By Dennis Peter
You may not love Olamide or his music, but he deserves every ounce of respect he’s gotten and will continue to get.
It is impossible to deny Olamide’s giant-sized footprint on Nigerian pop culture since the turn of the decade. He’s pulled the mainstream closer to the street and vice versa, mainly through his music. At the peak of his powers, he made the music terrain his plaything – it was his country, we were only living in it. And even at perceived, enviable valleys, the number of artists that could match his relevance can be counted on one hand.
A lot of Olamide’s success has hinged on a demonic work rate, his brimming catalogue boasting seven solo albums and one joint album in just seven years, all commercial successes in their own right, each with its own share of nationwide hits. You really can’t knock the man’s hustle, if you wanted to, word to Jay-Z’s ’96 – ’03 run.
Even with this great run, though, debates concerning whether Olamide has released a classic body of work or not is still ongoing. His lengthy discography is filled with albums of varying qualities – the good, the serviceable and the ugly. Undoubtedly, Olamide’s albums have a hierarchy.
After much thought, multiple listens to each album and tying them into the larger context, which is Olamide’s massive career, below is a ranking of Olamide’s discography in ascending order.
Dissents and overall comments are welcome in the comments section, or you might as well @ me on Twitter.
8. Lagos Nawa (2017)
Besides strengthening the mythos of Olamide’s yearly album ritual, Lagos Nawa has very little redeeming qualities that argue with it being placed rock bottom on this list. Mythos is never enough, quality is forever important. With a superb artwork embellishing the colours of the popular, rickety “Danfo” buses, Lagos Nawa is supposedly a conceptual body of inspired by, and encapsulating, the experience of the bustling city, mostly from the angle of the streets.
But instead of assuming his trusty role as the voice of the streets, Olamide is overtly gimmicky, simply swigging off street inspired sounds sans the expected shred of artistic novelty required to at least make Lagos Nawa not feel like a yearly tax write-off. Every song (except “Shine” and “Wo,” after it grows on you) is laborious to listen to, either in part or in full.
Olamide’s singing ability is on full display majority of the time, and even if it’s not his best quality, he’s been able to create great songs with it over the years, Lagos Nawa is an exception. Not only is Olamide vividly lazy all through, the lack of restraint means the album is unnecessarily glib. Less than a year after its release, Lagos Nawa is wilting faster than a branch that’s fallen off a tree. For an album which Olamide claims to have been recorded in about 48hrs, it came out as well as he gave.
7. 2 Kings [w/Phyno] (2015)
“Dope Money” was (and still is) a monster record, Olamide and Phyno took no prisoners, swinging out the gate jointly like Crixus and Spartacus duelling the beat (well, except none of them lagged off and got knocked to a pulp.) Subsequent collabs did not match the sheer madness of “Ghost Mode,” but the chemistry between both artists was tangible every time. On paper, it made sense that a joint project was a great idea. But in actuality, the resulting 2 Kings was a mild disaster, probably a well-covered one at that.
As an opener, “Cypher” does a great job of swelling the hype, a montage of both rappers in the gym flexing their biceps, going bar for bar. Well, that’s where most of the excitement stops, as 2 Kings descends into its uninspired barrel of mediocrity with both rappers floundering severally. There’s no attempt at adding a level of ingenuity to an already limited topical palette, it’s all trite and quite forced, especially when both artists fail to find a solid middle ground (“Real Ni**a” “Carry Me Go”). It gets bad up to the point where a not-so-great Lil Kesh verse on the album’s contemplated hot single “Ladi,” upstages both artists with so much ease.
Hushes around this joint project floated around months before its release, but it might as well have been bum-rushed within three days. Both artists at the height of their success and fame meant they had crazy schedules, and they couldn’t tuck the lag in. Obviously, Olamide took the driver’s seat on the project, but even his forced squalls couldn’t hide his sleepiness. See that Etisalat sign at the top left corner of the album artwork? Sadly, murdering beats wasn’t the priority for these lions, securing the bag was more important.
6. Eyan Mayweather (2015)
If there was a Nigerian equivalent of the RIAA, J. Cole wouldn’t be the only rapper to go platinum without features in 2015. Olamide’s Eyan Mayweather is devoid of any prominent guest artists. Hey, it’s Olamide the commercial giant, and “Bobo” was a single off that album, it most likely did such huge numbers. If we were trying to count the money in Olamide’s pocket, Eyan Mayweather did bring in huge profits. On the music front, though, it doesn’t always measure up.
Always one for a fatty, Eyan Mayweather stands at the height of Mt. Everest, 21 whole tracks. Without the voice of other artists to assuage the dizzying length, Olamide takes on many forms to keep things engaging. For fodder cuts like “Eyan Mayweather,” “Igara Chicken” and “OG Waheedee,” Olamide turns to his trusty combo of ear blowing production and burly raps to assert that he’s the heavyweight of this rap/music shit. They take different sonic forms (there’s even a grime attempt on “Kana Finish”), but it’s mostly serviceable. When he’s not obsessed with reiterating his place on the rap throne, 90% of the remaining space is allotted to celebrating his status and affluence with friends and family, in varying musical forms. There’s the ever infectious drawly, melodic rapping (“Bobo”), the chuckle-inducing attempt at slick ballroom pop (“Boom Boom”), half-baked take on celebratory highlife (“Sold Out”), mixtape worthy rap cuts (“Ball”) and so on.
Even if they are stuffed at the back end, the affectionate moments manage to stand out, in their own way. “Toriomo” is Olamide’s first swipe at dad music, “Melo Melo” is the most pristine and probably the best love song he’s made, and “Mama Mi” celebrates his mother with warm joy. It’s in these moments that Eyan Mayweather trudges with some necessary spark and sense of purpose. Maybe purpose is overrated, Eyan Mayweather did get Olamide his first Headie for album of the year. Or maybe it was a copout for his controversial, iconic “leave trash for LAWMA” barb aimed at the organizers. That’s some heavyweight shit, though.
5. YBNL (2012)
Bursting through nationwide consciousness after his debut album meant a lot of eyes were on him, and Olamide’s sophomore album YBNL contained an abundance of songs elucidating Olamide’s happiness at his newfound success, sometimes visceral (“Jale”), other times with clear swipes at naysayers (“Panumo”). But the motivation and raw animal instinct that made him undeniable at his first go weren’t dialled down, the fear of fame and its vices corroding his meteoric rise only amplified the stakes.
Cutting the figure of a Young Simba who had to quell Scar before attaining comfort at the top of Pride Rock, the fear of having a short-lived career seemed to weigh heavily on Olamide’s mind and it translated into his writing. A heightened awareness of death seeped into cutting raps on chilly, compelling standouts “Fucking With The Devil” and “V.O.T.S,” bold statement tracks with bravado woven into them, made even more worthwhile by a glaring realness and determination to get past uncertainty and escape the constantly creeping paranoia.
The less weighty parts of YBNL‘s sprawling runtime circles around cliché topics, to very mixed results. It can get inundating and even frustrating, especially during the album’s second half, with terrible hooks (“Nyarinya” “Fuji House”), questionable guest features (Kayswitch? Dammy Krane??) and a couple of forced grabs at mainstream hits – there’s a brewing confidence on the latter (“First Of All” “Owotabua”), and the patches are fixed up on subsequent albums. As the first project on which Olamide works with various producers, YBNL is sonically unfocused and severely imbalanced, failing to settle into enjoyable stretches.
4. Street OT (2014)
The throaty drawl and intense snarl in Olamide’s voice is quite the defining element of his 2014 album Street OT. A pretty sharp turn from the glossy overtones of its predecessor BGEL (more on that in a bit), the mostly gritty Street OT realigned Olamide’s success story and renewed the motive for the second lap of his career. Recounting various iterations of his come up through lived anecdotes while splicing in copious amounts of street aphorisms (as the title connotes), Olamide is delightfully brash and pushy, a combination of a condescending boss and a personal fitness trainer, both berating (mostly to haters) and motivational (“hope say you dey get money”).
Early cuts like “Zero Joy” “Blood Money” are staple Olamide material, but there’s renewed energy pulsing through to make them glowing cuts. Other solid moments benefit from a strong supporting cast, especially strong outings from YBNL associated artists at the time (Lil Kesh, Chinko Ekun, etc.) across multiple guest spots (“Bang” “Usain Bolt P”). These young cats bodying tracks with brass knuckles must have translated into a nostalgia-tinged vigour while Olamide recorded Street OT.
With all of its good qualities, there’s needless fat to wade through on Street OT. For strong attempts at anthem inclined songs like “Up In The Club” and “Story For The gods,” there are equally middling ones like “Skelemba” and “Ya Wa.” As good as “Alaaru” sounds, having a song that’s a brazen remix of Kanye’s “Black Skinhead” on the album is unnecessary – it definitely would’ve been better being on a mixtape or as a loosie. The Phyno assisted “In My Circle” is basically both well-known rappers rapping over what sounds like a stock beat culled off the internet, and it’s even barely mixed. Generally, poor post-production reduces the sonic potential of an album that’s supposed to be heftier and even more cavernous.
3. The Glory (2016)
Even with its late arrival (December 26th is late by Olamide standards), The Glory seemed to manifest out of thin air. Following tepid responses to 2 Kings and Eyan Mayweather in the previous year, the artistic bar had been set at an all-time low for Olamide albums and it didn’t seem like the slump was coming to an end with uninspired singles like “Konkobility” and “Orobo.” Even a commercially successful song like “Who You Epp” wasn’t exactly inspiring enough fire emojis to make many want a new Olamide album. But on its own merits, though, The Glory is a strong body of work, but the added element of surprise in its release helped in masterfully flipping the relatively low stakes project into a compelling return to form.
Transforming the temporary tone of unsureness lodged in the first words of “Intro (The Glory)” (“O tun ti fe drop new album, I don’t even know where to start from”) into an endearing assurance that transfers from song to song, Olamide not only comfortably and innovatively reaches into his bag, he sounds refreshed while doing so. Clocking in at 53mins, The Glory is Olamide’s shortest solo album yet, and as a result, it’s intelligently streamlined and sleek. Its brevity only serves to deepen the diversity of the album, with Olamide tapping into different modes with the assistance of different producers without overcomplicating things. There’s the usual boisterous, street anthems (“Owo Blow” “Pepper Dem Gang”), cuts to add to the hood motivation folder (“Woyo” “Grind”) and jams with taunting brags (“Underground” “Lori Titi Yi.”) What The Glory lacks in overt cohesion, it makes up for in great beat selection and overall solid execution.
Another factor that elevates The Glory is the improved emotional range on display, which increases the thematic berth unlike most of his albums. “Letter To Milli” is a touching bit of fatherhood, a standout song dedicated to his son. On “Symbol Of Hope,” Olamide moves beyond material ambitions, presenting himself as an inspirational figure for people to look up to. For an album with more thought to it, Olamide did The Glory a big disservice with the snappy release and quick move on (which isn’t atypical). For a quickly orphaned album, The Glory is aging pretty well.
2. Rapsodi (2011)
“Olamide is here/just like the first day of the year,” an all too recognizable intro from the life-changing, landscape-altering debut single “Eni Duro.” During his sit-down on the Loose Talk Podcast, ID Cabasa noted that Olamide was a battle rapper in his early days, and “Eni Duro” cannoned around with the intensity of a man going to war for some lunch money. The hunger vibrating off each quotable is deafening, with Olamide pulling in more momentum with each bar, an avalanche only gathering strength as it pulled down.
Rapsodi embodies the embers of ambition, from a young rapper with his eyes set on nothing but world domination. Olamide clearly knew he was getting into a business with no assurances, his calling cards were faith in a Higher Power (“I’m Going In”) and an assertive determination to become one of the greatest to ever do it (“Legendari Hustler”). Even beyond being a debut album with the attached sentimental ethos, Rapsodi finds Olamide in some untainted moments of profundity on a few deep cuts, be it personal (“Soundtrack Of My Life”) or outwardly, socially inclined (“Woman”).
Olamide’s innate skill as a rapper is shown throughout, but the excesses of his upbeat, sometimes rough and bumbled delivery is better focused with the help of ID Cabasa, the legendary producer, who at the peak of his powers helmed Rapsodi from top to bottom. “Even if I be drum, Cabasa no fit beat me,” Olamide blurted out gleefully on “Apa Ti Jabo”. If the scenario was possible, Olamide’s brag might be null, Cabasa would’ve probably beat him black and blue while making beats for Rapsody. The drum-heavy production elevates a momentous debut project up to the point where even songs that may be regarded as fillers remain quite enjoyable till date (“Gapa” “Kelegbe”).
1. Baddest Guy Ever Liveth (2013)
Olamide unveiling the iconic cover art for Baddest Guy Ever Liveth is arguably his transcendental moment. The regal image of Olamide in upward motion with extra swagger provided by the gunman pose aptly represents his ascension to the top of the zeitgeist. The cover art was widely celebrated and heavily parodied, an unforgettable moment in itself that assisted in making BGEL and future Olamide projects cultural events. Accessing the musical contents through its artwork, BGEL exudes an impenetrable “veni, vidi, vici” aura. Right from Do2dtun’s rousing intro announcing the album like Missandei evoking Danaerys Targaryen, BGEL carries itself as Olamide’s apotheosis.
As an early watershed moment unspooled autobiographically, “Anifowose” is a pivotal moment that gives credence to the overall victory lap-esque disposition on BGEL. A couple of people (myself included) might’ve initially viewed the overt lack of intensity as a sign of exhaustion, but in retrospect, BGEL is a portrait of Olamide in his moment of peace and relative happiness. Colouring itself warmly yellow and brightly gold, BGEL is a no holds barred celebration, an owambe that contains plenty of party starters and a few introspective moments that are less tense and pensive than those on his previous albums.
Showing an organic and often pristine combination of Olamide’s improved ability as a hitmaker without stuffing his rap abilities into the margins, BGEL meshes enough technical intrigue to go along with its enjoyable nature. The self-aggrandizing “Sitting On The Throne” won’t be effective if not for Olamide’s commanding vocal cadence bruising the heavy trap beat, “Durosoke” relies on a laid-back but upbeat flow for emphasis on its looseness, and running the pocket ragged while rapping in the Ijebu dialect of Yoruba language only makes the Phyno assisted “Dope Money” shine brighter. And boy, are the hooks sticky or what?!
Equally important to BGEL is the grand, sometimes sophisticated production that it is laced with. There’s sumptuous, groove leading piano loops and chords scattered across tracks, well infused vocal samples (“Anifowose” “Motivation”) and sinister keys for the more straightforward cuts, rapwise. Overall, the beats are boisterous, with Leviathan drums pounding away at speakers and earphones alike, with the obvious goal of inducing eargasms (check out that joyfully chaotic coda at the backend of the album version of “Durosoke.”)
BGEL, has continued fold in on its own flaws while standing the test of time, setting the musical and commercial bar by which Olamide’s subsequent albums have and will continue to be judged.
The post “Rapsodi” To “Lagos Na Wa”: The Definite Ranking Of Every Olamide Album appeared first on Nigerian Entertainment Today.