Mode 9

When you ask a Nigerian hip-hop fan the top three greatest Nigerian rappers of all time, the answer is usually.


MI Abaga

Mode 9

Sometimes, the arrangement of the top two may be tweaked (and understandably so), but number three has so far been consistent.

Olamide, MI Abaga, and Mode 9 are gargantuan figures in Nigerian Hip-hop.

Their contributions to the genre cannot be overemphasised, and their names are forever written in gold.

However, there seems to be revisionism when it comes to Mode 9’s place in this elite class of greatness.

In recent times, younger rap fans (and some older rap fans) seem to question his inclusion in the top three greatest Nigerian rappers of all time.

A lot of young fans don’t understand the reverence he gets and why he is highly regarded and respected by his peers and Hip-hop fans.

When a media platform publishes a list of the greatest Nigerian rappers of all time, his inclusion tends to generate some form of unfavourable conversation.

Which is why it is important to analyse his career and contribution to Nigerian hip-hop.

And hopefully reach a conclusion as to whether he’s still deserving of his place in the top three or if it’s time for him to be replaced.

Firstly, we need to define what greatness means in the context of music. For an artist to be considered great, he or she must first satisfy certain metrics.

For rappers, these metrics are:





Once a rapper satisfies these metrics, only then can he or she be certified as great. Then he or she will be compared to other rappers who have also satisfied these metrics in order to determine their place in terms of ranking.

Now let’s discuss Mode 9.


Let’s get this straight: when it comes to skill, there is no Nigerian rapper that can touch the helm of Mode 9’s garment. Read that again, but this time slowly.

Nigerian Hip-hop has produced some of the finest rappers to have walked the face of the earth, and Mode 9 is up there as one of them. His lyrical dexterity, delivery, and technique are near god-level.

If the greatest was determined based on skill alone, he’d be the greatest Nigerian rapper of all time, and there would be no debate about that.

Think of all your favourite lyricists. Black Thoughts, Common, Talib Kweli, Jay Z, Mos Def, whoever you can think of, Mode 9 is on the same level as those MC’s lyrically.

Lyrically, nobody can touch Mode.” Raezy Winston, founder of Kulturepro, tells me.

There is so much depth in his lyrics that if you’re not smart enough, you may not grasp what he’s saying.

On the record opening track of his critically acclaimed album ‘E Pluribus Unum’, Mode 9 raps

“I got lines sicker than St. Nicholas/ You are fighting for a lost cause; I suggest you men-o-pause/ I got punchlines, like a convent; you got none.

On the record ‘Toron Giwa’ of the same album, he raps

Paralysis becomes you if you try to come through/I’m confident to unpin you after the one, two.”.

On ‘Pentium IX’, he raps

“I peep the industry through my Windows XP/Y’all won’t forget me with your memory on low RAM.”.

His discography is packed with mind-boggling lyricism and exceptional wordplay.

Mode 9 was rapping on a level nobody in Nigerian hip-hop has operated on till date.

I speak to Music Executive Motolani Alake about Mode 9’s skills, and he begins by telling me that his skill level is absolutely supreme.

Mode 9 was schooled in the art of Hip-hop, the purest form of hip-hop. He is a Hip-hop institution; there’s nothing about Mode 9 that’s not about the culture. He is also a smart person; he is ridiculously smart. What made Mode 9 special was that he had pure technique, which comes from the fact that he is a student of Hip-hop and he is very smart.”.

He then goes on to tell me:

The earliest form of contemporary Nigerian pop music was Hip-hop influenced; all those guys could rap, but Mode 9 was the best of them all.”.

Mode 9 also has an amazing rap voice that catches your attention the moment he starts rapping. It’s something Motolani describes as “the quintessential rap voice.”.

Storytelling is one of the most important forms of expression in Hip-hop, and Mode 9 was the best at it. His record ‘Cry’ featuring Nnena is a hall of fame Nigerian rap record. ‘Gentle Wind’ and ‘Ogun Isoye’ are also two storytelling masterpieces.

Say what you want about the headies, but six consecutive lyricists on the roll winning is not normal. For six years straight, no Nigerian rapper dropped a superior verse.

It is worthy to note that Mode 9 has won that category seven times in total. That’s a testament to his superior rap skills.

Motolani tells me that the standard of rap before Mode 9 came onto the scene was being set by South Africans.

But when Mode 9 entered the stage, everybody knew Mode 9 was better than everybody. When he entered the game, every person across the continent knew he was the best.”

On the January 22nd, 2024 episode of Loose Talk podcast titled ‘All the smoke’, veteran Nigerian music journalist Ayomide Tayo said,

In terms of lyricism, the greatest lyricist of all in Africa, you will bow down at the throne of Mode 9, there is none greater”.

Fellow veteran Nigerian music journalist Osagie Alonge complimented that statement by saying,

Mode is not a king; he is a god.”.


Mode 9’s discography is loaded. In terms of album output, only a few rappers can compete him.

His full digital discography contains 31 projects. This includes solo albums, featured albums, and mixtapes.

However, it’s not just the volume of his discography; it’s the quality. As a rapper, you cannot be considered one of the greats if you do not have a great album in your discography. As for great albums, Mode 9 has a lot of them.

In Nigerian hip-hop, only Olamide, AQ, Illbliss, SDC, and MI Abaga can rival Mode 9 when it comes to the number of quality albums in their discographies.

In fact, his three-album run is one of the greatest three-album runs in Nigerian Hip-hop. E’ Pluribus Unum (2007), The Paradigm Shift (2008), and Da Vinci Mode (2010) are some of the most notable three-album runs in Nigerian Hip-hop, only rivalled by Eedris Abdulkareem’s three-album run, which included P.A.S.S. (2001), Mr. Lecturer (2002), and Jaga Jaga (2004), and also Olamide’s iconic run, which included YBNL (2011), Baddest Guy Ever Liveth (2013), and Street OT (2014).

Raezy Winston tells me,

He has put out enough materials to be in that category of greatness.”.


Mode 9’s illustrious career has spanned two decades. That’s right, twenty years of consistency and excellence.

He released his debut mixtape, Malcolm IX, in 2004. Twenty years later, he released his 31st full-length project, Shiny Object Syndrome.

That’s twenty years of elite god-level rapping, exceptional music, and quality videos.

Even though he is not as popular in the mainstream as he was 10 years ago, he has carried his core fan base along and caters for them adequately.

He has the longevity. He’s been putting out projects in the past seven years that have been doing well. However, he is not on the ground to promote, so he’s not going to get the traction other rappers get,”

Raezy Winston tells me.

Not a lot of rappers have delivered exceptionally well for as long as Mode 9 has. Most of his peers have not released a project in the last ten years. Mode 9 is still here. Although in a niche, he is still here, and that’s enough.


Mode 9 influenced an entire generation of Nigerian rappers. All of the most influential Nigerian rappers of the last 15 years were all influenced by Mode 9.

Every single rapper that came after was all influenced by Mode 9,” Motolani tells me.

Jesse Jagz once called him ‘the Godfather’.

Vector, in a 2013 interview with Channels Television, said,

Mode 9 is on a lane of his own. I can listen to Mode 9 and be taken back.”.

I speak to Nigerian rapper VRSD, who tells me Mode 9 taught him to stay true to his lyricism and hold his own ground.

No one should force you or tell you this is how you are supposed to talk or this is how you are supposed to do things. Mode 9 respected himself; he knows what he wants, and that’s what he’s going to do.”.

He then tells me that Mode 9 doing what he did with lyricism showed him there’s a lot of potential in lyricism from Nigerian rappers.

Mode 9 was so impactful that people assumed he was Nigerian music’s best chance at competing on a global level.

At a time when we hadn’t found our mainstream pop sound, he gave us the possibility that we had someone that could compete on a mainstream level. He made us  dream,”

Motolani says.

Even without chasing commercial success, Mode 9 was a star. He was competing with pop stars across the continent and winning national and continental awards while at it.

He won nine Headies awards within seven years, including Best Rap Album (Malcolm IX: The Lost Sessions, 2006), Best Rap Single (“Cry,”  2007), and seven “Lyricist on the Roll” awards (2006–11 and 2013).

Mode 9

In 2006, he was the biggest winner at Channel O’s The Spirit of Africa Music Video Awards in South Africa, where he won three awards, including Best Hip-Hop Video, Best Video, and Best Director, all for his video for ‘Cry’.

The record ‘Cry’ was also one of the earliest Nigerian rap-song records that would become commonplace in Nigerian hip-hop.

Even though it was not as popular as Ruggedman’s ‘Ruggedybaba’, it was one of the first records to adopt a formula that has become massively popular for its utility in Nigerian Hip-hop.

Unfortunately, the volume of his impact is also the reason why his position among the top three greatest Nigerian rappers of all time is shaky.

His music did not connect with the mass market due to the limited acceptability of his sound.

Regardless of the fact that he was a phenomenal rapper, he wasn’t as relatable as other rappers who achieved mass connectivity.

When I ask Motolani if Mode 9’s skill was a gift or a curse, he tells me Mode 9 could have done other things; he simply chose not to.

In a 2013 interview with Hot FM’s breakfast radio show with TuTu Adeoba and Cheezy Charles, Mode 9 said that he could never change his style of rap to suit an audience.

It explains why, despite being a star, he never had a catalogue of memorable singles.

Bar ‘Cry’, a lot of fans outside the hip-hop community don’t know many Mode 9 records.

Hits can have a significant impact on an artist’s career and visibility within the music industry.

It doesn’t matter how many incredible albums you release. What the audience would initially remember are the hits.

Unfortunately, Mode 9 doesn’t have any.

It is a shame that his place as one of the top three greatest Nigerian rappers of all time is shaky.

Regardless of his exceptional discography, unbelievable longevity, and monumental achievements, his place in that elite category is looked at more critically than the others.

This writer also blames his lack of mainstream participation or relevance for this.

Mode 9 seems content with his sizable community of fans who have followed him throughout his career. He doesn’t even live in Nigeria anymore.

He has become a niche artist, servicing a community that has grown to become adult contemporary Hip-hop fans.

While he may be content with them, his fans are not driving the culture. Hence, one of the reasons why his relevance has sadly dwindled.

Raezy Winston agrees with me. He tells me:

The only thing rappers like Olamide, Phyno, Illbliss, or Reminisce have over him is that they kept going. He practically quit the game. If he had stayed back in Nigeria to keep putting out records, he would have been up there still.”.

Motolani didn’t agree with this point.

His legacy was done before he left. It’s not a slight on him; it’s a benefit for others. The fact that he left that early is not a slight on him. But for people in his generation that kept going at the highest level, it’s a bonus for them.”.

However, he made a very important point during our conversation. He says,

If Illbliss has a hit at this stage of his career, there’s no way I would not put him ahead of Mode 9.”.

It was a point I completely agreed with. I had, in fact, noted that long before my conversation with him.

Illbliss and Mode 9 are from the same generation. Illbliss was featured on the record ‘Pissing me off’ on Mode 9’s 2006 mixtape ‘Pentium IX’.

Illbliss scoring a hit in 2024 would mean he has been relevant for longer than Mode 9. Ranking Mode 9 ahead of Illbliss in any list would then be ignorant.

When you also look at the trajectories of new school rappers like Blaqbonez, PsychoYP, Odumodublvck, and Shallipopi, you never know what these guys will do in a few years.

Blaqbonez was on the red carpet at the 2024 Grammy Awards. PsychoYP is being recognised by the Recording Academy. Shallipopi and Odumodublvck are embarking on a nine-city tour of the United States of America.

When you put this into consideration, it’s difficult to assume that he would not be knocked off that elite class of three in five or ten years.

The issue of documentation

It is unfortunate that there is a generation of young Nigerian rap fans who do not know him and what he has contributed to the genre we all love.

While putting this piece together, I did a quick survey asking music fans around me about Mode 9.

A lot of them couldn’t tell me anything notable about him. Some people didn’t know him at all.

The best response I got was,

Na one of those rappers from that time. Na him be like the vector of that time.”.

Older fans can blame the younger generation for being ignorant and unwilling to be informed. Unfortunately, there’s no information.

No proper documentation on Mode 9’s career and legacy has been done. Hence, one of the reasons his greatness is looked at critically.

It seems he has recognised this and has made efforts to tell his own story.

His podcast, “Popkorn the Podcast: The Life of Mode 9,” is where he tells stories about his life and career.

While that is a step in the right direction, there’s more that needs to be done.

While we should be careful not to rewrite history as a result of ignorance or recency bias, the OGs need to tell their stories.

Still, one of the greatest

Mode 9, like I stated earlier in this piece, is a gargantuan figure in Nigerian hip-hop. The best Nigerian rapper of all time and one of the all-time greats. His name has been written in the sands of time, and his legacy should never be forgotten.

As it stands, he remains one of the greatest Nigerian rappers of all time, and that will be the case forever.

He is still among the top three greatest Nigerian rappers of all time.

This writer doesn’t think any other rapper has satisfied those metrics to the point of replacing Mode. That’s just what it is.

If there’s somebody who has come out, is now so big, has been dropping projects consistently for the past seven or eight years, and can comfortably out-rap Mode 9, then you can say maybe that person should replace Mode 9. But for now, no. Nobody is replacing him,”

Raezy Winston says.

Nobody is sneaking him into those conversations; he rightfully belongs in those conversations.

If he remains in that elite class of three a decade from now, it is unknown. With the trajectories of the younger rappers, this writer doesn’t think he’ll be there for much longer.

Only time will tell.

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