The calendar can read January anything all it wants but if Olamide hasn’t released a new album, has the previous year really ended?
The Glory came in later than usual, by Olamide’s timely standards, the album was unboxed a day after Christmas 2016 and a day before the highly successful OLIC3. With a frequency previously only associated with Fuji acts, the album became Baddo’s 6th in 7 years.
The rapper from Bariga has been at the pinnacle of Nigerian hip-hop for most of that time, so much so that these days, the GOAT (greatest of all time) title is being used more and more to describe his impact on the rap game. But that kind of talk is more from the public than from the rapper himself – Olamide’s eyes are firmly on the ground, literally. On the trappy “Underground”, he likens his command of the Lagos underground to El Chapo’s command of Mexico’s. He and rapper Akachi cleverly reference the network of tunnels the Mexican drug lord uses for his legendary prison escapes. It gets even darker on “Sons of Anarchy”, flanked by Phyno and Burna Boy, Olamide brags some more about his street cred, likening his goon’s “weirdness” to Weird MC’s. Tough talk aside, you get the sense though that Baddo would rather be humble about his actual career achievements, let others blow that trumpet.
From roaming the streets of Bariga to shutting down the streets around Eko Hotel, Olamide has come a long way. Having grown up in an environment where crime was always seen as an option, the YBNL boss could have easily taken a short cut to achieve success. Pheelz provides an excellent guitar solo on “Journey of a Thousand Miles” as a backdrop for the rapper to reflect on how well things have turned out, in spite of the odds. But if ever his inspirational story was to end before the last chapter, Baddo let’s the world know how he wants to be remembered on “Symbol of Hope”. Unsurprisingly, it’s also not with an epitaph inscribed with the lyrics of his hit songs, Olamide wants to go down in history as an inspiration to the youth and a beacon of hope to the downtrodden.
My team is on a mission, vision is not to become stars
Let the people know there’s God and give hope to youngsters
Offering hope to the people is one of the central themes of this LP, another one is, well, giving glory. Olamide hasn’t forgotten who brought him this far, “Oluwo Lori Glory” defers all praise to Him. But this attitude of gratitude also presents an interesting contradiction – the same Olamide that admits to having sold his soul to be able to ‘dine with the devil’ on “Letter to Milli”, is giving thanks to God for his success. So it begs the question, who’s the success really coming from? Sometimes, it feels like there’s a fight for Olamide’s soul on Glory and it’s obvious the rapper has made some interesting choices. Thankfully, Milliano – his son – may never have to face the same choices but that doesn’t mean he won’t face challenges of his own in life. On “Letter to Milli”, Olamide allows the listener be a fly on the wall of their living room as he has a chat with him to warn him of these challenges beforehand. For its storytelling and forthrightness, “Letter to Milli” is one of the more rewind-worthy records on The Glory album.
Glory is unique – I don’t recall when last an Olamide album didn’t have a humongous hit single to create a buzz for its release. Glory’s closest thing to a hit record is “Who You Epp?”, but as popular as it was, that record wasn’t in the top 20 most played songs of 2016. Uninspired singles “Konkobility” and “Orobo” didn’t catch on either but thankfully neither record made the album. Even though it was one of his darker singles, “Owo Blow” was better received. Perhaps a lot a of that reception had to do with the nostalgic feel of the record, it references a classic Yoruba flick titled ‘Owo Blow’, a trilogy directed by Tade Ogidan.
Ahh alaye t’o se googo [googo]
Action po o, bi Ogogo [Ogogo]/
Ayobo se you go go?/Gbenusi no be Atenu/
Ye e ta’akoto
This (along with his homage to 2Baba on “2Baba Zone”) is the kind of music moment that gives music critics a hard-on. These moments don’t come with a fancy dance or a sleek hash tag or a new slang but they’ll probably last as long as those moments because they show that besides being a superstar rapper, Olamide is also a student of the game.
There are radio-friendly singles such as “Pepper Dem Gang”, “Lori Titi Yi” and “Omo Wobe Anthem” that could yet catch on and become huge singles from Glory. But knowing how Olamide moves, it probably wouldn’t be long before he abandons this project and sets the ball rolling on album number 7. However this album in particular, more than the others, could signal a pivotal point in Olamide’s career, I’ll explain why.
Up until this point, the YBNL boss seemed to be operating on an album timetable determined only by two factors – hit records and calendar years. It was therefore easy for inadequacies in some of his albums such as redundancy in his subject matter, creative inflexibility and poor sound engineering to be patched up by larger-than-life singles, as long as they kept on coming. By choosing to release Glory without a huge hit record to support it, Olamide is proving that hit singles are nice but they aren’t a must-have for you to enjoy his full bodies of work. In the long run, if Olamide wants to cement his place as the GOAT, then delivering memorable albums will mean as much to his musical legacy, and staying power, as hit records do.