Since the news of teenage students in a cult named Marlians broke on the internet, it has become pertinent to analyse Naira Marley’s influence on the Nigerian youths.
Azeez Fashola, a name that may not be easily recognizable until the pseudonym is given: Naira Marley holds a strong impression in the mind of young Nigerian audience. This is obvious in the use of his image as stickers on cars, motocycles and tricycles with accompanying words such as “Marlians, Naira Marley, Omolabi, Igbolabi”(loosely translated as Naira Marley Marley a good child, an expert weed smoker) on the images.
It is interesting to see illicit drug publicly celebrated and dignified with a face. Naira Marley’s name is a neologism that is formed from two noticeable items. The first one is the Nigerian Naira and the second is an allusion to the name of the famous rasta singer, Bob Marley. The meaning of his name would therefore be that he is the Nigerian Bob Marley, the Nigerian Rasta. This interesting pseudonym is not only peculiar to Naira Marley but other artists such as Lil Kesh, Zlatan Ibile, among others.
Naira Marley often asserts a negative identity in his different songs. He does this through the choice of words in his songs. For instance, in introducing himself, Naira Marley often eulogizes himself as the king of illicit drugs (Naira Marley! Igbo labi.) In “Royal Rumble”, where he is featured by Lil Kesh, he asks: “Se o mu ganja abi o mu koko(do you prefer ganja or koko)”, in the succeeding line, he calls on the anonymous person to serve himself any preferred illicit drugs. Ganja or koko are local names given to different types of illicit drugs. In the above line, he frames himself as a positive brand ambassador for illicit drugs. These images portary Naira Marley in negative light. And this is not good for an influencer that has a peculiar following nation made up of teenagers and young adults.
Naira Marley has framed his brand into a nation with his followers. Considering his recent stint with the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, he has become celebrated among internet fraudsters and prostitutes. This community have come to tag themselves as Marlians. Other followers have associated with the term in the sense of a deviant. So, for these sect that align with the “Marlian” principle, youthful norm include: valorisation of hard drugs, prostitution, and the practice of advance fee fraud. The song “Am I a Yahoo Boy?” deploys rhetorical questions to taunt the law enforcement officers. In “Soapy”, Naira Marley expands the scope of internet fraudsters to cover native doctors, and even people that indulge in legal business activities. The aim of this is to allow people who are not internet fraudsters to also legitimize the Marlian identity, so that anybody can easily claim to be a Marlian.
Naira Marley is a hero for his followers. He is considered to have endured the taunting and pressure from law enforcement agencies. In a bid to encourage his followers, he dropped “Mafo” to motivate them not to give up when in one challenge or the other. In “Bad Influence”, conscious of the comments regarding his negative imaging as a brand, Naira Marley attempts to reconstruct his negative identity by blaming the government for making him look like a menance to the youth. The following lines reveal how Marley blames the government for moulding him into a negative influencer: “the government has nothing for us. We want school but they gave us prison. Can’t tell me what to do.”
Naira Marley’s rise to fame is quite astonishing. Nigerian youths are aware of the fame social media can bring. So, it is quite fascinating to see someone become popular from social networking. However, he needs to realise that Nigerian youths need the right motivation and need to stand for the right values. It is not enough to celebrate vices and sing songs that aren’t radio friendly. Naira Marley needs to work more on his art else he won’t last. He would fade away and his young nation would forget he ever existed.