Since the rift which later degenerated to a fallout with his promoter, Kogbagidi, Portable’s management has been shambolic…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
In Nigeria, two things happened in December 2021: there was Christmas and, then there was Habeeb Okikiola, better known as Portable, becoming the rave of the moment.
In early December, a video surfaced on the Internet of a young man weeping and showing gratitude to Nigerian rapper and YBNL boss, Olamide, for showing him support via his verse on his song which later turned to ZaZoo Zehh.
As it has become his practice, a day before the release, Olamide uploaded a snippet on his Instagram story. With 8.8 million followers and a loyal support system from the streets, it caught fire before it was finally released on December 14, 2021, to widespread rotation.
The sudden grass to grace story of Portable remains a constant pop culture reference, from street preachers to motivational speakers. Portable has been singled out whenever critics feel his story adheres to their narrative. This fame also brought it excesses.
Born in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Portable grew up in Lagos and the ghetto of Ogun State (Mushin, Sango Ota) and has been singing for the past decade until he got his break.
Portable has dropped four tracks in the last six weeks. On average, he releases a song every eleven days. While this shows Portable as a prolific artist, on the flip side, it has become saturating and might lead to his fans getting bored. He has been choking his fans with new releases. While they are still ruminating over a new song, he comes through with another one.
With the polyrhythmic ZaZoo Zehh, already a smash hit, Portable changed his trope with the soft and laid-back Ogo Forever. This was a smart move to win more audience into his fold. Some circles of fans even preferred this motivational kind of song to his breakout song. When Portable sings, you feel the honesty, sometimes, well arranged, relatable lyrics.
During an exclusive interview with veteran rapper Jahbless on January 14, 2021, Portable revealed his admiration for the likes of Wizkid, Barry Jhay, Naira Marley, and Small Doctor. He has now worked with two of his role models.
Since January began, Portable has granted interviews to three prominent media platforms; Jahbless Original Intelligence Podcast, The Convo on Boomplay, and BBC Yoruba. One dominant staple of his interviews is his use of the Yoruba language rather than English. Rather than pretending, he opened up about his educational background. Admittedly, for artists who dropped out of secondary school, the level of their English language proficiency would usually be low.
For a lot of people, through these three interviews, Portable has shown to be the voice of the street. In a way, he shed some light on issues in the public domain, quashed some narratives peddled by people, and also has been able to reveal a layer to his personality, the jovial, deep, and reflective Portable.
Since the rift which later degenerated to a fallout with his promoter, Kogbagidi, Portable’s management has been shambolic. While he has devised stunts, shouting out Lagos big boys (Sam Larry, Ege Foreign), sex talk, and misogynistic expressions such as “Omo yin ni isu n’obo/O tun wa lehin logo/O ni awun o ka la si mobo” to sell his music, the result has been the reverse.
During his stint with Kogbagidi, the promoter was able to manage him due to his years of experience in the music industry. With his exit, Portable has become a free bird who does things the way he likes. Artists like this are usually on their way to a career fall. We have seen this happen to artists like Oritsefemi, Rayce, etc.
Every artist always looks forward to working with their idols; however, the application of reasoning, strategy should not be underestimated. Portable as well as his management — if there is even any — seem to not understand this.
His second single of 2022 All Eyes On Me featured Dr. Sikiru Ayinde’s scion, Barry Jhay. The Muje crooner took the first verse and almost owned the track. He explores the concept of gratitude, God, faith, and the essence of the street in an artist’s travail. By the time it got to Portable’s part, the song was already dry, not even his street vibe kind of verse could save the day for him. For an artist who is still in his formative years, this move could be career-derailing. AEOM failed to elevate Portable’s artistry—it only became a statistical figure ; the timing of Portable’s verse and also the time it was released could also be a factor—it was released only 12 days after Ogo Forever.
His latest release, Neighbor, explores the wave-making South African deep house sub-genre, Amapiano. The language retains the crude element of ZaZoo Zeeh; “Neighbor fi oko si obo neighbor/Ko mo pe soldier l’oko neighbor/
If you wanna be zoo/Account balance yen no/Eyin obo adugbo wa.” This time around, he featured the self-proclaimed Agege ambassador, Small Doctor. If there was ever a song reincarnation, it should be subsumed under Skalie Mental’s early 2010 hit, Dadubule.
Portable has devised a means of commonising women. He is noted in his lyrics to say, “Oko ni da mu obo yin/Owo ni wan ma n fi dobo yin/If you fvck toto wey no sweet I/Fvck another woman/Obo na sugar sugar/Fvck am very well/Toto wey no sweet na hin dem dey use /condom for.” And although this might work for him in the short run, the fans would later get tired, and with the decline in his music prowess, he might be heading for a downfall.
Portable is at the trial and error stage of his career. Right now, he needs to get his act together, work out his music release timetable, put himself out for the public, and maybe release an extended project later in the year.
Emmanuel Daraloye is a Music critic with over 300 album reviews in his archive. His bylines have appeared in The Cable Newspaper, The Lagos Review, Vanguard Newspaper, Legit News, Rank Magazine, Modern Ghana Web, Nigerian Tribune, and others.