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A Pulse review of ‘Unruly by Nigerian musician Olamide

Olamide stopped paying attention to hits songs in 2020 with the release of his 8th album ‘Carpe Diem’ and although the album delivered 3 hit singles in ‘Infinity,’ ‘Loading,’ and ‘Triumphant’ his artistry took on a notable change.

Having substituted the hard spitting bars for laid-back flows and the fast-paced party-starting beats for more mid-tempo Pop arrangements, Olamide would reemphasize this switch in his 9th album ‘UY Scuti’.

Olamide holds the distinction of operating at the summit of the industry as an artist and as a label head, and on his 10th album ‘Unruly,’ he talks himself up in his quintessential boss-like manner.

On his third consecutive Pop leaning album, Olamide reminds listeners that he’s not only the Capo Di Tutti Capi of the YBNL Mafia but the entire industry.

He combines lamba and laid-back bars to deliver feel-good records as he attempts to fit into the current Afropop framework without losing his cool. Having influenced a crop of artists, he now elects to let them influence him as he embarks on what might be his last hurrah.

The choice of the album name is quite unceremonious considering the titles for his previous albums, especially the last two that kicked off his current artistic evolution. The rebellious, disruptive, and non-conformist undertones it carries are true of the essence that saw Olamide lead the street takeover of the Nigerian music industry. However, it’s a name that just doesn’t do justice to the hugely influential and level-headed figure he now cuts. His decision to push back the release date and substitute the album cover art might have created some nervousness while also increasing anticipation.

However, if at all Olamide experienced a bit of nervousness, it didn’t quite show on the tracks he assembled for this Pop driven album in which he chose to bask in the comfort of a legend who has paid his dues yet unrelenting his desires to assert himself.

Having spent the past year chaperoning Asake‘s unprecedented run, his signee’s influence was fast to show on the album as the opening record ‘Celebrate’ carries the sonics Magicsticks deployed in Asake’s surreal rise.

His attempt to fit into the current Pop framework sees him shapeshift while also employing the assistance of the new school of superstars which is again not new with Baddo, as the presence of Omah Lay, Bella Shmurda, and Bad Boy Timz shapes the decisive moments on ‘Carpe Diem’. However, on ‘Unruly’ the guest artists impacted Olamide’s style at a higher level.

Olamide has writing credit on 10 tracks on ‘Work of Art’ which captures his invaluable contribution to Asake’s music. During their long hours in the studio, Asake’s influence must have invariably rubbed off on Baddo, and this is evident in his mid-tempo progression on the Log drum-driven ‘Jinja’ and his flow scheme on ‘Problem’.

Olamide underwent notable shapeshifting on this album. Aside from Asake’s significant Amapiano influence, the legendary rapper had moments in ‘Come Alive’ and ‘Supplier’ where his flow scheme is strongly reminiscent of British-Gambia Rap star J Hus. In ‘Doom,’ his flows glean from the styles of 2023 global breakout success Ice Spice and British rapper-comedian Big Shaq.

Retaining identity and injecting creativity combine to deliver the excitement needed to elevate an album. On ‘Unruly’, Olamide injects creativity through impeccable production but struggles to retain a compelling identity as he swings across different sounds that are largely shaped by the comfort zone of the guest artists.

His collaborations with BNXN, Fireboy, and Rema have productions that are synonymous with the artistry of the guest artists. While BNXN delivers an over-flogged melody on the love tune ‘Come Alive’, Olamide’s swaggering J Hus-like flow injects some excitement. Fireboy found some brilliant pockets on ‘Shibebe’ and Rema displays an impressive range on Highlife-infused ‘Mukulu’, and both records have Olamide adjusting to fit in with the artists.

Although his career is no longer dependent on hit songs like that of his contemporaries with whom he started in the early 2010s, Olamide still maintains the desire to resonate with the mainstream and this informs his primary deployment of Amapiano, the collaborations, and overall shapeshifting. This moment is essentially captured by ‘No Worries’ whose underlying chords are similar to a popular Tik Tok sound.

Listeners’ inability to find Olamide at the level that resonates with their sensibilities is a snag that affects the album’s gratification.

In ‘Gaza,’ ‘Hardcore,’ ‘Street Jam,’ and ‘New Religion’ where he leans into his elements and delivers commanding rap verses without resorting to sonic shapeshifting, this creates the familiarity needed for listeners to resonate with him.

Olamide’s highly anticipated 10th album is a project that doesn’t necessarily offer excitement nor does it disappoint as Baddo has spent the past 3 years laying the groundwork to prepare listeners for this type of album.

However, ‘Unruly’ just doesn’t have enough of the rawness and essence Olamide used in winning the hearts of fans albeit its stellar production and sonic and thematic coherence. His primary listener base are those whose youth he soundtracked with his Street-hop joints and stunning rap attacks, and they just will never come to terms with this Popstar version of him.

Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.4/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2

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