By Udochukwu Ikwuagwu
Album: Almost Famous
Label: (Independent release under Ultima Limited)
Features: Skales, Lil Kesh and Tiwa Savage
Producers: Philkeyz, Kenny Wonder, DJ Klem, Masterkraft, DJ Coublon, Spellz, Que Beats and Sagzy
Surprise albums/unanticipated music projects became a sort of fashion trend in 2013/2014, with artistes such as Beyoncé (Self-titled Beyoncé), Jay Z (Magna Carta…Holy Grail), KiD CuDi (Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon), Skrillex (Recess), David Bowie (The Next Day), U2 (Songs of Innocence), etc releasing albums with little or no notice, or media frenzy. The shock on the faces of members of the “Beyhive” was palpable when the out-of-nowhere visual album hit the internet. U2’s Songs of Innocence offering was way more dramatic as the Apple-collaboration meant fans had to wake to find an intruder sitting comfortably on their iTunes- this generated mixed feelings from “Who the heck is U2” to “It was worth the wait”. However you see it, the gains of a surprise album can only accrue to an artiste in the upper echelon; their ever loyal fan base will go out to satisfy their curiosity, planned buy or spontaneous purchase. Unfortunately, Olawale is no such artiste, and his fan base is near-microscopic. The reason behind this debut is rather puzzling- for an artiste who is barely known in the Nigerian music industry. Whatever Ultima Limited and MTN Nigeria’s target might be, one hopes they realise it.
Almost Famous tells of the personality of Olawale- vivacious, bubbly, energetic, friendly-mien, etc despite the slipshod cover art (including the pictures); the tacky spread seems like a deliberate attempt to ensure the corporate projection of the sponsor MTN. Nevertheless, the project is an interesting collage of Afro-Pop, Fuji, Juju, Highlife and Electro-pop. The layering of these genres gives a pleasurable sound-fest. Olawale’s voice blends well with the musical choice, as the album shuffles from song to song. The theme sneaks into every audio file of the 10-track album- the stories of an up and comer translated in quest for fame, love and lust and youthful exuberance (carpe diem!). His vocal presence remains steadfast and unimpeded by the collection of fast-paced beats. The 2013 Project Fame winner breaks from the stereotypical music show alumnus- where s/he is stuffed in the Soul/R&B box with little or no experimentation. His easy, playful rendition tells of the exultant air hovering over, and soaking listeners into a contraption.
The official lead single, Jupa, is a Fuji & Afro-Pop assortment capable of causing a whirlwind of bodies on the dance floor. “You can bend your waist/You can bend your knees/You can raise your hand/You can do like this (ooo)”, he calls out to ravers. The bustling Spellz-production sums the whole party idea. The infusion of the popular catchphrase ‘Orobokibo’ used by Fuji backup vocalists is another reason to appreciate the song’s concept. The happy-go-lucky theme continues on the Highlife-influenced Bamijo. The softly plucked guitar strings the other elements of this danceable track into a musical ball. “Baby, come and get it/Your body dey arrest me/Gbege ti de, omoge jeka sere/She wan’ turn me to sinner/Everything I dey do na to please her”, he invites a love interest on the sensual Get It. He ‘takes five’ from his band performance to serenade an attractive lady that caught his eye at the shindig. His Shaydee-imitation on the “jeko gbongbon”, “…in my hood” and “sha ma judi e” lines is a minor incidence. Skales’ involvement in the flirtation brightens the lust-filled night. The Olawale-Tiwa Savage duet, Love Me, fails to impress and adds nothing to this sound collection. The need for a ‘mature wooing’ to wrap the ‘Get It’ experience runs the 3-minute mark unnoticed. The menacing-Sagzy-produced beat on Take Home flushes Olawale’s hidden affection for a lady. “My baby take home to mama/I swear, for you I dey maga/My baby, bone all dem haters/Anything dem talk e no matter”, he sings on the hook; although the chorus sounds a little cheesy. He Celebrate-s on the album closer; it’s a feel-good song that borrows from a familiar religious chant.
Almost Famous is a commendable debut from an up and coming artiste. The production (a mixture of Hip-Hop, Afro-pop, Highlife, Fuji and Electro-pop) and sound mixing, song arrangement, sound writing and art direction deserve much credit. Credit should also go to Osagie Osarenkhoe for her superb A&R’ing on this project. On this album, Olawale displayed flashes of brilliance and a good understanding of the contemporary Nigerian music; although, at times, he overindulged on creation of sparse, catchy lyrics. His voice whirled well on the genres he attempted. Soon Olawale’s journey to contemporary relevance and fame will be achieved.
Udochukwu writes from Ibadan. You can catch him listening to different genres of music on his iPod or buying CDs at your popular music store when he’s not working.
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