Shallipopi, Shakespopi, and the ridiculous attempt to localize Shakespeare – Yinka Adetu

Shallipopi’s attempt to localize Shakespeare appears misguided

A line from ASAP the first song  in the second studio album, Shakespopi from Nigerian singer, Shallipopi goes thus, “Na Shalli dey write, na Shakespeare dey sing.”

This refrain, along with the album’s title, underlines the artiste’s attempt to wear the mask of Shakespeare, which, as he claims, makes him “the greatest philosopher,” a declaration he asserts is beyond debate. Yet, the album fails to deliver on this premise, in terms of style, creativity, inspiration, and artistic/thoughtful expression while also falling short of capturing the depth and complexity associated with the great English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, a literary figure whose recognition transcends time, history, and geography.

Shallipopi’s attempt to localize Shakespeare appears misguided, a mere ploy to gain recognition as an acclaimed philosopher-singer within the Nigerian music industry. While his ambition of claiming the seat of a local Shakespeare is realistic, the singer does nothing with all the tracks in Shakespopi to show that he understands Shakespeare as a writer, poet, and dramatist.

His sense and understanding of Shakespeare are limited and the only thing that Shallipopi appears to have done is to purloin Shakespeare’s fame in a very ridiculous manner and present himself as someone who is doing the mighty work of immortalizing him. In his attempt to showcase his pseudo-versatility, by invoking the name of acclaimed greatest-dramatist-ever-liveth to his oral production, he does absolutely nothing, creatively, lyrically, and even theatrically – an absurdity, a no-good-show, a sleight of hand and attempt to seek glorification, credibility, and prominence as a purveyor-of-words and cultural icon.

Crown Uzama, whose stage name is Shallipopi, burst onto the Nigerian music scene in 2023, quickly gaining recognition and amassing a large fanbase, affectionately dubbed the “Plutomania.” His rise to prominence can be attributed to his distinct lyrical style, infectious slang, attention-grabbing beats, and skillful lyricism.

Shallipopi’s songs have become known for their memorable lines, establishing him as a purveyor of catchy phrases and slang. However, in his latest album where he attempts to pay homage to Shakespeare and carve out a new identity as a Nigerian Shakespeare, Shallipopi disappoints. The album is filled with lackluster lines, uninspired titles, provocative lyrics, and contrived slang. Rather than showcasing lyrical prowess and artistic depth, the collection falls short, serving as little more than contrived noise.

Certain phrases like “Life’s like tortoise, only few can relate” and “network slow no mean say Wi-Fi disconnect” come across as nonsensical, lacking any semblance of creative sensibility. Instead of elevating his status as a wordsmith, Shallipopi’s attempts at creating meaningful content in this album seem forced and insincere.

This further undermines his credibility as an artiste who can innovate. Shallipopi’s lack of experimentation is glaringly evident, particularly in the second track of the album, “High Tension.” Here, he tries to infuse elements of the popular Italian folk song and resistance anthem song Bella Ciao, made popular by Netflix’s acclaimed series “Money Heist” (2017). However, “High Tension” falls short with its poor lyrics and nonsensical phrases. While Shallipopi’s attempt to incorporate the song’s beat into his work may seem logical, the track ultimately suffers due to its ridiculous lines and verses. In spite of the potential of the experimentation, the song fails to deliver a compelling listening experience, leaving it feeling rather pathetic.

William Shakespeare earned his reputation as a wordsmith due to his profound imagination and the eloquence with which he conveyed his thoughts, emotions, ideas, and inspirations. Any endeavor to evoke, emulate, or embody the essence of this literary giant must rise to the level of his achievements and stature. Given the title of Shallipopi’s album, “Shakespopi,” one might anticipate a collection of songs that either incorporates Shakespeare’s thematic depth, lyrical mastery, or metaphorical reasoning. Shakespeare grappled with profound existential questions, creatively expressing them in unforgettable ways. It’s disheartening to witness Shallipopi’s attempt, which seems to trivialize the fame and essence of Shakespeare rather than paying homage to it.

One might contend that “Trees,” the final song in the collection, presented as a music visualizer, represents the singer’s endeavor to exhibit his depth as a wordsmith and songwriter. Yet, the only noteworthy aspect is the synchronization of visuals/movement with the music. The lyrics lack potency, failing to achieve poetic excellence or convey powerful feelings and ideas. The rhymes are overly simplistic, and the song cannot evoke meaningful thoughts and emotions.

Ultimately, Shallipopi’s endeavor to elevate himself through Shakespopi, which has made it to the Spotify Nigeria and Apple Music charts, in no way showcases masterful creativity or experimentation. The incorporation of Shakespeare into the entire song production appears to be an afterthought, a bid to forge a new identity or a lackluster attempt to experiment with the ideals of the artist he seeks to emulate.

***Yinka Adetu is a culture writer and literary critic. He tweets @contentby_yinka.

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