Olamide’s Ikigai: From Bariga to the Metaverse – Michael Kolawole     

Despite declaring that his last album, Unruly, was his lap of honour, rapper Olamide can’t seem to leave the rap game alone because the game, perhaps, still needs him.

Or is he disgusted to see the game comatose?

Barely a year after that declaration and in a shocking twist, Olamide released his debut EP, Ikigai. Derived from the Japanese concept that means “a reason for being” or “life’s purpose”, the 7-tracker sees the rapper vibing and having fun with his label superstars and associates to bring a fresh vibe to his discography.

Employing a clever linguistic play in the opening track “Metaverse”, Olamide merges two words: meta (self-referential) with verse (lyrics) to deliver a light-hearted commentary on his craft. In the first verse, he playfully sings that people think his hair looks tangled because of the weed he smokes before noting that he is possessed by music. “How many hits don drop (Se n ka?),” he raps in the second verse. He would later add that he had gone to Metaverse and returned with Lamba (clever, witty, or smooth talk, often characterised by a playful and humorous style.)

On the banging and vibrant “Uptown Disco”, Olamide features his label superstars: Fireboy and Asake, merging their unique flair to create Afrobeats and dancehall music. Fireboy DML opens the track with a commanding presence, likening himself to the American martial artist and actor, Chuck Norris.. His verse is filled with swagger and confidence as he brags about buying designer clothes and living a luxurious lifestyle. Olamide raps about beating the odds and grinding tirelessly, a nod to his journey in the music industry. His flow is effortlessly punchy, laced with clever wordplay and cultural references that add credence to his lyrics. As usual, Asake’s contribution adds more playful and joyous energy to the song. “Me, na me dey give them joy / I dey make them dance, oh yeah,” he sings, capturing his infectious energy on songs.

Like other rappers and pop artists, Olamide is not averse to bragging about his achievements. On “Makaveli”, he compares himself to football star Obafemi (Martins) and rapper Tupac, focusing on self-confidence, legacy, and the highs of a luxurious lifestyle. “Chandelier on my wrist bi ti Roddy Richie,” he raps, evoking a picture of opulence and success.

On the other hand, “Knockout“, featuring SABRI, leans into sensuality and playful romance. The chorus is a repetitive and infectious declaration of admiration, with “Why you sexy like this?” serving as a recurring motif. Couching his lyrics with innuendo, Olamide raps about sexual activities. SABRI, the Netherland-Algeria R&B artist contributes a verse that adds a sultry and captivating desire to the song. Her smooth, evocative delivery beautifully complements Olamide’s craving.

Olamide was born in Bariga, a suburb of Lagos.He sings about his parents’ financial struggles and his breakthrough in the retrospective “Anifowose” and “99”. Interpolating Paul Play’s “Mo Wà Dupe” on “Morowore”, Olamide thanks God for his success and fame. The song bursts with energetic and bouncy instrumentals, carried by lively guitar riffs that inject palpable joy and excitement as Olamide reflects on his success.

To close the album, Olamide teams up with Pheelz, Young John, and Lil Kesh for a celebratory tune, “Synchro System”, a nod to Sunny Ade’s classic of the same title. The song is an impressive display of lyrical ability. Combining thanksgiving with swagger, all four artists deliver boastful verses, their unique styles shining through, creating a track that’s at once uplifting and assertive.

Ikigai is a splendid addition to Olamide’s lustrous discography– groovy, and smooth-sounding it doesn’t break new ground even though there is an electric charge to every song, a gleeful intensity to celebrate a reason for being alive and achieving one’s purpose.

The most repeated word on the EP is “energy” and Olamide’s energy is evident on this project, despite having nothing to prove about his brilliance and achievements. The project spotlights the album’s prominent producer Semzi, whose thumping and groovy instrumentals create an awesome impression on the album.

Like his mentor Jay Z, who announced his retirement in 2003 but made a comeback with Kingdom Comes in 2006, Olamide isn’t ready to retire yet. The ability to make music that excites is a gift and it’s hard to shut it off. Maybe this EP marks the start of an exciting new chapter for him and a teaser for his highly-anticipated full-return album. Whatever form it takes, it is bound to be something unexpected and amazing.

We can’t wait!

**Michael Kolawole is a screenwriter, playwright, poet, and cultural journalist. 

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