The beef with Wayne Samuel, and the dangerous trend of bad English. An honest opinion from a “Constant Judge” of War Of Words Season 7.
I was very happy when Olulu asked me to be one of the judges of War Of Words Season 7. I was quite shocked that I was free all the weekends, because Lord knows how weekends are always tight for me. Last edition, I could only free up one Sunday. I told Olulu to give me any date he wanted, and when the timetable came out, I saw that he had fixed me as “The constant”, as I liked to call it. I began to ask myself “who send me message” but thanked my stars that the venue wasn’t too far from my house.
On the day of the first quarter-final, I saw some familiar faces, and queried them “what are you doing here?” They said they were contesting, so I started teasing them with words like “Agbaya, leave this competition for fresh blood.” I tackled Olulu about this, and we really bantered. It was then he told me “Wayne too dey contest.” I exclaimed “What, why?” I protested with everything I had. I felt it was unfair for everyone: the judges, the contestants, and even Wayne himself. The judges would either be biased towards him (cos some of them already know him) or they would be biased against him (cos they’ll be expecting so much more from him), thankfully, this didn’t happen. The contestants would beef him if he won, and feel it wasn’t a fair playing ground, and Wayne himself would be between the rock and a hard place.
As for me personally, I felt Wayne would win, and that would be bad for everyone. That guy first caught my eye in War Of Words 5, and I knew there was something special about him. Of course, I didn’t root for him, because my student (who won the season) was contesting. I have his mixtape on my system, and I know that guy is a sniper. The guy is so good, that even in his bad state, he is good!
At the end of the first quarter final, I was more convinced that Wayne would win, because none of the contestants that day could come close to him. But at the end of the second quarter final, I changed my opinion. When I saw Cephas, I was actually afraid for Wayne. I said to myself “Now, we have a competition.” Ever since then, I peddled the gospel of “It’s either Cephas or Wayne” for this season.
Of course, I didn’t see Wayne until the last quarter final, which he won… just like everyone expected. It was like “Okay, just come and carry your title with your name already written on it. The real battle awaits you in the semi-final.”
Now, to more interesting and controversial parts of this post. In the first and second quarterfinal, I saw people spitting punchlines everyone was feeling, the crowd was going crazy, but spoke bad grammar through and through. It was so heart-breaking, that people would think they are good spoken word poets, just because they can throw punches, but spoke bad grammar. No one is demanding Queens English from anyone, but the least we can do is get our subject-verb agreement right. That’s the least… like what they teach us in primary one! Sentences like “Eze go to school”, and “The dogs chews bones” should be a taboo on a world class stage, like War Of Words.
Gemini! The youngest poet on that stage! I was so shocked when I found out his age. I thought he was about 23 years old, and in his final year in university, because of the maturity of his words. He makes you ask yourself what you were doing with your life at his age. The only issue with him is that he says the same thing over and over again, using different words. Everything about his pieces revolves around death, rape, corruption, injustice and the likes. He is too easy to figure out, which is bad for creativity. Unknowingly to himself, he is putting himself in a box of stereotype. And if he keeps going down that path, someone will lock him inside that box and throw away the keys into the sea of irrelevance. Just ask the South African poets who were big deals in the days of apartheid. Stereotype is an enemy, don’t romance it. Thankfully, he’s young enough to make his mistakes, get on the right path, and still have time for a lucrative career in spoken word.
Ajijola “Da beloved” Habeeb…..my beloved, was one of my best poets in this competition. Out of all the contestants, he had the best projection. He knows how to work his diaphragm, and his diction has become one of his bestselling points. I was so pained at what happened at the second round of the finals. He could have easily become second or third in the competition, but he was just unfortunate to have faced off with another strong person. Now, that’s competition.
As for Thanni! I will divulge a secret, a lot of i2X people were rooting for him. He was a lot of people’s fave, but he wasn’t my fave. His storytelling ability is quite strong, but I’m not sure about other things, such as energy level, performance, etc. I scored him a very strong 9 in the second and final round of the finals, but in my head, it was an 8. I just didn’t want to seem biased against him, especially after scoring Wayne 10.
Cephas, for me, was one of the best. He had the best stage presence which commands attention, intelligent use of words, and a good performer through and through. If this same set of people should slam again, he would give Wayne a run for his money. It’s unfortunate what happened to him at the final round, forgetting your lines at a time when only 9s and 10s could get you into the top 3.
Back to Wayne, he is quite a misunderstood guy. I’ve read some people tag him “proud,” saying he doesn’t relate with others, etc. But we are always quick to judge and condemn personalities, even when we have no idea of where they are coming from. I noticed that when he was called, both in the first and second round of the final, the cheers from the contestants weren’t as loud as it was when others were called. Of course, I knew the source of the beef, but it didn’t matter. By the time he was done with the “reply to his letter,” everyone had gone crazy. The beef had been cooked, fried, and fed to anyone who cared to eat. It had disappeared, never to show its ugly head again.
Thing is when it comes to slams, Wayne Samuel has mastered it. The guy works hard. He has honed his skill to the tooth. He doesn’t depend on shallow punchlines of Globacom, MTN, Airtel, sexual innuendos such as vaginas, erection, cuming, that many poets wanted to corrupt our ears with. He uses intelligent punchlines and imageries covering vast topics such as cinematography, visual arts, fiction, music, birthing process, etc. Even an idiot knows that either he knows so much about everything in the world, or he just reads a lot. And I don’t think he’s a genius, he just reads a lot. I mean, he is neither a woman nor a doctor, so how come he knows so much about the technicality of the birthing process?
As for the gender imbalance… when it comes to things like this, I don’t believe in woman right. I believe in human right. I know there are strong female spoken word artists out there. I just wish they’ll come out to slam. Tega did her best and had the best diction in the entire competition. I guess she did the women folk proud, but one in sixteen doesn’t cut it. It is not a man’s territory. Ladies, come out!
All in all, I had a good time at all the events and rounds of War Of Words 7. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t judging, just listening and enjoying the program. It is a show I would pay money to watch anytime. We are just waiting for sponsors to come on board.
And lastly, these are the people I would pay money to watch. Wayne Samuel, Cephas, Habeeb Da Beloved, and Tiwistar.
Kudos to everyone who contested. It takes so much bravery to do that, and I wish everyone the best at War Of Words Season 8.