Starving artist, rib cage showing.

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“I desperately need a job”, I said to myself as I pulled out a worn-out N100 note from my wallet to purchase airtime.

I haven’t yet caught my ‘big break’ with the music I’m deeply passionate about. So I sent out dozens of job applications. A means to an end, right?

Monday morning, my iPhone began to vibrate relentlessly at 6.am. I had finally secured a job interview… scheduled for 10.am. I was ready.

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My clothes carefully ironed and hung. I ironed my socks as well.

“How can I dress up, look so dapper, and proceed to take public transport to my destination?”

“Today is a day of new possibilities for I am confident in my skills,” I thought in my head.

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I decided to take an Uber.

I called my sister to request a loan of N3,000 to cover my expenses to the location. She quickly made a transfer as she always does whenever I’m in need.

So, here I am at the gate of my Uncle’s house in Surulere waiting patiently for a fellow named ‘Mike’.

“He’s 4 minutes away,” I read on my phone screen. “Driving a KIA Sportage.

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………..

“May I start the ride?” he asked politely.

Mike was young. I could possibly be older than him. I ball-parked his age at 22-years-old.

I looked around the vehicle with a worried expression on my face until he inquired what I needed.

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“Where’s the auxiliary cord?” I asked. For some reason, I placed emphasis on ‘auxiliary’.

He didn’t have. I was crushed.

Besides the comfort, privacy, and air-conditioning, playing my own music is my greatest motivation for using the Uber service.

What’s a car without an auxiliary cord, anyway?

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Eventually, I accepted the things I could not change and kept my focus on preparing for the interview as intelligently and wittily as I possibly could – until ‘Mike’ decided to engage me in small talk.

I’m not much of a talker, but I’m polite so I’ll respond to questions with a smile on my face but I’ll rarely ask questions of my own.

In the course of the ‘small talk’, he mentioned that he’s a rapper and he’s only an Uber driver to source finances to fund his career.

I don’t recall how that came up but it piqued my interest – so I told him I’m a rapper as well.

Along the lines of the conversation, I came to realise that we were both very different kinds of rappers.

Mike is from Rivers state and he chose to make rapping in a mixture pidgin English his niche.

And I, on the other hand, have my origins in Jos, a predominantly Hausa speaking community. So, I chip in the Hausa line in almost every verse.

But with no auxiliary cord, how could I possibly show off my lyrical prowess?

……..

Mike told me to rap in acapella. And it went something like this:

I woke up to these hard times

I had to work but only part-time

Cause I had to get this music right

Cause nobody signing rappers who got soft rhymes

So tell my mum I won’t be back today

And I confess I broke her China set

But listen, mum, I’ll pay you back someday

Just gotta fit these pieces that I’m trying to set.

This industry ain’t sh*t to me

Like tummy aches, it’s sh*t to me

Ku ja nii gada baya let me do things worth the history books

Ga illimi, book me for a thousand shows

I’ll step on every single stage and do my tricks like magic shows

Sai ku tapa, J-town to Tinapa

Musically legendary, think I’m Frank Sinatra

I’m taking everything that’s owed to me

Na wa, har da naka

Immediately I was done, Mike decided to tell his own story – with his own technique.

Two days don pass I never sleep

I never see light, I never bath, I never eat

For this country where we dey, e don be

Everything in ruin, nonsense economy

So wetin we go do about am?

We go sit down just dey look?

My family is broke, no joke, we dey for edge oh

But Jehova got our backs so we never fall for track

But e dey pain me for my heart that’s why I gotta write this track

APC, APC you don dey talk change since

Two years don pass and still the same damn thing

I’m tired of this country, man, no wonder boys dey cut out

Trying to reach Yankee but I go settle for that Ghana now

Corruption in our blood, from the top to the grassroots

Fast money quick, trying to eat, and no be cashew

Try am on top Naira Bet but MMM na bad news

But people come dey chop money like everybody pass you

At that moment we pulled up onto Allen Avenue in Ikeja and in 12 seconds, he stopped at the gate of the office building.

“Can I end the ride now?” Mike asked in the same polite manner he did the first time.

And almost immediately, I received an alert charge on my phone for my Uber trip.

“Fair enough”, I thought to myself as I looked at the fare as I compared it to the distance of the trip.

I never saw Mike again after that day.

Although our struggles would seem similar on the surface, our stories and circumstances were quite different.

He opened my mind to the hardships in Nigeria that I had never experienced.

This was more than a transport to my destination. It was a journey to my real destination.

Until my next Uber ride.



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