Tribute to B Elect: emcee, poet, fine artist and a perfect gentleman
Saturday morning, June 8th, just as Nigerians were sharing scarred memories of former Military President Sani Abacha who passed away 21 years ago, news of another death filtered in, but unlike when Nigerians took to the streets in celebration two decades ago, this time, it came in form of a crushing blow.
Rapper/Poet/Producer B Elect was announced to have passed away reportedly after a case of cardiac arrest and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Those who knew him willed it to be untrue, prayed it a bad dream or some dry joke lacking a pricking punchline, but death had stung and a good one had taken his last breath.
Growing up, rap anchored me towards self-identity. I struggled to find where I fit in, my being way taller than my peers made me the butt of endless jokes and not having an English name ensured I had to deal with more mispronounced jokes both from fellow students and teachers.
Then I found solace, in Notorious BIG, his lyrics were my mantra, in then Puff Daddy, I found a connection so deep, such that I adopted the name ‘Combs’, at least that made me feel ‘cool’, thus, when the Nigerian pop scene witnessed some form of revolution with groups like Remedies, Def O Clan, Plantashun Boiz, Trybesmen, and others, I welcomed them not just into my ears but into my heart.
Being a member of a group was very representative at this point, teenagers who had been largely influenced by Western music and were uncertain of the reception back home or how to even develop this talent finding support in themselves, was a move I could relate with.
When I saw another group, Da Thoroughbreds rise, I was piqued, another set of hip-hop purists, an entirely diverse crew of not just rappers but also a Neo-soul singer and a graphics person, they promised something more and just as their name inferred, this collective was thorough in their belief to the artform.
Da Thoroughbreds comprised of six members, Tobechukwu Ejiofor, aka IllBliss, the most successful of the clique, then there is Tochukwu Nwosu aka Elajoe whose biggest claim to commercial glory is his verse on the hit single, ‘Stylee’, Obiora Nwokolobiagu, known as Obiwon and Andrew Bright Igho aka B Elect.
Also affiliated to the collective were the Soul singer and first lady of the crew Amaka Nwosu, [Chief Rocka] Elajoe’s sister and Ikenna Ezenwa aka MGB, who was the crew’s graphic artist.
Members of the group made their first connections sometime in 1995 during their days as students of the University of Nigeria, Nsuka.
IllBliss and Obiwon had formed Coal City’s Finest [CCF], MGB a classmate to B Elect, who was studying Fine Art introduced IllBliss and in the early 2000s, they all agreed to officially create the group, Da Thoroughbreds.
Sadly, the Breds did not particularly enjoy a lengthy spell as a group, Ill Bliss had to leave the country while Obiwon and Ela pursued their individual ambitions but in their short time on the scene, they did leave their mark in the annals of Nigerian hip-hop especially with the success of the single, ‘Street Hop’, the self-titled track from their EP, which won the ‘Best Rap Video’ at the 2006 Headies and Amen Awards. They are also credited with nurturing younger groups, the likes of Underground New Nation, Nuff Noyz, Outshine, and even the Caliphates.
‘The madness of Afrohiphop, a sorry excuse for mediocrity got us pumping our fists with our rhyming patterns in protest,’’ B Elect explaining the inspiration behind the song.
He was to also further establish his elite skill on the single, ‘My Ode to Hip-Hop’, where his effortless delivery and timeless message, as well as the visceral storytelling, stood him out in a class of his own on the ‘’Street Hop’’ EP.
Elect had an insane passion for the arts, one that saw him drop out of Medical school after four years.
‘’So, my father was like, ‘you must study medicine,’’ he shared in a 2009 Guardian interview, ‘’I felt it wasn’t me; it was like rebellion. I wasn’t doing badly, but it was my father’s idea. I had wanted to study architecture because I love the arts, so I ended up studying Fine Art in UNN.”
Following the break-up of the group, the ‘versatile’ rappers in IllBliss and Obiwon easily went ahead to forge their solo careers recording some measure of success along the way, but the purists in Elect and Elajoe struggled and had to expand into being more than just artists.
B Elect, the most senior member of the Breds and a producer [Produced Modenine’s 360 degrees poetry], started working 9–5 in an advertising firm while writing for Hip-hop journals and setting up his own label.
He was an apostle of real hip-hop whose love for the genre can be traced back to the early eighties as a breakdancer and DJ. On occasions, he referred to himself as the ‘Asa of Rap music.’
‘’My parents used to take us on holiday abroad, so, I had the opportunity of buying all sorts of tapes. What actually changed my life was the tape I bought by a guy called Mr. Magic; he plays all the hit songs in New York. If Mr. Magic plays your song, then you are good. When I listen to that tape, I heard some good artists such as LL Cool J and others, and I said to myself, ‘this is a different kind of sound.”
Elect started writing his own raps back in 1991 and has to his name volumes of articles, papers and texts (most of them unpublished) on hip-hop culture and its impact on the lives of youths.
In 2009, a few months after the death of his mother, B Elect survived a major surgery where he almost lost his life.
‘’I stopped breathing and I came back again. I think God just gave me a second chance to live,” he stated.
I had met him once, at a hip-hop event, he reminded me of me, all of 6 feet tall plus inches more, very humble and reserved, but comes excitedly alive with some form of pure energy once a rap song burst through the speakers and one who had figured out a way to deal with life even if misunderstood.
Under his independent platform, Blightz Studios, B Elect released his debut tape, a compilation of his old songs titled, ‘’Beats, Rhymes and Theology’’ in 2006, his official debut album, ‘’Hard Listeners’’ in 2011 and ‘’Gospel Truf’’ in 2016. He also held his personal art exhibitions and was the brains behind the hip-hop showcase platform, Boombap Lounge.
Anyone who had met B Elect or is familiar with his brand will admit that the man lived and breathe hip-hop, an emcee ahead of his time and one driven by a grasping desire to leave an indelible stamp in the sands of time.
‘’I’m the Thorobred. It’s about me this time around, not Thorobred as a group.”
On Twitter, his friends and the hip-hop community continue to mourn his loss. While we may have failed in bringing out the flowers when he was alive, his contributions will be remembered, his story shared, his memory preserved and his legacy appreciated.
Until his death, B Elect had been married for six years and was the anchor of the radio hip-hop show, Nairap.