Last week (Wednesday 4th April), North London grime champion Skepta made news around the world as he travelled out to Nigeria to be honoured with the new title of 'Chief' in his family's native, Ogun State.
Receiving the title of 'Amuludun of Odo Aje'—Amuludun meaning 'entertainer' in the Yoruba language—this comes in reference to his worldwide status as grime scene flag-bearer, but also in acknowledgment of his growing ambassadorial role to the country.
On the evening of the ceremony, a proud Joseph Adenuga shared video footage and a message that read: "Thank you to the Baale, Chiefs of Odo Aje and King for presenting me with my Chieftaincy title today. I am honoured and will continue to put time and love into Nigeria, especially the community of Odo Aje."
An equivalent measure to Orders of the British Empire, given out by the Queen twice a year, it's worth noting that the MC apparently turned down an MBE last year, revealing on the track "Hypocrisy": "The MBE got rejected/I'm not trying to be accepted."
Skepta's rumoured girlfriend, supermodel Naomi Campbell, was also in attendance and shared her congrats online. While out in Lagos, she attended ARISE Fashion Week and walked shows for esteemed designers Ozwald Boateng and Lanre Da Silva Ajayi's latest collections. Tinie Tempah's What We Wear also unveiled a capsule collection and BBK Africa showcased their Homecoming pop-up, which included a star-studded concert headlined by Wizkid, J Hus and Davido.
Managing to respectfully fuse Nigeria's traditional culture with contemporary western culture, Adenuga really is living up to his greatness tagline. Here is a quick explainer on what else you might want to know about the star's new title.
In southwest Nigeria, Ogun State is just over an hour's drive away from Lagos, with Ijebu-Ode one of its major towns. Famed across the region for its carnival-like festivals and cultural events, the Ojude Oba festival—which is annually held on the third day after Eid al-Kabril—remains a highlight in the calendar, dating back over 100 years. Odo Aje, where Skepta's chieftaincy was conferred, remains one of the important communities in Ijebu Ode.
The current king of the entire Ijebu Kingdom has reigned since 1960, as one of the longest reigning monarchs in Nigeria. The Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagha II and other smaller communities are then headed by leaders, such as the Baale.
Chiefs in Nigeria dress in full regalia, indicative of their regional cultures, during ceremonial events. Within the Yoruba community, where Skepta hails from, the complete regalia for the occasion is Agbada, Buba, and Sokoto. In the past, the cap was worn Abeti-Aja style (meaning like dogs ears); nowadays, the chieftaincy titles are inscribed on the head gear of individual chiefs, as seen on Skepta.
Skepta is wearing white coral beads to complement his status as a chief, and all chiefs and kings in Nigeria wear beads as a symbol of being conferred with a kingship or a chieftaincy title. The beads are normally worn either on the necks and wrists, or both.
The green leaves tucked into Skepta's hat is amongst the most important decorations, and certifies the chieftaincy on him. Only after this, would he be given the staff of office and the certificate. Without the leaves, he cannot be confirmed or pronounced as a chief. The green leaves hailing from West Africa are called Newbouldia laevis, and are known as Akòko leaves by the Yoruba people.
"I make Nigerians proud of their facial scars," rhymes Skepta on "Autopsy", and this remains as fascinating and defiant as when I first heard it as a fellow Brit of Nigerian descent. Across Skepta's lengthy catalogue, lines like "I'm a bad-boy from Nigeria, not St. Lucia... Big lips, African hooter" (from "Intensive Snare") outline his intention to proudly hold up his roots from his very introduction. He would then go on to sample Prince Nico Mbarga's classic party anthem, "Sweet Mother"—which means as much to African women as "Wonderwall" means to uni students—on his debut album, showing further support for Nigeria as a place of inspiration and heritage.
In 2016, Adenuga helped build a playground in his father's village and then later went on to headline NATIVELAND, Lagos' premier annual music fest, that year—returning a year later for another surprise slot. The overall effects won't be apparent just yet, but rest assured Skepta is helping to add new texture to the second-generation immigrant experience, centred on reconnection and a real appreciation of their roots. It feels like the actualisation of long-held ambitions, as Skepta tells Vogue: "Lagos really feels like the new cultural mood board."