In 2016, Runtown was coming off a stellar two-year run; It was hits and bloody murder on anything he touched either on his songs, features or even freestyle sessions. The craziest part, the music came out of him so organically.
This moment also saw him become pioneer to a sub-genre of afro-beats that these streets now call, ‘vibes’ – a typical lo-fi 100-110 BPM afro-fusion, and slightly slower offspring of the Ghanaian pon pon sound that crossed over to Nigeria around 2010.
The first time Runtown ran on it was ‘Lagos To Kampala,’ before he owned it on his mega-hits, ‘Mad Over You’ and ‘For Life.’
He became so synonymous with the sound that rappers, Sarkodie and Illbliss tapped him for their respective hits, ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Can’t Hear You.’ As far as average people were concerned, it was Runtown’s sound, although it’s now mainstream.
One of these crossover sounds of Ghanaian origin that touched down in Nigeria was ‘Slow Down,’ by Ghanaian duo, R2Bees, featuring Wizkid circa 2014.
These vibes gave birth to the entire DMW run Fresh VDM and Speroach through 2017/2018, especially on most things Davido and Peruzzi created. After an unintentional hiatus brought on by things beyond his control, Runtown is back on these ‘vibes’ with his 6-track EP titled, Tradition. It was released on Friday, May 24, 2019, one week ahead of schedule.
The reception has been good, with fans lapping it all up like a bowl of milk before a hungry feline creature. Fans waited for this, and like word has it, the EP’s title, ‘Tradition' is a dig at the haters who cannot stop his tradition of making quality music, echoing the content on his sleeper hit, ‘Energy.’
Here is a breakdown of the EP;
There are no reservations toward the track list, and I also appreciate the arrangement that forced people to listen to other songs before the best songs on the EP. It enhanced appreciation.
Ordinarily, it’s harsh to rate an album of dance tracks on songwriting, but Runtown attempted it and he might have pulled off his best work yet, lyrically.
There are no expletives on this album, there are no rhythmic humming to fill space while the hook is awaited. While the topics are very generic, there is a methodical approach to this one as each song has a base that drives topical cohesion – Runtown didn’t run from one topic to another unrelated one.
‘Redemption’ is a break-up song, with Runtown as the forsaken lover who presumably messed up a good thing, and now he begs for redemption. ‘Emotions’ is a declaration of love. ‘Tradition’ is a spiteful chant that mixes new jack swing effects to see a defiant Runtown diss his detractors with explicit humble-brags as he toasts the good life.
‘Goosebumps’ is a love story from a man drunk-on-self, told with hints of braggadocio. ‘International Badman Killa’ is Runtown on his explicit Soundgod ting - the woman magnet who lives the good life with all finer things of life, affordable. ‘Unleash’ is the more familiar song and another Soundgod ting.
While there are momentary imperfections on each song, they’re insufficient to validate Runtown’s efforts.
Production is the only let down on this EP. Asides ‘International Badman Killa’ and to a slightly lower extent, ‘Unleash,’ one feels the production on the other tracks, though promising, were missing an extra dimension from a melody and harmony standpoint. Some of the melodies were too flat; lacking sonic adventure.
While I understand that ‘vibes’ is a minimalist sub-genre that finds beauty in simple melodies, it’s also the major weakness of the subgenre – the dearth of complete melodies. You can’t compare the feeling you derived from ‘International Badman Killa’ to what you got from even ‘Tradition’ that had slightly better melodies that the others.
There’s a reason why ‘International Badman Killa’ will likely end up being the most successful song on this EP and that’s complete melodies. One string that only goes in two dimensions should not accompany a potential-filled vibe.
‘Redemption’ had melodies that were too flat, that its hook was not even a melodious climax. The same thing with ‘Emotions’ and ‘Goose Bumps.’
‘Unleash’ almost falls victim to this same weakness, but is papered by the faster pace and infectious drums.
While this is a worthy comeback that will definitely resonate with listeners, I look at the potential of all the songs on this project to be hits, but I think the flat melodies on most songs could be an impediment – yet, I might be wrong.
Tradition is by no means terrible, but it’s not excellent either, even though it could have been. The major reason it falls short of excellence is the stated weakness on melodies.
Is ‘Tradition’ enjoyable? Yes. But I just feel it misses the mark of how enjoyable it could have been.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 0.7/2
6.0 - Victory