all he knew, all he had, and all that mattered to him. He saved money for studio time while working as an assistant in a carpentry workshop. Indeed, Mohbad went through thick and thin to fight for his art. His undying love and refusal to walk away from music brought him a lot of pain during a sensational career that was painfully cut short.
In 2020, Mohbad emerged among the crop of Neo-Fuji artists combining cultural, street, and foreign influences to craft music that captures the soul of the street.
While his music was arranged to offer a good time, his words were a reflection of his life and the reality that shaped them.
His ‘say it as it’s’ style was evident in his breakout single ‘Ponmo’ where he recruited the assistance of Naira Marley & Lil Kesh, two Street-Hop stars skilled in street cadences and unabashed in their use of vulgarity.
When he combined with Rexxie for the smash hit ‘Ko Por Ke’, he delivered one of Street Hop’s most famous cuts and just like Rexxie, his career took on an upward trajectory.
His debut EP ‘Light’ released in December 2020, was the first comprehensive manifestation of his distinction. In the opener ‘Sorry’, he gave insight into his tough upbringing and his rebellious decision to turn to undesirables while retaining the self-awareness to appreciate the effect of his decisions on his parents.
Mohbad smoothly flowed on Highlife strings like Orlando Owoh while interpolating the famous lines of King Sunny Ade. A song interestingly recorded by the Grammy-nominated Juju legend during his trying times with African Songs Limited. A similar experience Mohabd would come to share just a few years later.
Crafting easily digestible and delightful music was Mohbad’s preoccupation and he excelled in this. With writings that convey striking relatability and melodies that captivate, he delivered records that made him a go-to artist irrespective of what one may think about the things he elected to talk about and how he goes about it.
From ‘Feel Good’ his reimagination of James Brown’s classic ‘I Feel Good’ record to ‘Peace’, where he emphasizes his desire to simply lead a good life, Mohbad’s music offers a reliable escape from life’s worries.
And although he was able to help others escape, he was constantly in search of escapism. After parting ways with Marlian Records, Mohbad essentially had to restart his career. A decision painfully tough and challenging yet which he embraced in the hope that the road would lead to happiness.
Even at his trying times, Mohbad took pride in his role as one of Street-Hop’s foremost Prophets. He made sure to make his fans happy through his music while emphasising his defiance to keep forging ahead even when his reality suggests he was at his wit’s end.
On September 12, 2023, Mohbad sadly passed away. He was only 27 years old. Mohbad spent his life in constant pursuit of happiness. He was not perfect and he happily embraced his imperfections while offering the best of himself to listeners.
Mohbad made his mark with two brilliant EPs and several hit singles in which his joy, pain, and life are documented. Till the end, he fought for the music he loved. And now that he’s no more, it’s time for the music to fight for him.