Olamide's '999 EP' is ambitious yet lacks balance and great execution [Album Review]
Although Olamide's ambition is commendable, his execution is anti-climactic. It makes one wonder if the album is a product of Olamide's unilateral vision and ideas or if he even used an A&R.
It was all anti-climactic. In a game of life and politics, Maximus Decimus was the underdog against the mighty Commodus. Just like the audience watching the movie in cinemas or on other forms of screens, the mob in the arena wanted Maximus to win. He was the 'underdog' who had been through a lot - including the loss of his entire family. Thus, his death was like a taste of stale akamu.
His death, after a monumental victory was the worst possible ending anyone could have imagined. In the conversation at hand, Olamide Adedeji also known as Olamide or simply, Badoo is Ridley Scott at his own helm of affairs.
As arguably the greatest Nigerian rapper ever, the thought of a surprise album that exudes class in cover art and features was enough to send Nigerian music lovers spiraling. That was the afternoon of Sunday, February 9, 2019. It was like a nuclear bomb was detonated at the heart of the music constituency of Twitter NG.
What excited most people - especially Hip-Hop lovers - was the thought of a 'proper Hip-Hop' album by Olamide - whatever that means. As proposed, the album dropped in the late hours of February 10, 2020 - albeit an hour earlier. Like the excitement that accompanied people's hope for a Maximus Decimus victory, this writer - like every other music lover - ran to unpack the goodies that Olamide had supposedly delivered. If only human beings were clairvoyant...
Throughout the entire 30 minutes that form 999 EP, Olamide orchestrated an ambitious and well-meaning yet anti-climactic project. While Ridley Scott is a legendary filmmaker who intended tragedy for cinematic effect, Olamide is a legendary rapper who intended to produce a better project with Ridley Scott-esque excellent vision for a rap album, but couldn't.
This might be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people, but it's the truth. Reluctantly, I might have to be like the critics I love to hate whenever I read negative reviews of successful Michael Bay-action flicks. I will have to review the project of a well-loved mainstream creator from what may would call 'a negative lens.'
By his standards, Olamide had a below-par 2019 and this EP was meant to be a moment. By no means is it poor, but it's definitely not exceptional or excellent.
999 EP feels excessively built in Olamide's image and likeness. It exemplifies his strengths and weaknesses as a man and artist. On one hand, it positively showcases Olamide's penchant to spotlight underground talent, his defiant vision to 'succeed' and his ambition to do something markedly different from other albums in his discography.
On the other hand, 999 EP is an imbalanced excogitation of sonic and lyrical 'whack-a-mole.' As such, its execution is anti-climactic. It feels like the EP had no A&R and was instead a total product of Olamide's weaknesses as the sole visionary of a project with this level of ambition.
P.S: Whack-a-mole is a game in an amusement arcade in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles, which appear at random, back into their holes. Olamide mirrors that with how undulating 999 EP feels. Whenever the EP hits a purple patch, something - a bad hook, a bad verse or a bad beat - swoops in and kills that purple patch.
Nonetheless, it is praise-worthy that Olamide even attempted this level of ambition as he slowly becomes a veteran. Last year, I wrote an article and suggested that Olamide needs to take some time off. At the time, it felt right. But with the ambition he displayed in 999 EP, I salute his defiance and I think his veteran days will be amazing - this will just be a blip in the long run.
Credit to Olamide too - he knew this album was a risky adventure. That's why he made and erroneously tagged it 'EP.'
What makes this album fit this description?
On woozy legato, 'No Time' is the Olamide and Eskeez-produced song that contains warped out guitar chords that intermittently show up as the beat progresses. On it, Olamide finds a personality between a trap kid and an introspective veteran. However, we never really got anything meaningful until the sung bridge at the end of the song.
Bars like, "Still getting that wire, don't preach to the choir..." don't aid the song's cause. Nonetheless, if you forget the questionable lines and bars, the song is a still solid 5.5/10. Its beauty is the intermittent chatter on Olamide's journey and will to never get a 9-5 job. This beat also feels bare - like something could have been added.
War featuring Snow, Phyno, Cheque & Rhatti
That hook is not bad, but it could have been better - it feels lazy and shabby. A good A&R would have made Snow dig deeper for a better hook. The beat is basically a rip off of 'No Church In The Wild,' the classic Kanye West and Jay Z song off their collaborative album, Watch The Throne. Ironically, a key part of 'No Church In The Wild' was Frank Ocean's hook.
Olamide's English rap was also ever so slightly rough - enunciation was so bad. His cadences and flow schemes were so questionable that one forgets his super-impressive opening four bars. Nonetheless, when you judge Olamide's entire verse, you might realize that blatant criticism of the overall quality of his verse is unfair. But you see Rhatti, he aced his verse - dude has it. Even his enunciation was A1.
In totality, this beat should never have made this album.
Billion Talk featuring Milly (Olamide's son)
On the archetypal trap beat, Olamide reads out a manifesto of his hope to break the generational curse of poverty in his family. While I don't like this song and I think the beat is so 2017, I appreciate the balance on it - actually, the most balanced song on the EP so far. For the first time, Olamide got his flows, cadences and delivery right. Shout-out to Young Batifeori too.
I might be wrong, but I don't see this song standing the test of time. It lacks the resonance of truly excellent songs. As an album track though, it doesn't have a lot of faults. I also like the beat switch on '2:21.'
Dance With The Devil featuring Sosa-E and Jackmillz
On a trap beat that excels on the beauty of drums, Olamide waxes lyrical on vulgarity. He also comes alive on talks of psychoactives and sex - but you see that hook, Olamide killed it and successfully gave us a throwback to Nigerian Hip-Hop hooks in the mid-2000s. Then, when he whispered the hook towards the end, that was a nice touch.
Shout-out to Sosa-E and Jackmillz too.
This one is the atypical lamba. While the song has resonated with the Nigerian mainstream for its beat, we need to overlook the vulgar nature of the song for a minute. What Olamide did with this song might be patriarchal or misogynistic, but it is socio-political reality.
The entire purport of this song is the argument that you cannot satisfy a woman. In Olamide's opinion, even if you can satisfy a woman, you cannot satisfy a call girl and you cannot make her faithful. This is quite interesting.
Demons featuring Jackmillz
The trap beat is so impressive - its strings stand out. Jackmillz's hook seems good on its own, but if you put Terry Apala or Kuddi Is Dead on this hook, this song goes from C4 to A1. Asides that, his hook seems like a verse and that's a problem.
Olamide's verses are not bad - he found a pocket and stayed there. His flows are good, but words are topically bland and unsubstantiated. While a lot of trap songs are also topically bland as they wax on braggadocio and vulgarity, it's difficult to find the topical relevance of Olamide's verses on 'Demons.'
Mojo featuring Jayboi
This is by far the second-best song on this EP and that's saying a lot. The beat is a crunk/snap from the 2000s - shout-out to Cracker. But you see Jayboi, this is someone to watch out for - he killed his verse with a sequential storyline and that hook. In English, Jayboi's hook is a short story of how he picked up a call girl. When they got home, she started whining like a steering wheel.
Badoo, take a bow. This is the moment we've been waiting for - a moment that Badoo goes into his element, finds his bars and weaves into the moments with humour. Moments like the sub at M.I's height or the bit about the Pastor who might be tempted by a light-skinned girl are funny and resonant.
With all I've noted, I struggle to see a world where this song is the second-best song on 999 EP if it had better beats. Nonetheless, the chatter on the quality or otherwise of this EP might be relative to the extent that the listener who gets this has heard better rap projects.
Let's get one thing clear, this is a pop beat which feels suited to a mixtape and not an album-esque project. It is bare and slightly shabby. What salvaged the moment; Olamide's wonderful flows and rhyme scheme. Although he didn't really say anything substantial, he stood up to the beat and proved himself - he didn't need to, but he did.
It's one of those moments where we can boldly say, 'See, Olamide dey rap, abeg.' You know why Olamide's flows are so impressive, the beat is a pop beat that Billie Eilish or Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande might fancy. Yet, Olamide turned it into a rap beat.
Rich and Famous
First off, shout-out to ID Cabasa for this amazing beat. Also, shout-out to Olamide for doing justice to the beat. He discussed something that we fans always fail to realize, 'Celebrities are also human.' This track is Olamide's lamentations; he bemoaned the constant criticism and the pressures of celebrity.
What struck the most were moments where;
- He discussed the pressure to always be camera-ready
- He discussed the pressure to spend like a superstar.
- He discussed the pressure to buy the dreams that strangers are selling.
This is by far the best beat and song on 999 EP and the best Nigerian rap song of 2020 (so far) - it ticks every box. Olamide's pen is enviable.
999 EP has an impressive tracklist - it's the one thing that holds this EP together. Some might even say this track list flatters the EP. I owe whoever arranged it a cold beer.
Across the EP, Olamide topically stands out when he needs to. Even on the lamba that was 'Wonma,' Olamide sung an anthem that paints a vivid picture of the philandering tendencies of Nigerian millennials.
Some songs are good, but when you've heard better albums and you understand Olamide's ambition for a rap project with substantiated topics, you'll know that beats from some producers like Sess, Sossick, Tempoe, MI Abaga or Reinhardt - or more beats from ID Cabasa - could have taken this EP to the next level.
With this level of ambition, Olamide should have to gone all out and left nothing to chance. From what I've consistently played, I don't think Olamide did that. It feels like he got people around him to give him the best rap beats possible. That's never enough.
In the end, the major problem with the album is the deceptive nature of its beats. They feel enough for the process, but in the grand scheme, they are not. The production is the exact reason why 999 EP will unfairly seem nonsensical to some people and without exceptional tracks to others.
While the mixing is markedly better on 999 EP than on previous Olamide projects, it requires another 20% before it reaches exceptional levels. In the grand scheme, 999 EP suffers from execution and imbalance.
Like Gladiator, the weaknesses and anti-climax of 999 EP won't stop it from being successful in numbers and mainstream penetration. It will never be as low and impact-less as Soundman Vol. 1 EP.
• 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
Content and Themes: 1.0/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.0/2
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