Aramide’s overnight success took all of 10 years, and then some.
The singer was a member of a band that finished third at Star Quest, 2006. Then she stayed around, had a short stint with Trybe records as a solo singer and jumped ship, along with everybody else, in 2014 when Captain eLDee changed course. So it wasn’t until Aramide got signed to Baseline records shortly after that things truly started looking up for the talented singer.
The release of “Iwo Nikan” was a watershed moment. It was her first single on Baseline and it showcased the singer’s vocal maturity, sophisticated songwriting and ability to add a local flavor to bluesy music. “Iwo Nikan” is a technically competent song but it was no smash hit. So if Aramide’s award for Best Vocal performance at the 2015 Headies raised a few left eye brows around the industry, then her nomination for the Next Rated artist a year later raised the right ones that were left. Aramide doesn’t make mainstream, pop music, that’s the reason why her music is broadly titled “alternative”. She’s on a musical path less traveled in this part of the world, so if you don’t think she deserves recognition for persevering this long and eventually finding success, then I don’t know what else to tell you.
Or why don’t I just let Aramide tell you about it herself? On “FunMi Lowo”, she playfully let’s out her frustrations with being an “artiste” in a country where appreciation of the arts is very low. Aramide sings about paying her dues but not getting paid in return, the song is obviously performed in good fun but there’s truth in every good joke. The remix with Sound Sultan and Koker was the album’s closer and felt like one joke too many, I’m not sure it added anything special to the album, Suitcase is very impressive as-is.
It’s also a very personable project – singers in Aramide’s chosen genre of music don’t usually allow this much of their personality show on their first project and normally go out of their way to come off as being goody two-shoes. The plan is usually to introduce listeners to the sound first, present a bunch of squeaky clean songs that fit that narrative and wait till later to sing about things that are harder to digest. Not Aramide, on Suitcase, while you’re getting accustomed to her soft and steady voice and appreciating her proficiency with different instruments, you’re also getting to know about her sense of humor, her naughtier desires as a woman and her imperfections as a person. The album talks a lot about love but not always in the generic boy-meets-girl fashion. There’s a “Stranger in Rome” that’s making her reconsider her prior romantic engagements in Lagos, there’s a pesky one-night stander that wants more on “Why So Serious” and there’s deeper, longer intimacy with her chosen soulmate on “Hurry up”. There are also run-of-the mill love stories on Suitcase that, in all honesty, feel like they were written more from first-hand experiences than these were but still it was refreshing to listen to songs written from a less traditional perspective.
If we are talking songwriting, then “Bose” is one of the best-written records I’ve listened to this year. Aramide is irritated by rumormongers and gossip folks but rather than raising her voice or typing up an Instagram rant, she calmly tells them off using the fictional Bosede as the unfortunate victim.
Bosede, where you dey go again?
You wan go do ofofo
CNN, BBC, LIB, TMZ, NET ng
You wan go do ofofo
The truth is that the bigger she gets, the more Bosedes that Aramide will encounter. Also, the bigger she gets, the more demons and temptations that she’ll face in the industry. She details that struggle on “Devil at my Doorstep”. However, if Aramide fights them with as tepid a response as she delivered the song with, I don’t see her overcoming them every time. “Devil”required a more emotive performance and Aramide’s singing personality is far too even-tempered to pull it off. Thankfully she seems aware of this, enough to avoid filling her Suitcase with songs like “Devil”.
Not only did she release her debut album in 2016, Aramide also won the Best Female Artist in West Africa at AFRIMA and Alternative Artist of the Year at Nigeria Entertainment Awards. Her 10 year journey as a singer and instrumentalist has gotten her to this point, winning the Next Rated ahead of Tekno, Mr. Eazi and Ycee at the Headies later this month might be a step too far but you never know. In the year of the upset, if I had told you in January that a reality show star would be the leader of the free world by November and that the UK would vote to cut off its pointed nose to spite its European face, you would have offered me a room at Yaba Left to chill out for a few days.
So by releasing her debut album just before the Headies, Aramide hasn’t done her chances of winning any harm at all. They say luck happens when opportunity meets preparedness, Aramide’s Suitcase was packed and well-prepared and now she’s been given the opportunity, all you can do is wish her the best of luck on her travels.