Falz is a well-rounded Nigerian creative. He is a gifted creative, whose creative or on-screen persona is rooted in the language that the mainstream can process. Although born with a silver spoon, he speaks to the soul of most Nigerians, probably because he saw some of these things growing up.
Falz's 'Bahd' had roll-out, strategy and marketing problems, not exactly a music problem [Pulse Editor's Opinion]
26 days after the release of Falz's fifth solo album, we revisit some of the elements that aided reviews that trailed its release.
Hence he created a mini-career off Instagram skits, where he would embody his alter ego, a native of Ilawe-Ekiti - his hometown. He would speak with a strong Yoruba intonation, riddled with h-factor and bad enunciation for comical effect. He would wear sunglasses without lenses, which some attributed to the late great Baba Sala.
His debut project, Wazup Guy was different, because it was a fusion of Fuji and Afro-pop with Rap music and Hip-Hop essence. Therefore, records like ‘High Class’ and ‘Jessica’ really resonated, and a foundation was laid. He then switched his Instagram skits for the silver screen, and won himself an Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award.
Then his career took off, with his sophomore and third albums. In particular, Stories That Touch will go down as something of a timeless project. Falz was in his element, as one of the prime playmaking rappers in Nigerian music. Due to his enunciation, easily digestible, yet sophisticated bars, and his linguistic dexterity, his version of rap music resonated with Nigerians, and a star was born.
Aside from that, his stories were also highly relatable, when he made commercial records like ‘Soft Work’ or ‘Sweet Boy.’ He made Nigerians dance to their stark reality, even when it was sad. Then, he explored socio-politics to success, as he conquered another realm of his career.
Then in 2019, Falz had the best year of his career. He released Moral Instruction, his would-be classic, and went on a run, where he literally destroyed every other person he was on a track with. It was the consistency with which he dislodged his fellow rappers that made people sit back and give him his credit.
He made Nigerians enjoy rap because it didn’t feel like rap to them. It was seamless and easy.
As the world moved into 2020, we started to see a shift in Falz’s approach. ‘Bop Daddy’ was always a jam, but it had limited reception till lockdown hit and TikTok and Triller videos did the business. Then ‘One Trouser’ flopped, and we started to see Falz look slightly desperate for the first time. It felt like he started to conform, as he needed to stay relevant.
The move into Amapiano for ‘Squander,’ and then back to his template for ‘Mercy’ and then back to ‘Oga,’ felt like one inspired by confusion and a hint of desperation, at least to an observer like this writer, and a few others. It felt like he was desperately chasing a hit.
“I don’t know why he is chasing hits, because he has always created his own rules, and things have always worked for him,” says a music exec. “But I also feel for him, things are really changing and fast.”
That pity is another emotion that this writer feels, because Falz is not alone. Post-lockdown, as streaming and TikTok slowly started to impose themselves, everything changed and templates went out the window, and Nigerian artists became desperate. Then the scramble ensued, as searched for new formula.
In the case of Falz since Q4 2020, he’s been like the version of Drake that we saw on Certified Lover Boy. As a successful rapper who has explored it all, what do you do next?
If you do the same thing, people will slate you. So you need to look towards the next frontier, as you battle to retain your relevance with successful singles in a fast-paced streaming world. In the case of Drake, he simply used CLB to unify and repeat some of his tested and trusted formats, with a hint of the corny ‘love cut’ on his head.
And the sad part about being Drake and Falz, you are getting older and new artists are emerging. So you also need to remain ‘cool.’
What Falz did in 2020/2021, as he looked for where to fit in, might have negatively affected his identity and perceptions of him. He wasn’t acquiring new fans and his old fans probably started gravitating towards newer acts. The result of which meant that he needed to re-establish himself.
With his latest album, Bahd, he had the right ideas: a sexier, more relatable persona, who makes an attempt at evolution by singing. This was like when Lil Wayne started to explore singing with ‘How To Love’ with Carter IV.
To be honest, it was the right idea. The branding for the album cover also aligned with that 360 brand - a duality or an evolution or another reflection of Falz as an artist.
On one-side, he showed himself, bare chest and a six-pack, with a nice dyed hair. On the other side, we saw his back with a regular hair, while he was dressed in a jacked. However, the version in the jacket was the one looking at the cooler version of shirtless Falz. We also saw the back of the regular Falz and face of the shirtless Falz, which might validate my allusion of evolution and projected of a different perception.
The idea was to present a different Falz. He delved more into love and sexuality. Yet, the reception of the music was cold. Even though the album got more positive responses than people noticed, they were not amplified.
It felt like Falz’s core fan base wasn’t sufficient to solely amplify the release of his music anymore. It also felt like there wasn’t great effort from his team to amplify and market the music post-release. We barely saw significant media and PR efforts to promote the album via interviews, appearances and TikToks, unlike in previous years.
And this is far becoming a common reality, where artists do the bare minimum, as regards post-release marketing. Perhaps, it’s because of the new culture of advance and licensing fees, where artists have already received their money pre-release of their album. Therefore, there is little motivation to do the needful, because the right money has been made.
Perhaps there are other issues with Falz’s release, but we can’t speak to that. We can only speak from the perspective of an outsider. Perhaps, label services companies should start incentivizing ‘advance’ and licensing fees, based on milestones and KPIs, like rich people do with their kids and trust funds.
Is 'Bahd' as bad as some people claim?
‘Bahd’ isn’t as bad as some people project it to be. It's just different, and people didn't expect it. This writer doesn’t even agree that it’s Falz’s least great album. He believes that ‘Bahd’ is a better, more cohesive album than 27. He also believes that there was a thought-process behind ‘Bahd,’ but the execution and amplification of ‘Bahd’ is another question entirely.
In fact, there are worse albums than ‘Bahd,’ which have had far greater success and make far greater noise. This is not exactly a music problem, it’s a strategy problem with a little bit of execution problems.
Above all, there is a fundamental problem: roll-out.
In 2021, this writer penned a piece about roll-outs.
He cited Ernest Wilkins’ brilliant definition of a great roll-out as, “A narrative.”
Wilkins continued on Dan Runcie’s podcast, Trapital, “I think the best artists have created specific characters that you identify with… [It has] to be a narrative that people can understand, but more importantly, that they can identify with. Hits are hits, but if you can endure a narrative and a sense of a story or the sense of a linear path, that’s what separates an album dropping from a proper roll-out…”
‘Bahd’ was a different version of Falz, released for an industry that initially gets cynical towards the evolution of artists. Thus, it needed a properly executed roll-out, which created a narrative of a different Falz, through the right singles, the right persona in public and the right brand in public.
The album was meant to showcase a softer Falz, but his singles didn’t prepare people for that. Perhaps, if Falz had released the right singles, where he was alone, and singing; where he had carried that hairstyle with more alignment with that brand; where he had employed an image consultant to help him with his intentions, the reception of ‘Bahd’ would have been better, as people would have known what to expect.
For example, the last single off Kanye West’s Graduation was ‘Homecoming,’ a midtempo Rap song, with hints of emotions. But the first single off 808s & Heartbreaks was ‘Love Lockdown,’ a dark heartbreak song, exemplified by its visuals. The next single was ‘Heartless,’ another dark song, before the album - a dark, melodramatic post-break up song, rippled with thudding drums - dropped. The singles and visuals set the pace because Kanye was intentional.
Don’t let anybody lie to you, those singles were received with mixed emotions in 2008, because people wanted to hear Kanye rap. People now call it a classic and game changer, but in 2008, reactions that trailed the album were mixed. At least, the album has aged well. I can’t say the same for ‘Bahd,’ because people aren’t even giving it a chance.
Falz should have done something similar. Sometimes, people interpret surprise or shock as unacceptable, and ‘Bahd’ was a victim of that. Even though ‘Ice Cream’ tried to aid that, they didn’t create the sauce that would have allowed the single to marinate, as a template setter and narrative for ‘Bahd.’
Hence, here we are.
- Pulse Editor's Opinion is the viewpoint of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the Organisation Pulse.
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