Rapper and Head Honcho at YBNL records, Olamide Baddo, failed to deliver his usual last quarter album in 2019.
It will be the first time in nine years, that a body of work bearing the insignia of the accomplished rapper will not appear. The second time in nine years that Olamide will not release a full length album to mark the end of the year.
Naysayers may say Olamide has been steadily banging out singles, like Pawon, that booty twerking ditty with the accompanying soft porno music video. Others may say, he did it to pave the way for the younger ones like Fireboy DML, his protégé whose debut album is garnering comparison with Wande Coal’s debut Mushin to Mo Hits.
While it may not be important to confirm the veracity or audacity of such problematic thoughts, the next problem is the unsettling relationship between Olamide’s new album and the number 9.
Interrogating this in some depth, the number 9 seems to assume some significance in Olamide’s trajectory. His first album, Rap Sodi, was released in 2011, exactly 9 years ago. And this 9-track album is the 9th album to come out of his YBNL stable—auspiciously released on February 9. Conspiracy theorists are yet to articulate the significance of Olamide’s number 9 to the Anti-christ’s number 6.
Unlike other Olamide albums, 999 contains a paltry 9 tracks. At less than half the regular Olamide album, 999 has a cop-out in its length and duration. It is styled as an EP album. Quite an unusual choice for an Olamide who has faced his career squarely on his own terms, pumping out 20 track albums annually with the frenzy of a reliable wordsmith.
The nagging question of what changed might not be as important as to how his last solo outing fared. Lagos Nawa!, branded Lagos NURTW yellow, is the weakest link in the long chain of his discography —and not just for featuring more singing than rapping. The production was uninspired and the mastering was amateurish. Unlike Eyan Mayweather, his other sing-song album, Lagos Nawa! could hardly boast of any hits. In retrospect, the apt review from an Olamide stan is to pause the record mid-way and sigh, Olamide Na wa!
999 harks back to the realms of his sixth album, The Glory. The first song, ‘No Time’, on which he shares co-production credits with Eskee, puts you in mind of a typical Olamide introduction. Not one to shy away from introductions, Olamide makes to re-introduce himself as if it is necessary.
Not much has changed. Olamide’s music hasn’t, obviously. The fame and success may foster some new kind of confidence but the triad of Igbo, Shayo, Asewo which was Dagrin’s articulation and legacy remains valid.
Bring in some of Olamide’s Aladura Christian roots and his Saje Fuji leanings. Add the usual suspects like Pheelz, his most consistent producer and Phyno who appeared on the East Nigeria leaning cipher, ‘Warlords’, alongside some of his Penthauz rappers.
Milly, Olamide’s son, returns in person for the first time in Olamide’s discography. He has been sung about in Eyan Mayweather, written to in The Glory, but here he becomes a musician like his father, providing a trap hook to ‘Billion Talk’ which reiterates the importance of money and the evolution of Sugar Daddies.
Thereafter the album lapses into Street OT mode. Sosa-E and Jackwillz appear alongside Olamide with an ode to booty as a prelude to perhaps the most controversial song on the album.
“Wonma!” sits smack in the middle of the album, an explicit remake of Wo! but with more brawn than nuance. Olamide attacks female sexual satisfaction and insists on the inevitability of polyandry, but articulates this controversial thought with disparaging language, without any regard for agency.
If “Wonma” paints an inventory of detty scenarios, “Mojo” tells the story of a day in the life of an “olosho” described in unsettling and relentless pornographic details of casual sex. The Afrobeats milieu seemed primed for this moment and Olamide, an old hand, is only trying to place his finger on that pulse.
The lewd songs are easily the most remarkable, and even these songs remind you of aspects in his past discography. The trouble with 999 is that it seems like a cut temporizing for a more extensive Olamide album. It has the feel of a compilation album rather than body of work. And it is telling that Olamide has spent most of his recent creativity exploring his most notorious obsession, the female body as a tool for male pleasure.
I have written in the past that the average span of an Afrobeats musician is 9 years. Olamide has been slugging at stardom for 9 years now and those following his trajectory must agree that 999 is definitely not an incline.
It is at best a plateau.