In 2011, P Square was arguably the biggest act out of Africa. They were selling out shows in stadiums across the African continent and they were making women cry.
‘The Invasion’ was P Square’s ultimate sustenance [Pulse 10th Anniversary Review]
The album was the ultimate sustenance. It also meant that P Square never went obscure until the duo separated due to irreconcilable differences.
By 2008, P Square had released three albums; Last Nite  - thanks to the late Howie T, Get Squared  and Game Over . All the albums had hits and arguably, two of those albums are classics. P Square had also popularized the concept of big budget music videos, which they would then package as albums and monetize. They were swimming in money.
While D’Banj and Tuface had all the reps and branding, P Square was the true desire. Their outfits used to be properly tailored and high-styled for music videos. Their videos would be colorful and their sounds were a blend of R&B and mid-tempo Afro-pop sounds, which started on Game Over, thanks to the input of J Martins, who produced it.
With their albums, P Square also had made a unique blend of music that had something for each demographic. There used to be something for the parties, something for the women, something for the weddings, something for the chills, something for the choreography and something for the big budget music video.
As Don Jazzy revealed on Loose Talk Podcast in 2019, P Square indirectly influenced D’Banj’s love-themed direction for The Entertainer. A few years before 2011, P Square had also won Best African Act at KORA, and had been nominated for every international award where Africa had a category.
But 2011 was pivotal. Over the five preceding years, Nigeria had found its pop sound with Timaya’s True Story, 9ice’s Gongo Aso, Wande Coal’s Mushin 2 Mo’hits and D’Banj’s ‘The Entertainer.’ Between 2008 and 2010, Nigeria also experienced the golden era of Nigerian Hip-Hop.
A year prior, we had also seen the entrance of Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Olamide.
In June 2011, Wizkid released his debut album, Superstar. Olamide released Rapsodi later in the year. Tuface had also released Unstoppable [International Edition], which won Album of The Year at the 2011 Headies. With D’Banj and Tuface trying to manage the entrance of new cats, P Square’s July 29, 2011 album had to work.
Ladies and gentlemen, it did. It didn’t just work, it met and surpassed all expectations and gave Wizkid another five years of unprecedented critical acclaim and commercial success, while D’Banj and Tuface battled with slowing momentum and while Wizkid, Olamide, Davido and Tiwa Savage went nuclear.
So did Runtown, Tekno, Kizz Daniel, Patoranking and Sean Tizzle.
The album was the ultimate sustenance. It also meant that P Square never went obscure until the duo separated due to irreconcilable differences. More importantly, at the 2012 Headies, The Invasion was named Album of The Year, beating out strong contenders like Everybody Loves Ice Prince by Ice Prince, Super C Season by Naeto C and ‘Superstar’ by Wizkid.
How did the album get there?
First off, P Square reworked its strategy for this album and reimagined its strategy. Usually, P Square’s album doesn’t have a lot of features. This time, ‘The Invasion’ had seven features; Tiwa Savage, Naeto C, Waje, May D, Eva Alordiah, Muna, Akon and Rick Ross.
One of those was Waje, with whom they made the classic record, ‘Do Me.’ They then featured three rappers; a nod to the residue from the golden era of Hip-Hop, which also aligns with market demands. They also featured Tiwa Savage and their then protege, May D; two members of the ‘new school.’
Finally, they had Akon and Rick Ross on the album. While Akon was slowing down from the chart topper that he was between 2004 and 2008, his label, Konvict Music and his distribution arm, Kon Live were waxing strong. Lady Gaga, arguably the biggest pop star in the world at the time, had a deal with Konvict. So did T-Pain and Kat DeLuna - for a while.
Rick Ross was in the middle of a trifecta at the time and he was the hottest rapper on the planet that year. A year prior, he had released Albert Anastasia and Teflon Don. The latter housed the Lex Luger-produced global smash, ‘B.M.F.’ His label, Maybach Music had also launched with Wale, Meek Mill, Stalley, Gunplay, Omarion - for a time, and later, French Montana.
It’s safe to say, P Square had the perfect features list. It showed intent to bridge gaps and demographics, while uniting audiences and traveling out of Africa for much-needed, overdue international moments that Ice Prince and D’Banj had started doing.
They also wanted to be cool, so they sought many influences and added their blend… more of that later. They seemingly used more auto-tune than ever on this album as well.
Pre-release, ‘Chop My Money’ and ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ were become hits. But looking back, what was interesting is that Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy and more were also buzzing that year, but it felt like P Square’s music had a market of its own, within the market that everybody else was succeeding in.
If Wizkid’s and Davido’s records were for a younger audience, P Square’s records were uniting demographics and age groups; from parents to infants. Records like ‘Chop My Money,’ ‘Forever’ and ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ penetrated the depth of the Nigerian mainstream. ‘Forever’ and ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ became Nigeria’s wedding tune for years to come.
When the album finally dropped, records like ‘Asampokoto,’ ‘Do As I Do’ and ‘Bunienya’ also became hits. Then ‘Chop My Money’ got an Akon remix while ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ got a Rick Ross remix which left everybody in awe.
However, the sound was where the album really excelled.
Sound, Styles and Samples
Records like ‘Beautiful Onyinye,’ ‘Asamkpokoto’ and ‘Forever’ were atypical P Square type records. While ‘Asamkpokoto’ had slowed downEDM-esque melodies and chords to switch things up, the sound/style on/of records like ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ and ‘Forever’ represented a tested and proven template/model that P Square debuted on ‘Game Over’ when they worked with J Martins.
It’s that midtempo, South Eastern-flavoured brand of sugarcane Afro-pop music, laced with ‘sweet wash.’ It had birthed timeless smash hits like ‘Ifunanya,’ ‘No One Like You’ and ‘E No Easy’ in the past.
A record like ‘Do As I Do’ was heavily influenced by the sound that had turned Terry G into a megastar just a year earlier while ‘She’s Hot’ was a Trap&B record which featured Naeto C, who had released a record like ‘Ako Mi Ti Poju’ some years prior.
Most of the other records are either a blend of Hip-Hop elements or to a larger extent, needed experimentation in EDM/Eurodance influences. This was important.
Let’s take a little important detour for context…
In 2008, American music hit another gold rush of Pop music. Producers/Acts like Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Shellback, David Guetta, Benni Benassi and RedOne - fresh off producing ‘Bamboo [Hips Don’t Lie]’ for Shakira at the 2006 World Cup - were soundtracking another dawn of pop for American music.
Gangster Rap had died had slowed after 2006, Trap rose in 2007 but struggled to be a mainstay while K-Pop was simply too niche to sustain a 2006 introduction.
In 2008, Britney Spears sealed her comeback with the Circus album while Lady Gaga launched her iconic career. Akon - as he confirmed to VLADTV in 2020 - Flo Rida and Pitbull also abandoned his Hip-Hop/R&B for some pop, with records like ‘Beautiful’ ‘Rain Over Me’ and ‘Na Na.’
Chris Brown, Justin, Nelly Furtado and Timbaland all had pop hits around the same time. Chris Brown's records, 'Forever' and 'Yeah 3x' had gained significant attention with Nigerian DJs and so did records like
Then Black Eyed Peas had a monstrous 2009 in Pop. But in 2009, a new wave of Eastern European Pop-EDM started penetrating the US. Acts like Alexandra Stan and INNA charted in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 with songs like ‘Sun Is Up’ and ‘Mr. Saxobeat.’
RedOne, who had loads of Eurodance/EDM for Lady Gaga then switched for records like ‘On The Floor’ for Jennifer Lopez.
ALSO READ: How Burna Boy became the face of Afrobeats
This sound then inspired other acts from mainstream Europe like Afrojack, Eva Simmons and more to have more breakout hits in the US. This birthed hits like ‘Give Me Everything’ for Pitbull and ‘Tonight’ for Enrique Iglesias. The difference; the drums on those Pop smash hits were more Latin-pop-esque.
While this was going on, in 2019, Wande Coal released ‘Mushin 2 Mo’hits,’ and on it was ‘I Know You Like It,’ a Pop record, cut from the American genre trend. What separated Don Jazzy as a pioneer was how he used snare to part the record’s percussion, which gave it more African flavour.
A year later, Samklef and Jay Sleek expanded the sound as they worked on Durella’s Reconfigurated and Tuface’s ‘Unstoppable (International Edition)’ respectively. Both albums had records like ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Implication.’ Jay Sleek then experimented more with ‘For Me’ on Wizkid’s ‘Superstar.’ Samklef then explored the sound on his debut album, Nonilizing.
Back to Invasion
For P Square, it was a no-brainer that they needed to jump on EDM/Pop/Eurodance. This album was about being cool enough for everybody in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, a new horizon that they looked to conquer.
The EDM/Eurodance influences can be felt on records like ‘Chop My Money,’ ‘Jeje,’ ‘Bunieya Enu,’ ‘Player,’ ‘Fire,’ ‘Anything’ and even the strings on ‘Forever.’ Like Samklef, Jay Sleek and Don Jazzy, they parted their EDM with snares, to make the music more African.
On the samples, P Square interpolated records like ‘I Really Like It’ by Harlem World on ‘Forever’ and ‘Bunienya’ on a record of the same title.
As noted earlier, ‘The Invasion’ won some prestigious awards, but it also gave Nigeria a reminder of some 2000s pop music, just as we were about to enter Wizkid’s era. Interestingly, May D didn’t last long with P Square.
You might remember that in May 2011, it was announced that May D signed to the P Square-owned Square Records. He then featured on a remix of 'Chop My Money' by P Square and alongside Akon. A short while after, Square Records also shot videos like 'Soundtrack' and 'Ile Ijo' for the University of Lagos graduate.
Then in August 2012, the singer announced his split from Square Records and announced his own label, Confam Entertainment.
Before he signed to Square Records, he was best known for his hook on Kel's 'Too Fine' and as the rapper on Alaye's SugarKane Records. Alaye is the rapper who featured on P Square's 'Temptation' in the 2000s.
Four years later, P Square themselves scared fans with news of a split, but they quickly came back.
Is it a great album?
Yes, it is a great album, but it hasn’t aged well. This might mean that we will struggle to classify it as a classic.
Modern kids wouldn’t be able to relate with the album like they can with Wizkid’s ‘Superstar.’ The music on ‘The Invasion’ is the residual refixed version of Pop-Fusion from the 2000s. However, a lot of millennials who lived this era might classify ‘The Invasion’ as a classic because they saw its impact in real-time and that might be hard to dispute.
While a lot of albums that are centred around producing hits aren’t exactly great albums, ‘The Invasion’ is great. It doesn’t sound like a conglomeration of single-worthy records onto one album due to pressure, it instead allowed songs to become hits on their own. The great album experience is also due to the sonic/topical cohesion on the album, mostly propelled by sounds analyzed earlier.
This was due to quality A&R. P Square needed to be cool and they needed to sound cool while they appealed to a larger audience of all ages, both home and abroad and they pulled it off without making it obvious. They owned those sounds and never felt out of place. In November 2011, they signed a deal with Akon’s Konvict Music.
Nonetheless, ‘The Invasion’ is P Square’s best album.
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