Show Dem Camp is Nigeria’s premier rap group. The level has remained premium since ‘The Dreamer Project.’ The quality of their music never drops and their approach to a double act is refreshing as the synergy they generate.
Tec is the more methodical Emcee with the calmer approach. Aided by his vocal texture, Ghost bites heads off with seeming ‘aggression.’ When he goes in for the kill, people hail him. When he drops back for love-themed tunes, women call him, ‘Zaddy.’ It’s sometimes unfair on Tec, but those who are meant to appreciate the man give him his credit.
After the first three installments of Clone Wars, they seemingly wanted some commercial acclaim. What they released was a fusion of hi-life and Hip-Hop submerged in themes of love and affection. The first two Palmwine Music projects still bang all the way to Mars. Clone Wars IV returned with a soul of mischief and a bag filled with candy laced with introspect.
It was slightly surprising when Palmwine Express was announced. But as Ghost raps on ‘Alariwo,’ it’s about the “raw cash.”
From the title, we knew what we were about to get; a fusion of hi-life and Hip-Hop submerged in themes of love and affection. We got just that with an ‘airborne concept’ of a journey to Nigeria - or Naij - for what is presumed to be detty december and all the accompanying enjoyment and debauchery.
“Smoking is prohibited, but if you got some good herbs, do pass it around” is quite hilarious as a self-deprecating joke. It also shines light on how the ‘airborne concept’ is a metaphor for a high that only ‘herb’ can produce. In essence, the music is best digested with herb. If you don’t do herb, let the music be your herb.
Let’s get one thing clear; this is a typical Show Dem Camp project. It is an overdose on detail, quality musicianship, astute storytelling and dreamy, near-oblique hi-life rhythms from a palmwine parlour owned by Wale and Olumide. On the beat, it’s Spax and it was never going to be anything but class.
My thoughts after the first four listens...
But unlike the first two Palmwine projects, that shock value and enjoyment is ever-so-slightly missing. Of course, this project will resonate with the loyal Show Dem Camp fan base that has remained loyal all these years. However, even the most dedicated stan showing dem in the camp might admit that something is missing.
It might have been hasty and here is why...
‘Tales By Moonlight’ is palmwine music running on poetic adulation. ‘Alariwo’ is a Hip-Hop sound with trap drums and woozy cloud strings carrying a 40 Shebib signature. Lyrically, it’s filled with nostalgia and tiny doses of fleeting braggadocio. How this fits into the travel by air concept is kind of hazy.
‘Alariwo’ might have been better as an album prelude - an ‘off-topic’ that could be a ‘Bam’ moment for Show Dem Camp; a manifesto of sorts. It could then be followed by ‘Intro’ featuring Nsikak. ‘Good Time’ brings us back to the palmwine vibes and hi-life rhythms about a good time and flexing with a beautiful woman. “Spell coconut”? Cool down, Uncle Ghost. Ah!
‘In Case’ is a fusion synth-pop and hi-life with a good WANI hook. ‘Different Case’ brings us back to palmwine music, but something is interesting. The drum arrangement is dubstep-esque that is reminiscent of the percussion on ‘Legend’ featuring Burna Boy off Palmwine Music II.
Lyrically, it’s the lamentation of a frustrated ‘Yoruba demon’ enjoying his polygamous tendencies. Those trumpets are good. ‘Do Me Nice’ feels like wedding soundtrack that women could really like. It’s one of the best songs on Palmwine Express - it’s the accepted vulnerability of a Yoruba king as he wears his heart on his sleeve.
‘Cool Me Down’ is a fan-favourite already. It is a fusion of palmwine music, Hip-Hop, R&B and dancehall. This is really good, psychedelic music. Fasina should get a beer on my tab from any bar of his choice - just mention my name, G.
Then comes one of the best songs of the year, ‘True Story’ featuring Burna Boy. Look, this could be our sleeper hit of first quarter 2020. It’s left for Show Dem Camp to recognize that, shoot a video and properly market it with a charm offensive - not the usual laidback Show Dem Camp approach to marketing. This song is gold.
Burna Boy seems to reserve his best guest appearances for Show Dem Camp. This song tempts this writer to dance, sleep, smile, kiss, love, hustle and dream all at once. For a change, it’s introspect on wax from two rappers detailing their journey. It's nice to see Ghost's petty side. Yes Burna, we agree. It’s a movie, bro.
‘Flex On You’ is an R&B song with a folk percussion. It is an appraisal of love - Moelogo killed this. If I were Show Dem Camp, I might have reserved ‘Vibrations’ and ‘Too Bad’ for a different project - especially 'Too Bad.'
Palmwine Express is cursed. You know why? It will forever be judged by the previous Palmwine projects. It’s unfair, but that’s the reality. The unfairness stems from how two projects from an artist’s discography should never be compared. People evolve, grow and change. The music also reflects these things.
That said, fans will do whatever they want with music. Comparison will be aided by how Palmwine Express follows a similar template to the first two Palmwine projects. It discusses love, growth, life and affection with introspect. Sonically, it blends different genres into its belly and grinds them for dreamy essence.
For this reason, fans will forever be justified to compare the three projects. In that comparison, Palmwine Express falls below Palmwine Music and Palmwine Music 2. It fails to convey the enjoyment of those projects with the presence of instantly resonant songs that a listener recognizes as excellent.
But on its own, Palmwine Express is still a good album. This is evidenced by how you might struggle to pinpoint what it lacks or what is wrong with it. Even though this writer thinks ‘Vibration’ and ‘Too Bad’ should have been reserved for another project, he doesn’t think they stick out of this project. He just thinks they’re a repetition.
If you give Palmwine Express time and you really listen without the cloud of Palmwine Music hanging over you - which is hard - you might just enjoy the project. When all is said and done, Palmwine Express is still not exceptional. It lacks the vim of an exceptional album and the resonant songs that need no effort to be appreciated.
However, that does not mean it's anything other than a good project. At first, this writer hastily felt the Palmwine sound was starting to get old - he was mistaken. One album doesn’t present a whole sound as cliche. Nonetheless, Palmwine Express is the weakest album in the Palmwine franchise.
• 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: 1.8/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.1/2
7.0 - Champion