Sound Sultan: The pristine Nigerian legend [Pulse Obituary]
Born Olanrewaju Abdul-Ganiu Fasasi on November 27, 1976, Sound Sultan is a bonafide legend of Nigerian music. Dying at 44 will not change that…
To the average culture-inclined Lagosian, Sultan was no stranger. Over the few years prior to 2002, his brother, Baba Dee was part of a wave that pioneered the Hip-Hop-infused early machinations of Nigerian pop.
By the late 90’s, Baba Dee had morphed into something of a maven and Sultan used to make appearances on his TV show where to gather some momentum.
As a Festac/Satellite Town-bred artist, he was closely associated with acts like 2Face Idibia and more. He also allegedly wrote and featured on ‘Soji’ alongside 2face and Baba Dee.
The bandana, headbands and wristband Sultan
During a classic episode of Loose Talk Podcast, hosted by Osagie Alonge, Ayomide Tayo and Steve Dede, Bankulli revealed that Sound Sultan used to lead a band in the mid-2000.
He said, “Sultan used to lead a band and it always made me tell him not to kill himself with the burden of a band.”
Sultan was a pristine talent cut from the same cloth as acts like Lagbaja. His music had soul, gusto, high-calibre penmanship, delivery and high-grade musicianship. He was also greatly driven to record about his reality, thus his music was mostly like social commentary in sonic form.
So, it’s a no-brainer that he was attracted to the pure musicianship of live music.
But shortly after this, he leaned more to his rap side. Like any early-mid 20s Nigerian artist of the time, his fashion was laced with baggy jeans, loose buttons and big shirts. But instead of durags, he stuck to headbands and bandanas.
He also wore wristbands, to represent the hallmark of Hip-Hop. In place of pure English, he also mostly delivered in Pidgin English.
This era birthed the first of uniquely titled albums with avant-garde character, Kspeeeeww. The album title was basically a spelled out hiss; a giant middle finger of disgust to decadence in socio-political Nigerian society.
The album critiqued the Nigerian political elite [Jagbajantis], critiqued society [Craze World] and documented the sad result of those factors [Koleyewon].
In the video for Nelson Brown-produced ‘Koleyewon,’ everybody appeared including future legendary rapper, Modenine. ‘Kpseeeew’ was released under Dove Records.
Textbook, which featured Lambo Da Virus alongside pristine acts like Ras Mike, eLDee, Faze, Sha and W4, was his first album under Kennis Music. The album produced hits like 'Motherland' and 'Campus Queen' amongst others.
His 2003 classic album, Naija 007 which produced the classic Dancehall-themed record, ‘Champion’ featuring Baba Dee as well as ‘Naija Anthem' was his second under Kennis.
‘Naija 007’ featured the earliest members of his label, Naija Ninja; W4, Lambo Da Virus and Niyola.
Sultan’s 2003 album was also the earliest onset of his involvement with the more fashionable, fast-growing, highly pop driven brand of music. His voice was a bridge between one peculiar to Folk acts in Fuji, Juju or Apala and Wyclef Jean-esque vocal manipulations.
A year later, he starred in and made the eponymous soundtrack for Tunde Kelani’s film, Campus Queen.
‘Campus Queen,’ the song was initially released on Sultan’s sophomore album, ‘Textbook’ and it featured eLDee and Faze.
On that pop energy, Sultan also released his 2008 album, SS4 which continued his trend of creative album titles. ‘SS4’ was also the first of Sultan’s albums titles, with which Sultan envisioned himself as futuristic or otherworldly. He later released albums with titles like Out of The Box (2004), Back From The Future (2010) and 8th Wonder (2020).
‘SS4’ came with another allegorical record, ‘Bushmeat (Ole)’ and ‘Aimo Asiko’ featuring 9ice and Lord of Ajasa. On the latter record, 9ice delivered an incredible verse. It was also on the album that he debuted his catchy Naija Ninja tag, “Naija Ninja, Payooon!”
Around this time, he also discovered the rapper, Kel who, like him, was a Satellite Town/FESTAC person. Another FESTAC-bred person, Osagie Osarenz also started managing Kel. Word on the street claims that Sultan has also written a ton of records for 2Baba, including a large part of both editions of 2baba’s Unstoppable.
From his 2010 album, Back To The Future, Sultan started wearing jackets/suits in videos and album covers while he was still making social commentary, but now in the form of pop music.
The album produced classic tunes like ‘Orobo’ featuring Excel, Jay Sleek-produced, Afrobeat-infused ‘2010’ featuring MI Abaga and ‘Very Good Bad Guys’ featuring Banky W.
While he released Me, My Mouth and Eye in 2013, a time when he allegedly wrote for Seyi Shay amongst other people, ‘Out of The Box’ in 2013 and '8th Wonder' in 2020, his momentum slowed down as he got older. He had some hits though.
A visual artist alongside acts like Lagbaja and 2baba, their fans moved onto younger acts with fresher sounds, but their legends never died.
Alongside acts like Burna Boy, Wande Coal, 2baba and Peruzzi, Sultan is one of five top-tier pristine talents with an expansive sonic palette that Nigeria’s pop era has seen. Rema is the other one, but his story is still in formation, so nothing is certain yet.
You only have to hear Sultan’s beastly verse on VJ Adams’ ‘Define Rap’ to understand how expansive Sultan’s palette was and how dense his artistry was stacked.
Born Olanrewaju Abdul-Ganiu Fasasi on November 27, 1976, Sound Sultan is a bonafide legend of Nigerian music. Dying at 45 will not change that…
Rest In Peace.
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