Take a trip down memory lane and reminisce on all the best things from our childhood.
History is often the topic of scrutiny regarding its authenticity; more importantly, many of us find it difficult to grasp the arbitrary fine points lost in translation due to the exponential development we experience over the years. Stories are often retold from the viewpoint of the people responsible for creating the technology and rarely ever from the user’s experience. App reviews only became mainstream about ten years ago.
The inception of the Internet allowed stories to be chronicled in real-time by the audience itself and without a need for any gatekeepers. Take me, for example, sharing experiences from the last 20 years while still in my twenties. Most of us were absent of responsibility in this phase of life, which might play a part in its romanticization of this period. The content was subjectively worse than it is today and access to it was severely limited. While the items on this list might not touch base with every one of us, the majority of them will.
The changes experienced by the world collectively since the turn of the millennium dwarf the achievements of every other period combined, and for a good reason. While the sheer amounts of information available to members of the public as a result of these changes make it hard to be nostalgic, it is impossible not to reminisce about the good old days when it was all simpler (but not necessarily easier.) Contacting people far away had to be performed with an air of formality; there was limited access between individuals. People did not have to condone unnecessary midnight emails and daily video calls. Entertainment was elusive; the best films and music had to be hunted down and mounted on display cases for the rest of your community to marvel at and envy.
If you lived through the early noughts, then you will be familiar with many things on this list. They might make you think of your childhood or adolescence fondly, or they might trigger traumatic memories from your past; one thing is certain, though – they will plunge you into our variety of early noughts nostalgia. Prepare to dive in.
"Home Video" Stores
We grew up in a pre-Netflix world where these places were a gateway to a world of entertainment, both local and foreign. Video centres were often dingy rooms, the walls lined with rows upon rows of cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs. The perfect melting pot for Nollywood, Hollywood, and Bollywood, the best stores had the range and catalogue to keep you searching for hours and could defund you faster than Nigerian bank loans. These safe spaces provided an avenue for discovering people with similar tastes, connecting people who otherwise would never have been able to. You can check out SGawd’s nostalgia-themed video featuring one of these spaces if you need a reminder of what they looked like. With the advent of the internet, these hallowed halls of culture and entertainment became obsolete, much like another revered space that makes our list.
Before personalized internet services became as widely available as they are today, people had to huddle up in these “cafes” – that did not serve food or drinks – just to experience the thrill of 500kb internet speeds that transported them into the matrix. It was common to see multiple cybercafes on one street in the 2000s, often packed to capacity with people filling every sort of online need they had. The earliest Yahoo boys would crowd around desktop systems and compose their infamous Nigerian Prince emails to spam users that they had encountered. People seeking admission into higher institutions would pay for one hour and use three to upload documents alone. Parents would accompany their wards to check results, and scenes of celebration and rebuking alike were routine. Private companies democratizing data services effectively made these spaces into business centres and eventually redundant.
The Piracy Era
Once again, another part of our childhoods that the streaming era took from us – thankfully to the advantage of creators globally. Everything in Nigeria – from music, to films to books and video games – was copied and resold under the actual value in the 2000s. The infamous Alaba Market was a living, breathing monster that took content from creators and remade it in their image. While driving around you could spot hawkers selling a surplus of the most random items: Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The 48 Laws of Power in one hand; 2Face’s Grass to Grace and Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album in the other, right in the middle of traffic. The download era is the version of piracy we possibly miss the most. All software and music became open-source to whoever had enough time to scour the backroads of the web and seek it out, and as internet traffic grew, so did the communities. There were some so dedicated to the decapitalization of content they created a little thing called torrents. By the early 2010s, though, authorities and businesses clamped them down. While impossible to eradicate, solutions like streaming and limited access plans (not to mention virus bundling and ads) made piracy less desirable over the years.
Nigerians maintain a monopoly in many things; jollof rice, orange-flavoured Fanta and parties are a few that millennials might be very familiar with. An insightful thread on Twitter earlier this year explains how jollof rice became mainstream in the 90s and 2000s. This covertly indicated one thing: the sheer amount of parties thrown between these periods that allowed us to enjoy our trilogy of small pleasures. With no WhatsApp group chats to advertise on, birthdays were circulated in common spaces like the classroom and church. We kept dates and dusted off our oversized clothing to celebrate a kid from school we probably did not like but did not mind eating free food from. The curated music for each event was the same yearly mix made by the country’s most popular DJs from the country and manipulated by our regular neighbourhood spinner. The makossa wave was in full swing, and a variety of sounds were breaking through simultaneously. Nothing could go wrong in life.
Video game culture
Gaming had exploded in mid-2000s Nigeria helping build one of the most enduring communities of our youth. The PlayStation 1 console was the first easily accessible gaming system, due to its ubiquitous nature more units popped up everywhere around the world. The Playstation 2 took the model and ran with it. The Arcades erected in this era were temples. Constantly packed to capacity with teeming teenage and adolescent bodies, these arcades recorded certain occurrences including but not limited to; distracted kids running from mothers who sent them on errands, school staff uncovering and raiding new locations and intense gambling rounds. Ask any millennial (and some Gen Z kids) and they’ll tell you Winning Eleven was more popular than Jesus at some point on the streets of Lagos.
Hip-Hop in Nigeria
In the early 2010s, the days of hardcore rap were well in the past with every emerging act mirroring the rap singing popularized by Western acts like Drake. Every school hall had a multitude of aspiring rappers, each freestlying at every given oppurtunity to anything that remotely resembled a beat. Rappers like Mode9 set the trajectory for such development, achieving underground popularity and recognition in the early aughts and making the appeal of breaking through as a rapper seem achievable. The deluge of rappers from the era provides clear evidence to the fact that rapping was the cooler, more popular genre. Ruggedman, Weird MC, Naeto C, Ikechukwu and Mo Cheddah were members of the same class responsible for pushing the envelope in the genre – even famed Highlife singer Flavour launched his career with a rap album before pivoting to the genre he became popular for. While we are aware the days where full fledged rap albums regain importance are likely behind us, we wonder if this era will ever see a reboot.
These days, every social networking app has some form of instant messaging feature, and yes, you guessed it, IMing was an exclusive club in the early noughts. Much in the same vein of segregated conversations on Clubhouse that find their way on to Twitter, discussions about what who texted whom regarding what would spillover from BlackBerry screens to real life. Communication was revolutionised, and we were the generation responsible for heralding it in and almost overnight, rooms usually noisy with chatter became quiet as libraries. Attentions moved from one another to screens and from bigger screens to smaller ones. As the user base responsible for propagating the feature, we deserve the credit often turned into ridicule by ageists. Though the earliest text messages were sent by phone, the earliest texters used their computers, and platforms like Yahoo Messenger, MSN messenger, Jabber (which ruled them all), ICQ, iChat, and Google Talk laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the preferred form of communication for the planet.
The embodiment of Nigerian fast-food culture, Mr Biggs represented the first foray of many Nigerians into dining culture. The family-friendly restaurant chain maintained an omniscient presence, appearing in the most obscure places around the country and sustaining an enviable degree of quality control across all outlets. That consistency helped build their brand and make them a staple in the hearts and minds of the nation until they fell off – hard. No one knows how or why exactly this happened, but their decline was one of the hardest things to watch as a millennial (the meat pie is still great, though). It felt reflective of a Nigerian issue that was sweeping all sectors; a lack of effort. The meals felt lacklustre and the service even more so, until capable competition stepped in and delivered the killing blow (looking at you, Chicken Republic). Though their demise is not final, they only exist as a shell of their former selves – Affordable and very likely to give you food poisoning.