UY Scuti: Olamide Slows Down in ‘Need for Speed’ – Omolola Akintola

With two snaps and a solemn melody, Olamide’s UY Scuti lulls listeners into a hazy dream that bellies brilliance.

It teases us into the antithesis of Olamide’s creed and manifesto. This Olamide, stands at the end of a journey begun by the Olamide who introduced himself with anthems like “First of All”, disavowing love and pledging his allegiance to the hustle and the fast life. 

Now the undisputed king of the streets, the baddest guy ever liveth, seeks respite from it all. 

“Need for Speed” tells the story of a hustler, who despite feeling like he is running out of time, is disillusioned with the race itself. He realizes in pursuit of his destination, that he has become the kind of person he used to resent. The race loses meaning to our storyteller. At the end of his existentialist crisis, he is in a rush with nothing in his way and speeding nowhere. The clarity obtained from this crisis sets the tone for the rest of the album; a mid-tempo reggae and dancehall album, made to be enjoyed without haste.

Olamide finds love in the body of his lover in “Jailer”, “Julie” & “Rock”, and wishes to stay in the moment. Not just stay in the moment, perhaps drag the moment on forever. 

In lieu of a short and exhilarating dance, Olamide proposes a dance for forever. Olamide has always been a closet romantic, never fully shutting that door and letting us peek in with songs like “Melo Melo”; in UY Scuti, Olamide opens that door wider. He allows himself to be vulnerable on “Julie” and “Somebody”; as vulnerable as a jaded character can be, wearing his heart on his sleeve. 

He assembles new and exciting acts like Fave, an ear-catching crooner already commanding attention; Layydoe, Jaywillz and his brother-in-arms, Phyno–intentional choices that do not overpower the music, but ride on its waves to create a complete and well curated body of work. While Fave brings her fresh and distinct twang to Want and PonPon , accentuating the bounce of both songs, Jaywillz’ playful and effortless undulating voice turns Jailer into an ear worm. Layydoe flexes her musical muscles on Rough Up, as she starts with a powerful softness that makes Olamide’s grit, and rasp all the more enjoyable, then switches up and matches him innuendo for innuendo, grit for grit and rasp for rasp, getting just as explicit as he does.

Somebody is unlike previous Olamide and Phyno collaborations. Olamide employs a cutesy tone that may remind listeners of Omo to Shan while Phyno earnestly woos the subject of affection with his lines. Together they deliver a song that reminds us of longing and the desire to be rid of loneliness, echoing the sentiment that everybody craves their own somebody(ies).

The mixing and mastering is better than we have seen on his previous works. Perhaps Olamide’s decision to let go of the “Market Bombardment Strategy” that had him dropping several singles and albums with as much as 21 songs each year, giving him and his team what was considered no room to grow, improve or evolve, has elevated the quality of his work and now reveals what many have always known: Olamide’s deep appreciation for storytelling and his ability to use melody and arrangement to emote and stir his listeners. 

While this change in strategy is overdue and was clamored for by some fans and critics, Olamide did not always need finesse and vulnerability in his art to keep his crown. Sacrificing quality for quantity, Olamide pushed his producers, working hard and fast as he rolled out songs in their scores every year, capturing millennials and Gen Xers. Between his own songs and several collaborations, he enjoyed massive airplay. His tracks and features sometimes came within weeks of each other.

Celebrating the recklessness of youth with hits like Lagos Boys, Turn Up and being the epitome of that recklessness himself by choosing a controversial name for his record label YBNL, with a slew of controversial songs to match that seemed to gain him more support than it cost him, without forgetting to harness hope, religiosity and nostalgia with songs like Eleda Mi, Olamide had hacked the market and the market rewarded him, rendering him too big to fail, and too big to censor or cancel.

While others merely adopted the recklessness, Olamide was one with it. It was not that Olamide did not know, or love his art enough to do away with this recklessness and edit himself and his art; it is not that he did not appreciate finesse and well rounded, well mastered, edited music, nor was he incapable of the vulnerability or control needed to tell certain stories; it is that he rebelled against it, to do what he considered necessary for his hustle. Meaning to turn everything on its head as stated in Rap Sodi, he threw everything together.

Classical instruments, heavy percussion, beautiful melody, constant nods to classic Nigerian sounds; fuji and juju, traditional poetry, western poetry, a knowledge of global art and storytelling so vast and so consistent, it couldn’t possibly be accidental, clashing without purpose, like too many bold spices in one meal. 

The struggle against vulnerability and control, and the artistic obstruction caused by theensuing chaos came to a head in his album Eyan Mayweather where Olamide could not emote or convey the depth of his feelings about some of the most important people in his life, unlike his previous works Omo Anifowose, and his tribute to Dagrin where his story and pain had been so material, you could cut through it. The flaw in his formula for success had become obvious. However, relying on the avoidance afforded by the feel good afrobeats genre, the angst and toxic masculinity of hip-hop, he continued to enjoy mainstream success.

Clearly, that has changed. Nigerian music has become global. A new generation has come to the fore, a generation that likes it slow and deep and sometimes confuses nothingness for depth. Olamide too has changed. He finally sees himself as a global citizen, capable of global impact, and not a local rapper satisfied with being King of The Streets. He is no longer the reckless boy all about his hustle. He has outgrown his basic needs and his metrics for measuring success have changed. He now seeks a different level of accomplishment and self actualisation that is beyond the number of sold out shows at Eko Hotel. He has made moves in line with this, signing Fireboy DML, an avatar for his global vision, and collaborating with Empire music. It is in the smithy of this renewed purpose that UY Scuti has been forged.

Carpe Diem signaled a change in the atmosphere around Olamide, but UY Scuti permits his fans through the haze and the noise, to witness his brilliance unhindered. 

This is not to say we will not see flashes of the old Olamide. We will and I look forward to it. His beautiful chaos will sweep the streets ever so often, but global impact is the new turf he must conquer.

While some of the tracks on UY Scuti are already hits, I expect more to join the charts within weeks.

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