On ‘What Have We Done’ Omah Lay Keeps That Fan-Artist Mystique Going – Emmanuel Esomnofu

Doctor said I burnt my liver…

At this point, many people can complete the second part of the rhyme with ease.

Off the success of singles ‘You’ and ‘Bad Influence’, Port Harcourt-born, former struggling producer and songwriter, Omah Lay released the critically acclaimed Get Layd, a 5-track EP which cemented his name as a key player of the streaming era.

For one, his songwriting is fluid and set to beats on which a PartyNextDoor would thrive, revealing the intent to coast on production while owning the narrative behind each flex.

Music businessman Obinna Agwu, on a podcast episode of A Music in Time with  host Osagie Alonge and Chuka Obi, said something profound about Faze’s sophomore album Independent (2006). The trio focused on Faze’s state of mind while making that album —the estrangement from Plantashun Boyz,  a group he started with friends, 2Face and BlackFace, was still conscious as it was on his first album.

Obinna Agwu, speaking on the artistic success of Independent, said, “The honesty. I feel like that will always be important in the whole process of making music. Just think about how you’re feeling about something, articulate it and put it into rhymes. It is always going to resonate with somebody, there’s always going to be room about music about something, music from somewhere.”

Omah Lay’s music has always been from somewhere. He has spoken of how he was a producer and songwriter for bigger acts who neither offered exposure nor good money. He has that chip-on-his-shoulder vibe and his writing makes it clear he has seen and done things—even if we’ll never know for sure what exactly.

‘Can’t Relate’ and ‘Godly’ are most revealing of this intention. Both songs feature exciting hooks and Omah Lay is thankful to God, steering clear of enemies (“delete them, delete them/ never let your boy fall victim”). Although back stories are not  provided, it is fair to assume Omah Lay has had his share of run-ins during this relatively short period as a sought-after artist, and alliance by faith has historically gone with undertones of conflict and sometimes violence—much like Tems, Omah Lay can mete out a threat and lull a prayer in the same breath.

Omah possesses the skill of setting himself tactfully even if emotional delivery is the rider–just as Drake has finessed. On one such song, ‘Confession’, Omah is backed by ominous keys and thumping  drums reminiscent of Wizkid’s ‘Don’t Dull’.  Omah Lay pleads for the attention of a lover, singing so piercingly, he seems close to tears. The stripped record deviates from the zestful opener, the similarly thrilling ‘My Bebe’ which builds a stirring bass line, violin strings and rambling percussion. It is good production, more rich-sounding than anything Omah has ever put out. We remember Omah Lay for what he actually is, a superstar artist, and not the interesting neighbor who sings. His major sell was getting himself to that position firstly and WHWD is mainly about keeping that fan-artist mystique, that desire to know more than you’ll ever need.

Like Faze, like Fireboy DML ( on Apollo) and like Omah Lay, artists have pulled away the excess of fame and found an audience appreciative of the experience to meet them as flawed beings. Although Get Layd is the better tape, I’m all for turning the deeper details of one’s mind into art. Given Omah Lay’s talent, a far-more enduring project (an album perhaps) isn’t hard to envision in the coming years.

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