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How research led me to hip-hop – Unilorin lecturer

He is known as ‘Theorist’ because of his obsession with academics. But he found his way into the music scene despite holding a PhD from…

He is known as ‘Theorist’ because of his obsession with academics. But he found his way into the music scene despite holding a PhD from the Kwara State University, Malete. In this interview, Dr Isiaq Atanda Abdulwaheed, a lecturer of Political Science, University of Ilorin, talked about his foray into music, which started in 2016 and how he has struggled to combine both disciplines, among other issues. 

How did your interest in music start?

The spectrum of academics is broad. Once you board the bus, it can take you anywhere. It all started while I was researching on hip-hop and Fuji artistes in Nigeria. I discovered another area of research which I titled the “the place of education and talents exhibition in Africa.” I found out that while talent may rule the world, education can help to improve it, there isn’t need to sacrifice one for the other. Before long, I discovered there was no single-serving lecturer in Africa who is also an artist that communicates many findings to a large audience beyond classrooms and libraries. That is how I became the first lecturer to sing hip-hop in Africa. With much enthusiasm, one can explore beyond the walls of the classrooms and libraries.

How did your employers take your interest in music?

I don’t think I have an issue with my employers because I am a researcher, and of course, what led to this was a result of my research work. As a lecturer, I have three important responsibilities; teaching, research and community service. I see my music evolvement as service to the community.

Dr Isiaq Atanda Abdulwaheed Unilorin lecturer


We are in an era of the hip-hop generation students. How do you relate with your students?

As a philosopher and political scientist, I know the best approach for their generation. It is one of the main goals of being an artiste. As a researcher, there is what we call participant observation. We cannot understand them until we create the methodology of interaction.

How do you write songs, and what is the motivation; or do you buy them? 

God first is my number one motivator, but basically, three things lure me to the studio, glue my hands to the pen and make me sing uncontrollably. They are books, the society and my life experiences. As a bookworm, I am always obsessed with anything academic. I love research and reading. When reading about an intriguing socio-political or economic phenomenon, I always feel a sudden throb compelling me to look for a way to coin it into lyrics and make it simple for the common man to understand the importance of such to his well being. 

Don’t forget that true life lessons are hidden in the pages of a book. I am also a poet. I write poems a lot, which is ordinarily used to form the body and lyrics of a particular song. I do give artists songs because of my prowess in lyrics. But it is time for me to sing it all myself. 

What I can’t stand is seeing people being deprived of joy, peace and prosperity. I believe in treating others as you would like to be treated. That is why I kicked vehemently against rape, unfaithful politicians, and all forms of moral vices. 

You need to listen to these songs and watch the videos. It is beyond the ordinary. My life experiences encompass the journey of my life, travails and lessons learned. I don’t want people to be discouraged by their current situations but rather to always be hopeful. Truly, it is not easy out there.

Have you performed at shows? What are some of your albums?

As a researcher, I learn new things any time I am performing on stage and meeting people. It gives me more inspiration on the best way to address societal ills and the possible response. It is always a loving experience getting to see that so many people want to listen to me on stage. 

I have been to many shows and shared the stage with many known celebrities and artistes. I have ‘Rape’, ‘Covid-19’, ‘Pack & Go’ and ‘Asawa Ni’ among others. My latest is ‘Someday’ released recently. My EP will be out this year. Shows that I have performed include Unilorin International Student’s Association Dinner (2019), SUG Dinner (2017-19 and 2021), Miss Africulture (2019, 2020), Elite Vibez Awards (2020) and Miss Unilorin (2018, 19, 20).

Is your musical career a lifelong project?

I am obsessed with making impacts beyond academics. I also want to reach out to the common man outside, just like Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson. They remain heroes and legendary figures respectively. From being the first African lecturer hip-hop artiste, I also want to be remembered for changing the world with academics and music.

Can you jettison academics for music because of fame?

Academics is part of me. The reason behind the name, ‘Theorist’ was my obsession with academics. That’s where the inspiration for research comes. Even if I leave academics, I will establish a research centre where we can impact the next generation. Academics is broad, but taking our message to the right audience matters too. I cannot embark on any research that will end in the library, on my table or the classroom again; I will rather find a buyer.  That is part of my contribution towards community development and service to humanity.

Who are some of the artistes you have collaborated with, and what is your fan base? 

I have done ‘collabo’ with Yinka the lyrical Grand Khadi and have had the privilege of sharing the stage with some of the biggest artistes in Nigeria like 9ice, Qdot, Idowest and Fireboy. I have a considerable number of fans, both online and physically.

If you have to chose between music and lecturing, which where will the pendulum swing?

As a researcher, I am deeply rooted in academics, but let’s wait till that time. When I get to the bridge, I will cross it.

You are from an environment where music, especially hip-hop is not widely accepted because of religion, what can you say about this?

Music and being an artist is not particularistic. Even where it seems so, anybody can be a consumer. My music is general, and not for particular location. To put the record straight, it is not about religion but education, research and the message I want to pass across and how I want to pass it. That’s why I am a lover of good music.

What can you say about the Nigeria music industry from the lens of an academic?

The Nigeria music industry is crowded with many good artistes, some of which are street artistes – Afropop, Hip-hop etc with so many good voices and lyrics. When you listen to these folks, you would discover that their music have many dimensions, diverse techniques, instruments and messages.

Have you had some embarrassing moments pursuing your music interest?

The music industry is beyond what we see and hear outside. For this reason, one has to tolerate a certain level of misbehaviour to reach your targeted audience. Some of the embarrassing moments at times could be annoying, but it is another source of research one can look into as a participant observant. That is what I can say about that.

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