Following the release of Skepta’s fifth studio album Ignorance Is Bliss last month, it feels like Boy Better Know are more powerful than ever. Beyond the expansive UK grime scene, the collective’s influence is unfolding on radio waves and in clubs all over the world, diffusing into street style, common parlance and even politics. Though birthed from Tottenham and the secondary school playground of Winchmore Hill, BBK has always operated with an international outlook seeking to spotlight the music and culture of its roots. Headed up by the Adenuga’s cousin, Greatness Dex, BBK Africa dedicates itself entirely to this aim.
Having grown up in Nigeria and moved to the UK in ’96, Dex has spent his life between the creative communities of both Lagos and London facilitating a cultural exchange. Through the medium of a festival, BBK Africa brings a community together to celebrate and immerse themselves with Nigerian culture. It goes deeper than London and Lagos: Dex is reclaiming skewed narratives on the African diaspora, infusing them with the depth, nuance and positivity that the mainstream media has all-too-often fallen short on.
“Like one of my t-shirts says: ‘together we push’. It means a lot, because really we can’t do it on our own,” Dex asserts. In person, he holds a commanding presence, alternating seamlessly between a playful charisma and earnest, urgent commentary on his mission.
“Like one of my t-shirts says: ‘together we push’. It means a lot, because really we can’t do it on our own,”
Adorned with similar mobilising slogans, Dex’s clothing line has garnered thousands of loyal fans who identify with the movement and wear the pieces religiously to communicate their allegiance – some of whom have even created DIY versions using similar fonts and styles. Though he’s taken the brand to retail outlets such as Selfridges, for Dex, it’s also a tool to drive that community to Lagos, where he holds a pop-up at Christmas every year. “I’m seeing them from America, everywhere in the world,” he laughs, highlighting the impact of fuelling face-to-face connections at the event. “I’m getting DMs along the lines of ‘Dex, are you coming? Are you coming?’ They’ll invite me to their parties: ‘Yo Dex, come and chill with us.”
Alongside his own line, the pop-up hosts Nigerian singer Wizkid – as well as, a range of Lagos-based brands. In this way, it’s become the embodiment of BBK Africa’s core values: to nurture and spotlight local talent with a supportive platform, rather than championing a select, influential few.
Dex would later find out that the pop up was merely a microcosm of something much bigger. In 2018 BBK kick-started an annual Lagos-based festival called Homecoming - a name coined by Dex himself. In line with the ethos of his pop-up, its eclectic line-up positions local musicians alongside internationally acclaimed artists, including Odunsi, Wizkid, Santi, Skepta, Not3s, J Hus and Lancey Foux.
“Nigeria is Miami on steroids. From the club, you’re going for breakfast, you go to bed... then, you’ve got to get up to go again.”
After the festival set, there’s the parties – after-parties, and the parties after that. Amongst the dizzying heat, electric energy and booming sound systems of the city after dark, the Homecoming crowd whirls through a tour of the nightlife and sub-cultures that inform its music. “It’s crazy out there!” Dex warns jovially: “Nigeria is Miami on steroids. From the club, you’re going for breakfast, you go to bed... then, you’ve got to get up to go again.”
The focus remains firm however - bringing attention back to the origins of Alte music and providing an opportunity for Nigerians to celebrate their culture, and for everyone else attending to experience it in an all-consuming and authentic way.
In line with the overall, Dex is committed to highlighting cultural variety within Africa, beyond the vibrant allure of Lagos. Primarily, this involves directing attention towards smaller villages and showcasing the intricacies of their own local customs and traditions. In turn, he hopes to re-focus any ignorant, reductive perceptions of Africa as a whole. “The African culture – not just Lagos,” he underscores. “People need to come into the villages more. That’s what I really want to show: to see how they’re doing their traditional weddings, how they dress up, the fruits they wear on their necks. People haven’t seen culture within Africa really and truly. We’re all still just skimming the top."
"People haven’t seen African culture, really and truly. We’re still just skimming the top."
Outside of events in real life, BBK is operating on a mammoth scale online – fuelled by friends and grassroots storytelling as much as prominent community members. Homecoming has propelled Lagos-based artists and their music around the world, celebrating local pride and cementing an inclusive, international community. Every day, the collective provokes more informed, nuanced conversations and respectful cultural exchange. But though Dex has already built an unshakeable legacy, he’s quick to make clear that he’s only getting started. More events, exposure and expansion are the aims, “more awareness and more activation of uplifting settings.” But most importantly, he wants the movement to retain its authentic motive, no matter how big it gets. “I just want to do more. Let us keep working. Keep pushing...” He concludes decisively, evoking a couple of the slogans from his clothing line:
“Lateness isn’t greatness… Together we push.”