P-Square have drawn the curtains on a remarkable career spanning over 15 years, most of which they spent at the very top of African pop music. After touring the world together, winning multiple prestigious awards, making tens of millions of dollars, releasing record-breaking albums, and becoming African music legends in the process, Peter and Paul Okoye want to be known as solo artists going forward.
While this will not be the first time the twins are separating, the very public nature of their latest falling out has a note of finality to it. So to pay homage to a remarkable career, we’ve put together a list of P-Square’s 6 studio albums and ranked them from the worst to the best.
6. Invasion (5th Album, Released 2011)
Biggest Songs: “Beautiful Onyinye”, “Chop My Money”, “Forever”
Over the years, P-Square built a reputation for being a tight-knit, self-sufficient crew. They wrote, produced and engineered their own music, while their brother and manager Jude “Engees” Okoye shot all the videos. As they got bigger, P-Square strategically selected those they collaborated with and brought into the fold – or rather those whom they had no qualms crediting for their work together.
Invasion was therefore one of P-Square’s most collaborative projects at the time, it featured guest appearances from May D (the first artist on Square Records other than Peter and Paul), Tiwa Savage, Naeto C, Waje, Eva Alordiah and Muna; while Akon and Rick Ross would feature on the remixes to the album’s biggest songs.
The collaborators added interesting dynamics to this album, from May D’s enthusiasm and raw energy, to the feminine perspective to the songs provided by the women. But having Waje on “Jeje” was particularly significant not just for the R&B singer’s perspective but because, even though it was the third time she would be working with the crew, it was the first time Waje was being fully credited. It is therefore unfortunate that “Jeje” ended up being the most unremarkable of their collaborations and it occupies space on an equally unremarkable project.
The Invasion album sounded uninspired and disjointed – there was curious experimentation with electronic dance music forced in with the twins’ staples of Afropop, R&B, contemporary highlife, hip-hop and reggae. P-Square seemed to be in desperate search of inspiration, they had gone from illegitimately sampling popular foreign songs to delivering a song like “Bunieya Enu”, a lazy rendition of a local gospel classic. They also started regurgitating their own sounds and their own topics, singing unimaginatively about love, passion and financially-incentivized affection.
Furthermore, being that it was 13-songs long, the album was uncharacteristically flooded with fillers. The one standout album cut “Me and My Brother”, was as honest as the twins ever got about their success, and about their relationship that eventually turned sour.
5. Danger (4th Album, Released 2009)
Biggest Songs: “Possibility”, “E No Easy”, “I Love U”
In the years preceding Danger, P-Square were on top of the world – they could even sell a million copies of a blank CD, as long as their name was on it. The twins were selling out shows in Africa and in Europe, and would perform in the US in 2009 for the first time. They had arguably become the biggest act in Africa that wasn’t called 2 Face Idibia.
The Danger project brought the titans of African music together for the first and only time, they collaborated on “Possibilities”, an ode to beautiful African women and to the mothers that gave birth to them. In a music catalog often criticized for having too much disposable music, “Possibilities” is one of the twins’ truly evergreen moments.
Another artist that added real value to Danger was an emerging J.Martins, whose refreshing brand of contemporary highlife music mixed with motivational themes helped to push “E No Easy” to astronomical heights.
But those hit songs couldn’t paper over cracks of creativity on an ill-conceived project. After releasing arguably the most original album in their catalog (Game Over), the twins were back to their old copycatting habits.
“Super fans” was an increasingly rare moment of honesty from the pop stars but it was overshadowed by a knock off, stripped down Timbaland production, while Danger’s schizophrenic title track gets full marks for experimentation but a big zero for creativity. The song unashamedly rips off Eminem’s “Without Me”, from the melody, to the production, even down to a Slim Shady-esque wacky music video.
Danger therefore felt like a real low point for a duo who had clearly put commerce and album release cycles way ahead of creativity; the music was just being churned out to sustain their momentum and to keep getting rewarded with cars and other gifts from their marketer.
Danger was also one of P-Square’s least affectionate albums, there was less of a focus on making love ballads like “I Love You” and more on high-octane dance records. It was also the album where P-Square embraced their new musical identity as young sugar daddies.
4. Last Nite (1st Album, Released 2003)
Biggest Songs: “Last Nite”, “Senorita” “Kolo”
Last Nite is P-Square’s debut album but also their least successful commercially; issues around distribution reportedly limited its impact, as with many of the debuts from independent artists in that era. But unlike many of their peers, the twins had a peculiar come up-story that probably defined their modus operandi going forward.
P-Square’s career didn’t start in Lagos, they were products of Jos and Abuja, they never got signed to a big label, Timbuk2 Records was responsible for marketing and distributing Last Nite, and they were never part of a big, influential crew, they were members of a little-known dance crew that idolized Michael Jackson called Smooth Criminals. P-Square’s growth was as independent as they come, that’s probably the reason why the twins developed a siege mentality early on.
The song “E No Good” gives an indication on how this us-against-the-world mindset might have been fueled. Peter and Paul took turns to pour out their frustrations as upcoming artists on wax, even citing tribalism as one of the reasons why, in their minds, the gatekeepers passed on their music in the early days.
Being that they were dancers first, dancing and movement was a big part of the music already. The songs on Last Nite had an unmistakable energy that the twins, who were still in self-discovery mode, borrowed from everywhere – from Michael Jackson to makosa. Makosa and francophone dance music was popular at the time but artists of the early 2000’s were far more influenced by Western music, and so was P-Square.
A few of them used to ‘trick’ local stations into playing their songs by making localized copies of big foreign records that the public was already familiar with. And, since P-Square and a lot of their peers started from humble beginnings, it didn’t hurt that those instrumentals were available for free.
But interestingly enough, Last Nite contained a lot of original music. It is true that there were a couple of problematic tracks like “Last Nite” (which sounded similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”) but most of the issues around P-Square’s debut album were quality-related, not about creativity or originality.
3. Double Trouble (6th Album, Released 2014)
Biggest Songs: “Collabo” “Testimony” “Alingo”
2014 presented the clearest signs that all was not well inside Squareville. The first sign was that – judging by their new album every 2-year ritual – Double Trouble arrived late. The album was released in September, 2014, 3 years after the disappointing Invasion and a few months after Peter Okoye had moved out of the twins’ Omole mansion; that was the second sign. There were further reports in the press that Peter wanted out of the group all together.
P-Square were also dealing with deaths in the family. The twins had lost their mum in 2012 and would lose their dad a few months after Double Trouble was released. There really must have been a lot of pain in the lead up to this project, you therefore can’t help but feel like they missed a golden opportunity to pour it all out on Double Trouble. Who knows if the process would have been cathartic for them and gone a long way in healing their strained relationship.
Rather, the singers focused all their energy on recapturing their place in the pop landscape that was now younger and more sophisticated than they were. “Shekini” tried to piggyback off the success of Lil Kesh’s “Shoki”, and “Alingo” was a blatant rip off of Ghanaian azonto culture. Even though they reeked of desperation, the records were successful and P-Square’s amazing run of hit songs continued.
If you overlook the blatant copying – that became a permanent stain on an otherwise outstanding career – Double Trouble was a progressive album because it was musically expansive and almost age-appropriate.
One of P-Square’s hallmarks was constant experimentation, they incorporated a lot of sounds on this album but this time, more with traditional African genres like highlife, soukous and Afrobeats. Also, in working with artists in the age range of Jermaine Jackson and David Scott and making a record with a veteran rapper like TI and not some newbie, P-Square seemed to have one eye fixed on their own music legacy.
After over a decade at the top, they too were beginning to show their age and they were maturing through the music, although whether they were doing so fast enough is another matter. One clear sign of maturity is that after positioning themselves as young sugar daddies for years, “Mugu Money Spender (MMS)” sounded like an admission that love-for-money was no longer a fair exchange. Double Trouble was P-Square’s final album as a group.
2. Get Squared (2nd Album, Released 2005)
Biggest songs: “Bizzy Body” “Story” “Temptation”
Get Squared was the start of real commercial success for P-Square and it became one of the – if not the – highest-selling albums of 2005. Bangers such as “Get Squared” and the naughty “Bizzy Body” became continental hits, but every one of the nine songs on P-Square’s magnum opus received considerable airplay – every single one. Even its most serious moment “Oga Police”, where the twins spoke about police brutality from the viewpoint of a young Nigerian, got radio spins.
Get Squared was the first album P-Square released on their own, and it was the beginning of a long and mutually-beneficial business relationship between Square Records and Alaba marketer TJoe Distribution. It reportedly sold millions of copies in its first month.
The album was new and exciting, not just because so few people got to listen to the project before it and were learning about P -Square for the first time, but also because the twins had stepped up the quality of the their craftsmanship significantly.
One example is with storytelling. The album’s opener “Story” reenacts the traditional African storytelling setting where children gather around an elder and listened intently to folktales. The song itself was about the twins’ journey up until ‘05, which was intriguing, but sadly, that was the only thing original about it.
The very fabric of “Story”, right down to the kids singing, was lifted from R. Kelly’s “I Wish” and P-Square’s heavy lifting didn’t stop there. The crunk-inspired “Get Squared” borrowed Lil Jon’s inimitable yelling ad-libs, the lady on “Your Number” sounded similar to the one on B.I.G.’s “More Money, More Problems”, a few lines from Fugees’ “Ready or Not” got rejigged on “Bizzy Body”, while the entire beat from Westlife’s “Soledad” was regurgitated on “Omoge Mi”.
The level of shamelessness was shocking. Get Squared was an otherwise brilliant body of work and could have been number 1 on the list but the lack of originality on this go-around took a lot away from the final product.
To be fair to the brothers though, they themselves were products of their environment. But while it is true that many artists of that time were sampling record illegitimately, the difference with P-Square is that they never actually grew out of it.
1. Game Over (3rd Album, Released 2007)
Biggest songs: “Do Me”, “No One Like U”, “Ifunanya”
After the record-breaking sales of the Get Squared album, there were questions about whether the high-flying duo could do it all over again. All those questions evaporated the moment “Do Me” dropped. If “Bizzy Body” began the conversation of P-Square as sex symbols, “Do Me” was the moment when it became undeniable.
The song cleverly reworked a popular street saying about God overlooking revenge into an anthem about sexual reciprocity, and wisely left the Big Man out of the final equation. “Do Me” smashed all formats – from video, to radio, to the clubs, to the streets and even spawned its own dance step.
The twins would develop a catalog of hit records since then, but none had the same instant impact.
Another record on the album, “Roll It” also performed well in the clubs and on the radio. But while Game Over had a couple of big dance records, it was actually on this album that P-Square staked their claim for a place in the African Hall of Fame for ballads and love songs.
Their songwriting was formulaic and unsophisticated, and the twins both had unpolished voices, but you couldn’t deny that, in a continent where English isn’t our mother tongue, they were deadly effective.
P-Square delivered the perfect, timeless wedding song in “No One Like U”, while “Ifunanya”, on the other hand, packed a 3-part punch. First, the lover boy’s made all Ifunanyas feel special for the rest of their lives, second, they identified with their Igbo roots more than ever before and third, the song literally translates to being in love. It promptly became a lover’s anthem.
But even though they seemed intent on providing the soundtrack to the happy times, P-Square also provided a very realistic, 360 degree view on love. While many singers only looked at the subject through rose-colored glasses, P-Square also explored the tougher topics like infidelity, two-timing and breakups with as much dexterity.
Also, on album cuts like “Why E Be Say” and “Stand Up”, they talked fearlessly about pertinent topics, like their frustration with politicians and other societal issues, thus making Game Over arguably the twins’ most complete album, yet.