Before there was Illbliss, Phyno and Flavour, there was Ukeje Okechukwu Edward, popularly known as Dat Nigga Raw, and now officially Mr Raw. He can be regarded as the pioneer of traditional Igbo rap in Nigeria. Raw, who hails from Abia state in the Southern part of Nigeria, was born and brought up in Enugu.
A graduate of Business Administration from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu, Raw appeared on the Benson & Hedges Grab the Mic talent hunt show in 2002, which he won. This was his first foray into the limelight. In the same year, he participated in the maiden edition of Star Quest with Klint Da Drunk. At this time Klint was already well known as a comedian and the duo tagged themselves “The Comedians”. They finished in second place, behind KC Presh.
When Raw started his rap career, he predominantly rapped in his native Igbo language and also in pidgin, and still does today. In 2005, Mr Raw released his debut album, Right or Wrung, which included his hit single Obodo, however according to him, ‘I wrote my first song, not a mime, but my song in 1992’
On Obodo, which in Igbo language means “City”, Raw features his longtime friend, KlintDaDrunk, and the song is presented in a storytelling style. Raw switches from Igbo to Pidgin and back to Pidgin, narrating some of the realities of life as a Nigerian to a group of villagers in what might be a village square, while Klint provides melodies and adlibs to the song.
The rapper shares his pain points in this song, expressing his struggles as a Nigerian artist he raps, “Money no dey my pocket, economy still dey drop, even sef me wey dey rap I never chop”. Describing an encounter he had with the police who had harassed him and tried to take his “garri”, he asks on the song, “biko who una be, abi na Man O War, soldier men, mobile police…?”
This song was released in 2005 and is still relevant in 2020. The police still harass people on the streets, trying to take away the little “garri” that they have struggled to gather. The economy is still poor and dropping, rappers are still struggling and Nigeria has just been on a downward spiral.
Obodo was a massive commercial success at the time, gaining relevance in an era when buying CDs was still popular. Following the success of his first album, Raw founded the Raw Deal Entertainment record label in 2005.
In 2007, the Abia born rapper released his second body of work, Everything Is Raw. The album had hits like “Ko Gbadun” and “In Love With An Angel” and featured the likes of Duncan Mighty, Phyno, MC Loph, Flavour among others.
He subsequently released End Of Discussion in 2010 , which included “O! Chukwu”. O Chukwu won Best Afro Hip Hop Video at the Nigerian Music Video Awards (NMVA) in 2010. One peculiar thing about Raw’s discography is how he has amassed a number of music videos and he did this when music videos to accompany audio was not very popular. With this, he has managed to keep the memory of his songs alive and made them available to a wider audience.
His last album, The Greatest was released in 2012.
Speaking on why he had to change his name from “Dat Nigga Raw” to “Mr Raw” in a 2013 interview, the Igbo rapper says, ‘some foreign stations like MTV Base couldn’t play my music until I removed the word ‘Nigga’ from my name. I had to do it. But what actually gave me the push to change my name to Mr Raw was when many people complained that they weren’t able to buy my songs online’.
If you happen to stumble on the side of Youtube that contains grainy videos of old Nigerian music, you find in the comments section that there are several people who miss the “good old days” of Nigerian music. People who love these songs and the artists, and hold fond memories of the days when O! Chukwu, Obodo, In love with an angel, and other hits reigned over the airwaves. It is undeniable that Raw has a loyal fanbase that he has carried through the years even without any new releases.
Mr Raw, recently released the video to his new single Odogwu Aburo Guy Name, explaining his motivation for the song, Raw says “my guy sent me the beat and when I heard it that was what came to my mind, Odogwu Aburo Guy Name – strong man no be guy name”
“People still call me, that they want me to perform Obodo…. Music is what I will always do”
Speaking with Nigerian Entertainment Today, Mr Raw explains why he has not dropped an album since 2012, ‘I haven’t dropped an album because I haven’t really been thinking in that direction’. He says, ‘I’m just having fun’.
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