Take Back Your Life

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Look for me where rules are broken and conventions subverted,
Where life is lived by the moment and breaths are not counted,
Where nobody gives a shit about the number of times you’ve failed,
Because you’re yourself, and that’s the best you can ever be.

After years of keeping my head down and struggling to fit in, I finally rid myself of that pointless worrying about the way I am perceived by non-entities who are only too eager to imprison me with glares of disapproval and torture my soul with thoughtless remarks as odious as an errant egg fart in an overcrowded room. It’s not that I don’t want to be loved, but I have learned that I won’t die because one more person doesn’t like me (my hair, my crooked teeth, or the way my jeans are always slimmer than ‘normal’). I don’t care, so I don’t fuss over being accepted and I’ve never been better.

I celebrate my freedom with both middle fingers flashing repeatedly at the world (mentally, because it’s more fun when you do it in slow motion with a backing soundtrack playing in your head). Those two are memorials to all the fucks I will never be able to give because I willingly let go of the capacity to care about things of no consequence, including the unsolicited opinions of individuals who are of less value to me than the shelter of a blade of grass in a thunderstorm.

Believe me, I know what it’s like to feel compelled to justify the actions you take for your own self, to apologise even when you’ve done nothing wrong, to accept more crap from people than a communal pit latrine. That’s not humility, it’s suffering, and there are jail cells far more comfortable than this position.

If you let them, people (and the fear of them) will keep you small and barely human, just another broken spirit in their display case of broken spirits. But only if you let them. You always have a choice, and the power to:

1. Reject the damned cage. You’re not an animal.

2. Speak up when you feel wronged. Speak, I said, not send an email.

3. Wear sweatpants to a wedding. Or skip it completely if you can’t be bothered.

4. Call people out on their bullshit. Cowards are unattractive.

5. Let the colours clash. Style is personal.

6. Not start a sentence with “I’m sorry, but…” Get right to the point.

7. Say no to whatever. There are few things more liberating.

8. End an abusive relationship (with a partner, an employer or a family member).

9. Respect yourself so much that people will respect you.

10. Decide how your story will be told.

There’s not much that anyone can do about you fighting for what’s yours: the right to be happy, respected and fulfilled.

It’s your life. Start living it, don’t just get by.

Fix Up, Bro: My Open Letter To M.I. Abaga

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Jude,

How can Naeto C (who, by the way, isn’t half the lyricist you are) be eating into your ‘market share’ with his owambe rap?!

*long pause*

I know you’ve been busy over the past year and a half—cobbling your blog/website/webzine/thingy together, trying to sell croissants, mentoring wannabe superstars and being the poster boy for Eko O Ni Baaje on Google+. Yes, I know a body has to eat, but what about making good music—the very thing that made you relevant in the first place?

Listen, Chocolate City isn’t what it used to be: Brymo has gone rogue, Jesse Jagz has started a marijuana republic, Ice Prince is, well, still good ol’ uninspiring Ice Prince, and the recruits are learning the ropes. There are no longer any anthemic tracks from that band of rough-riding Jos exports the world used to rave about. The Choc Boys are no more, and your Loopy Music imprint is too inert to generate capable replacements (sorry, Loose Kaynon).

Is it necessary to remind you that 2012’s Illegal Music 2 was a shadow of the original? Or that on the last real single you released, you sounded more like an aspiring head motor park tout than the chairman you claimed to be? And while it’s a noble thing to do, recording musical tributes to people who died before their time isn’t exactly a viable plan to keep a rap career going.

On a Nigerian music scene where teamwork is fast becoming the norm, you haven’t been collaborating with anyone. Getting high and mighty aren’t you, short black boy? Meanwhile, micro-talented young goons are encroaching on your territory. And by merely occupying your space on the airwaves, these halfbreeds are spitting cannonball-sized insults at the lyrical edifice you built with their potty mouths. When was the last time you heard any of your songs on radio? Your building is crumbling slowly, man. Are you just going to seat your dimunitive self in your dimunitive chair until there’s nothing left to defend?

Don’t make your fans haemorrhage until they have no love left to bleed for you. It’s the start of a new, potentially great year. In 2014, anything less than an EP full of heart, confidence and audible effort will be unacceptable. Best get to it.

Later, bro.

Alternative Essays: Hold Back Or Be Disappointed, Your Choice

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Every time you let someone in, every time you let yourself go, you take one sure-footed step towards the edge of a cliff. It’s not something that is done to you, this vulnerability that comes with exposure, the stripping away of defences is always your own doing. You take the leap of your own accord. If no one is kind enough to break your fall, you hurtle to the hard, cold ground called reality and shatter to smithereens on impact. That’s on you. Perhaps you were coerced, maybe even duped, into committing yourself to the jump, but you sure as hell weren’t shoved in the back.

You see, the earlier people start taking responsibility for the emotional hurts they suffer at the hands of the ones they claim to love and trust, the better for the entire world. That unmistakable feeling of being aggrieved after a heart-shattering breakup or some similar disappointment, and the need to adorn another’s doorstep with the blame for the ‘wrong’, is old and tired. More often than not, we set ourselves up for heartbreak with self motivation and the painstakingly nurtured unrealistic dreams of undying love, commitment, devotion or regard expected from another human who’s just as flawed as we are. We get carried away and ignore the alarm bells that go off in our heads the very instant we begin to expect too much from other people. “You’ve set the bar too high,” the voice inside whispers fiercely, but we’re often too far over the moon to even begin to bother about trying to fly lower. And then comes the letdown, shocking and unexpected, but only so because we pulled the wool over our own eyes and consequently failed to see all the little signs that are timeless indicators of an impending disappointment.

No one is perfect, no one is damn near good enough to be perfect. People falter, it’s basic human nature, and you’re better off trusting in the sun’s unfailing appearance day after day than in the perceived capacity of another entity of blood, flesh and bones such as yourself to keep a promise that could very well have been made on a whim, thoughtlessly. Your heart will only be broken if you hand the world a sledgehammer. Love, but don’t expect to be loved in equal measure. Trust, but do it with reserve. Believe, but keep that pinch of salt handy. And when you fall, maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a safety net made from precaution waiting to catch you.

I Lied to My Wife, Flew to Lagos, and Got the Sh*t Beaten Out of Me Because of a Nigerian Email Scam

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By Laurent Moucate (as told to Felix Macherez)

By now, everyone is well aware of “419” scams, also known as advance-fee fraud or Nigerian-email fraud. These are cons in which anonymous hustlers pose as corrupt African officials or exiled refugees looking to transfer Scrooge McDuck-ian heaps of cash into foreign accounts. They blanket thousands of email addresses with invitations, and the occasional gullible victim is tricked into forking over private banking information. There are a handful of variations, but most people with eyeballs and keyboards know to hit mark spam whenever they see anything of the sort sliming around their inbox.

In 2003, however, the con was less well known, and a friend of my father’s got seriously duped. When Laurent (his name has been changed at his request), then a 42-year-old salesman at a pharmaceutical company living on Réunion Island (a French territory in the Indian Ocean), received an offer to launder $1 million from a frozen Nigerian bank account into his own, it seemed to solve all of his money problems.

Instead, he wound up battered, bruised, and abandoned in a strange country. I spoke with him recently to find out what the hell happened.

About ten years ago, I was at home playing chess on my computer when an email from someone claiming to be the governor of Lagos, Nigeria, landed in my inbox. The subject line was URGENT, so I read it right away—actually, I read it a few times in a row. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I don’t recall the exact wording of the email, but the gist of it was that the governor of Lagos West constituency, Bola Tinubu, had hidden around $1 million in a secret bank account to avoid taxes. The money had been stolen from public funds, the email continued, and the Tinubu family couldn’t use it because they were being closely monitored by the government.

They needed a foreigner to come to Lagos, take the money out of the account, and put it into a Swiss bank. That’s where I came in. Supposedly, if I sent $1,300 in cash to a Lagos address, they would get me a room in a luxury hotel, and I could come over and sign some documents that would be prepared by a lawyer, whose fees would run me another $1,300. I’d wind up with 5 percent of that $1 million, which sounded pretty fair to me.

Don’t stop, keep reading.

Image, text via VICE