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Is Olamide's trending song 'Science student' promoting drug abuse?

In October 2017, the Nigerian Senate disclosed that over three million bottles of codeine » are being consumed daily in the North.

In January 2017 alone, Twitter user @KoloKennethK tweeted his account of a major drug bust involving billions of naira worth of Tramadol at Lagos’ Apapa Port.
“39m tablets of Tramadol, worth N3bn with above prescription quantity per tablet seized at Apapa.”,
the tweet read.

As astounding as the figures are, it only confirms something that the thousands of empty drug tabs on the streets of cities like Lagos and Kano have been trying to tell us. Nigeria’s drug problem is sufficiently documented, even though a walk through the streets will tell you a more vivid story.

Olamide And The Streets
That’s why Olamide has released his trending record, ‘Science Student’. » The new song co-produced by Young Jonn and Bbanks is inspired by the rampant drug abuse of Nigerian youths, who are becoming increasingly creative in the search for new and damaging substances for highs.

Olamide comes from the streets, where he’s witnessed millions of young people trapped in the circle of drug abuse. These young people in the pursuit of new levels of ‘highness’ are seeking out recreational characteristics of dangerous substances, in a bid to improve their highs. In short, ‘normal’ highs aren’t doing it for them, hence they are searching for new combinations of substances and drug cocktails to get high.

“There’s no bark, there’s no leaf…they have mixed gutter water, the eye is now dirty, they have mixed chemicals, science students,” he sings in Yoruba.

The reason why ‘Science students’ is trending isn’t necessarily due to its content. It falls into the ‘street’ trend currently dominating Nigerian music. It also has the added advantage of coming into its own with a trending dance – ‘Shaku shaku’ » – which is a huge promotional tool for any record.

Is ‘Science Students’ For or Against Drug Abuse?
People are reading the lyrics of ‘Science students’ and analysing it for what it is. The song is sung in Yoruba, a complex language that is difficult to literally translate directly to English. And so, there’s a conversation about what the record truly says.

Actress Lala Akindoju believes that the song encourages drug abuse » . “This encouragement and promotion to use hard drugs and get ‘high’ under the influence in the name of song and dance is disturbing,” she wrote on Snapchat. “What’s more disturbing is how comfortable all of us are with it. ‘Me’ – I’m disturbed.”

She echoes the views of a growing voice from people all across Nigeria who are uncomfortable about the moral implications of the record and how it might encourage people to do drugs, or worse still validate the lifestyle of many who have a drug abuse problem.

But Godwin Tom, a prominent talent manager, believes different. For him, the role of the creative isn’t to encourage or discourage, but to highlight and start a conversation. We already acknowledge that Nigeria does have a drug problem, and someone must talk about it.
“You are all right,” Tom declares on Instagram. “But the role of the creative is to start a conversation.”

What The Lyrics Say
Breaking down Yoruba into English is hard work, especially when it is used in a song. Things take on a whole different meaning sometimes. But thanks to the good people of MusixMatch, they have provided an English translation with 97% accuracy » . I have also shown this to some of my deep Yoruba friends, and colleagues, and they say this is good.

The chorus and anchor of this record is simply an acknowledgement of the lifestyle. It says “There’s no bark, there’s no leaf…they have mixed gutter water, the eye is now dirty, they have mixed chemicals, science students,”
This part of the record isn’t for or against. It just says it as it is. The words ‘bark’ and ‘leaf’ refer to the traditional ways of getting high via Marijuana and all the other naturally occurring substances which include Skunk weed, Arizona, or pretty much the local herbal mixtures soaked in alcohol. Olamide is simply acknowledging them here.

But as the song progresses, he begins to tease them for over-indulging.

“The science students. If he sees diesel
he will light it up, if he sees flakes, he will light it up
If he sees Lado, he will light it up, why? Please take it easy
are you people competing with sango?? why is there smoke everywhere
See smoke everywhere like say MOPOL throw tear gas in the room”

This is a friendly advice from a friend to another stating the obvious. Young people should double down on substance abuse. While Olamide stops short of full condemnation, he maintains a stance against it with the words ‘Please, take it easy.’

At the outro, he pushes people back to the more traditional, street iterations of alcohol. They include Jedi, Monkey tail, Skuchis, Alomo, Kerewa, Ogidiga, Bajinotu .

Final Verdict
Whatever your moral views of this record are, they are valid. Olamide’s topical involvement of this record highlights a problem in our society and opens it up for conversation. That is the true role of the creative.

‘Science student’ is touching on a sensitive issue, and via Olamide, we can all hold crucial conversations about the need to fix our society and get young people off life-threatening substances. If that’s the only thing this record does, then it’s a job well done.

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