Barely two weeks into 2019 and Falz is already out with a new song and a video to boot. Titled Talk, Falz plugs into his usual shtick – music as social commentary on our political and cultural landscape so much so that his songs have been publicly carbon-dated to the legacy of Fela. It was fun then, and refreshing, when Falz bloated his songs with biting, resonating messages. And, as his celebrity exploded, problematic aspects co-joined to his art began to spill out.
One of them is the slut-shaming and devaluing of women who are into sex work, and although I have heard him say he doesn’t like prostitution on the political interview show On The Couch, his obsession is strange, inexplicable and quite frankly exhausting. The usual tropes in Falz’s music range from criticising corrupt politicians and unscrupulous religious leaders and young male fraudsters, but I’ll never understand why Falz routinely chooses to lump sex workers into that unholy bracket.
@ me when falz & ajebutter are no longer obsessed with sex workers & what uni girls choose to do with their time.
— JJ (@juiciestofjays) January 11, 2019
And in Talk, Falz’s shows his displeasure about sex work, using a video-game aesthetic that reads ‘Slay Mama’ and ‘Slay Kwin’ on a game screen, words which women have now defused and wholly reclaimed and embraced. ”Instead make you work you dey find Alhaji” Falz raps on the skeletal beat, ”You kon turn your body to cash and carry.”
That said, his obsession with what women do with their bodies is tied to the inability of men to view women as complete human beings, autonomous enough to make money from sex and how this disrupts the familiar hierarchy of sex relations. More to the point, his misogyny revolving around sex work as a financially empowering source for women is something shared with a lot of Nigerian men – that women can take the basic act of sex and commodify it and prosper. Comparatively, I doubt if Fela would be this tone-deaf even though the king of Afrobeat had his own peculiar issues. That Falz has refused to grow in the context of scrutinising his music vis-à-vis sex work shows he isn’t as revolutionary as he purports himself to be. And in 2019, he should know better.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.