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DA GRIN: ONE YEAR AFTER DEATH

By NBF News
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Da Grin
It seems like just yesterday but it is exactly a year today that indigenous lyricist and rising music star, Olaitan Olanipekun, known far and wide as Da Grin, died from complications arising from a ghastly accident. He was coming from a late night outing on April 14, 2010 when he rammed into a stationary truck in Alakara, Mushin area of Lagos.

At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where he was later rushed to, he oscillated between life and death for one week before eventually settling for the latter. Da Grin left behind grief-stricken parents, a distraught fandom and an inconsolable industry. He was 26. E-Punch chronicles some events that have shaped, and still shaping, his afterlife.

Fame after death:
Although nobody wishes to die ahead of his/her glory, a hackneyed adage in the American entertainment industry holds that death is a good career move. Perhaps it is true for Da Grin. He was on the cusp of popularity and prosperity before his life was truncated midstream. Early in his career, he insisted he would rap in his mother tongue, Yoruba, which he was more adept at than the English Language. This narrowed his fan base. Some waved his style off. However, because good music has no barrier, the sceptics later made an about-face, accepting that he was good after all, while bobbing and weaving to the same music they had criticised.

Contrary to the lukewarm reception that greeted his first album, Still on the Matter, the sophomore, Chief Executive Omoita, climbed the charts and made an inroads into clubs and concert grounds. Some songs in the album had even acquired a national anthem status before his untimely death.

Industry stakeholders, hip hop heads and those who had ears for music, tipped the young man as the break out star of the Nigerian music industry in 2010. The year would have accentuared his musical trajectory; it would have been the beginning of peak years of activities for him. To underscore this, he was nominated in three different categories of the Hip Hop World Awards. The mouth-watering performance engagement fees had not started rolling in, neither had the life-changing endorsement deals but everyone knew these were just a matter of time. Even his parents were hopeful that after all the years in the doldrums of poverty, the rosy days were near. An indication of this was the generator he bought for them on the day he had the ill-fated accident. Da Grin, like other close observers, must have thought that nothing would stop him from breaking the bounds of obscurity and poverty.

Sadly, he died ahead of his glory and popularity. It was in death that he achieved the fame that was yet to come to him while alive. So popular was he in death that a self-confessed witch was recorded on videoas saying Da Grin's fame in the last months of his life came about when he was inducted into a cult and that his refusal to pay his dues made them kill him.

Lessons from his death:
A lot of ifs has trailed the young man's death. Some people have contended that if he wasn't the one driving on the night of the accident, or if he hadn't been allowed to go out all alone as a celebrity, the tragedy might have been averted. This argument holds true now especially in the face of 'avoidable' deaths that have befallen the entertainment industry in the year under review. We have not forgotten so soon comedian, CD John, who died in similar circumstances last March. Koko Mansion contestant, Chidinma, also died last month and Terry G's near-death experience in an accident too are too fresh.

It is in the light of this that NET Newspapers Ltd, publishers of Nigerian Entertainment Today, announced recently that it would organise a memorial lecture in honour of Da Grin. According to the publisher of NET, Ayeni Adekunle, the memorial lecture aims at getting 'relevant people from the Federal Road Safety Corps, Police Force, Nigerian Medical Association and other bodies, including representatives from the musicians' union as well as the label owners, to come and educate us all on what we need to know on pertinent health, safety, living, investment and other issues, using the tragic death of Da Grin as case study.'

The memorial lecture does not have a date yet but according to Ayeni, 'it is our desire that our artistes and their minders will find important lessons from this lecture; same for those who work within the entertainment industry. How many of us still sit behind our steering wheels and drive after we've been drinking? How many have all the relevant insurance papers? What can we do about the hospital policy that makes it impossible for you to get even first aid treatment unless you pay a deposit? Who benefits? What is the role of the FRSC, state governments, the Federal Government, the Nigerian Police, PMAN, record labels, and other institutions in all of these?'

Still thrilling Nigerians in death:
He might not have the body of works of late American rappers, Tupac and Biggie who he is constantly compared with because they were profound lyricists and also died in their prime but, like the Americans, Da Grin's music continues to find relevance and acceptance among music lovers even after his demise.

His collaborations with various artistes such as General Pype, Oritshefemi, DJ Neptune and Lineo (Elepepe master) still make for compulsive listening while the accompanying musical videos are a constant reminder of this art. In fact, Ruggedman's new video, , is reported to have featured the real Da Grin, not an animation.

Gone but hardly forgotten:
In the wake of Da Grin's death, there were promises from lovers of his music and well-wishers to do everything possible to immortalise him so as to ensure his memories and all that he stood for are not consigned to the footnotes of history. The contention was that he might be gone but he should not be forgotten. So far, however, only entertainment investor, lawyer and Stingomania Records boss, Ope Banwo, has done anything worthwhile in this direction. He has produced a must-watch biopic, entitled Ghetto Dreamz, which chronicles the late rapper's eventful trajectory, rise and death. Ghetto Dreamz premieres in cinemas across the country from today. Starring up and coming singer, Trybson, who plays the lead role, Doris Simeon, Gabriel Afolayan and Jaywon, revenues from the biopic are expected to go to the late lyricist's family and the Ghetto Dreamz Foundation established to help creative young people from humbler backgrounds achieve their creative pursuits.

In the wake of Da Grin's death, there were promises from lovers of his music and well-wishers to do everything possible to immortalise him so as to ensure his memories and all that he stood for are not consigned to the footnotes of history. The contention was that he might be gone but he should not be forgotten. So far, however, only entertainment investor, lawyer and Stingomania Records boss, Ope Banwo, has done anything worthwhile in this direction. He has produced a must-watch biopic, entitled Ghetto Dreamz, which chronicles the late rapper's eventful trajectory, rise and death. Ghetto Dreamz premieres in cinemas across the country from today. Starring up and coming singer, Trybson, who plays the lead role, Doris Simeon, Gabriel Afolayan and Jaywon, revenues from the biopic are expected to go to the late lyricist's family and the Ghetto Dreamz Foundation established to help creative young people from humbler backgrounds achieve their creative pursuits.