Since I saw the Nigerian Alternate video of William Leonard Roberts II aka Rick Ross’ “HOLD ME BACK” (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xu60JoFAN78), months after the original (American version) was released in late 2012, I had been wanting to publicly air my views about it. I have on several occasions voiced my thoughts but only before friends and acquaintances, and at every occasion I have found that my opinion differed depending on how I felt about Nigeria at the time.
I didn’t even plan to talk about it now until yesterday when while looking for a movie to watch on YouTube, I stumbled ‘pon it. I feel it trite to write about it now because time has tempered the influence the controversy (the video generated at the time it was released), might have had on my train of thoughts and reaction to it, it has also allowed me to sieve feelings from all sides of the divide in arriving at what should be my take on the issue.
The beats, from a very good sound output system is quite a stunner though it fell slightly short of what we know his handlers are capable of. The lyrics, except for a few lines really bear no relation to the video, seeing that it was done initially for another video (the American version which was released earlier before Rozay’s visit to Nigeria), then made more like a voiceover for the Nigerian version. However, the areas that relate to events in American ghettoes (as visualized with the original video) rang slightly true and is in tandem with the realities in and of the poor Nigerian.
The video starts with a flashback to the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war, with an arrogant General Yakubu Gowon declaring what followed as “a victory for commonsense” (a war from which Nigeria has never fully recovered, most especially because the conditions that led to it remain ever present and prevalent in Nigeria’s socio-religio-econo-politcal landscape), before the video went into showing the slums in Lagos and the Niger Delta, with brief interludes where the voices of the people are heard, singing and chanting with a Niger Delta dance troupe mimicking the activities of militants with wooden guns, and kids naked and half naked jumping into the water to go meet Rick Ross’ boat for a handout of dollar notes, one each for the kids that came/swam to them, while the adults, or more likely their parents stood ashore with arms akimbo, in homes made of bamboo sticks, watching the proceedings.
The grouse with many about this video has been why Rick Ross decided to focus on the slums/non glamorous aspect of Nigeria, and not it’s opulent and glitzy parts, but they forget easily that at the beginning of the video the beautiful landscapes were shown, even skyscrapers including the “AFRICAN RE” building amongst others. Understandably, Nigerians are the sort who wouldn’t take kindly to foreigners casting aspersions on their persons or nations even when it is the obvious that’s been highlighted, and when such are things average Nigerians battle with daily, the same things people, even the wealthy activists indict the governments of the day with.
Many of the artistes who criticised this Rick Ross video at the time it was released, are the ones whose videos celebrate nudity and ostentatious realities far beyond their reach (some of them actually) as well as for many of their fans, who intending to replicate what they’ve seen their idols showcase on TV, engage in several illegal and criminal acts to bring their phantom dreams to reality. What should’ve been an opportunity for soul searching became lost to these as they continued to revel in a fantasy world with a total disconnect from their environment, exemplified with the top dollar they readily paid to see Kim Kardashian (who headed to a hotel from the airport and back the same way without as much as desiring to see and know what the people of the country she’d come to visit looked or felt like) “live” for just two minutes at an event organized by one of their own in what sensible people easily deduced the “scam” inherent within the planning and execution of the programme. Interestingly, many of the pseudostars parading themselves as “stars” in Nigeria came from those shanties Rick Ross showcased in the video, it was on the back of support from ghettoes such as those that they climbed to so called stardom and once “made” alienated themselves from their humble beginnings. What they failed to do is what Rick Ross has done, not just for them, but even for himself with the original and American version of the “Hold Me Back” video which showcased something similar to the Nigerian version.
This video however will not go without some spanking either, the part of giving away dollar notes to kids who had to wade through the water to come collect them is sad, and a reflection of the world view about Africans as people who live on handouts (which isn’t totally false, even for a wealthy oil producing country like Nigeria, where massive corruption has kept the country backward and her people in want, in the midst of plenty), and on the part of the “Teflon Don” was very uncharitable, as he could’ve done that behind the cameras if indeed he intended to help. Though that would require something more elaborate and better coordinated, like Jay-Z’s water project in Kwara State, Nigeria where he got the title of “Seriki’n Waka” (Chief of Music) years ago, or Oprah Winfrey’s “Girls School” in South Africa amongst many others I wouldn’t want to mention for now, than the one-off thing he appeared to have elected to do in the video.
The relevance of ending the song with explicits such as “puss-y” and “ho-s” repeatedly beats me, giving ammunition to the many who think the lyrics had nothing to do with the video in the first place, though for many followers and revelers of and in hip-hop, who are used to such explicit words readily bandied about in raps, they may not find anything wrong with it as it may just be some of the words that go with the beat.
The onus lies on Nigerians (in government or not, but in any position to influence change) to now do more to change the situation of things if we want embarrassments such as these to stop, because no matter how you look at the video, the truth is that much of what is shown isn’t make-believe but reality. When we duly set our minds to making the necessary changes no Jupiter will be able to HOLD US BACK!