On the first day of the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) general strike, 9th January 2012, the protest started rather sluggishly. This is in spite of the heightened anticipation for this day. It was easy to tell who was member of the NLC and who was not. However, NLC had announced that this is a people’s protest and they were just heading it. But that remarkable morning, people were sceptical.
Hip hop saved the day. I don’t mean rap. I mean methods of controlling the masses (without deception). Hip hop control is achieved in two stages: proving that you deserve to take control; and controlling when you ve taken control. The NLC Leaders were in the rear of a truck equipped with loud sound systems.
Tradionally hiphop control-responsibility is achieved after proving yourself on the mic. Holding the mic means you have been given a chance. Rocking the crowd means you are doing it right and have become an official MC (Mass Controller).
The truck is like the mic, it puts NLC in a state of authority; they are given a chance to prove they can lead. At the heart of this mass-controlling is the DJ in the truck. The sluggish NLC members received a boost of energy when the speakers started pumping Eedris Abdulkareem’s Nigeria Jagajaga. Soon enough it was difficult to tell an NLC member from (non-NLC) people. Like the Pied piper, NLC protest kept sucking more people.
Another attribute of hiphop that keeps coming up in the protest is the crowd response. A speaker always start with something like “Great Nigerians!” and crowd say “Great!”. “I want to speak!”, crowd say “Speak!”, “I want to talk!”, “Talk!”, “I want to Yarn!”, “Yarn!”… Like any hiphop show, you have crowd favorites and those that actually control the crowd well.
Finally is the use of the environment by the artist. An opera singer insists on a theatre with the right accoustics. A symphony position their instrument-players to take advantage of the room’s acoustics. Yesterday’s Abuja NLC protest (like 2-days-ago) ended at Area-1’s under-the-bridge. Overhead bridge made the speakers much louder, clearer and good reverb.