In September 2019, legendary Nigerian rapper, Olamide released ‘Pawon,’ his third single of the year. Produced by Cracker Mallo, the song tied into the street-hop Zanku sound that had been championed by viral rappers, Naira Marley and Zlatan. While both of those rappers love and respect Olamide, their dominance between June 2018 and December 2019 was undeniable.
Olamide is one of the greatest, but here he was, seemingly playing catch-up and dealing with a more radical force in the form of two rappers who got inspired by him and reworked their music into a wild strain of Gen Z drug. They had no rules and everybody loved them for it.
They were not savvy about promotion, their Instagram pages were their tools. Every other day after they released singles, they would overload their pages with scantily clad, liberal-looking women twerking in a way that will make the average man ogle. After Olamide’s ‘Spirit’ had failed to make an impression in the footsteps of smash hit, ‘Woske,’ Olamide needed something.
To his credit, he understood a need to evolve and get with the times in an industry that was increasingly gearing towards ‘new rules.’ To promote ‘Pawon,’ Olamide overloaded his Instagram page with a similar strategy to Zlatan’s and Naira Marley’s. The problem was that it was slightly against Olamide’s brand as a legend and elder statesman.
While the promo plan propelled the song to gain attention, it notched Olamide into a realm where he couldn’t compete. He could not afford to be as radical as Zlatan and Naira Marley. That moment also pointed to how Olamide might be in urgent need of a change in direction. In January 2020, it came in the form of 999 EP.
The problem was that the EP tanked both critically and progressively. It saw Olamide try to experiment with pure English rap without accompanying substance. Another radical experiment was ‘Won Ma.’ It gained attention, but it also failed to retain listeners. It was then no surprise that Olamide elected not to shoot a video for it.
Some weeks after ‘999 EP,’ Olamide announced his label’s deal with EMPIRE Distribution. Later, he also announced new albums for himself and Fireboy DML.
At that moment, it became clear that ‘999 EP’ might have been an experiment. While the EP produced a pungent moment like ‘Rich and Famous,’ it’s to Olamide’s credit that he took the lessons from that EP.
What came next was ‘Eru.’ While Nigerians don’t exactly love the song, something about it stood out to this writer.
It was a calmer brand of music that spoke about money, cars and women in a refreshing new way. The P-Prime beat was also more methodical and melody-rich. The song merged the old Olamide and his mastery of hooks with this new approach. And those piano and violins… Christ!
Then came ‘Green Light,’ which many might deem to have seen an even greater struggle for acceptance than ‘Eru.’ But again, something about it was interesting – Olamide was calmer and more corny as he sang heartwarming love songs that women would love.
In that moment, Olamide found another dimension for the next phase of his career – the earliest parts of his veteran days.
Where many would have sunk after the comfort of a familiar ship sank, he is getting on a raft and looking to the coast while getting inspiration from the sun. Not many people would have attempted this change on their 10th solo body of work – Olamide did it. More importantly, he excelled with it.
Like he did on ‘Green Light,’ Olamide also wears the loverboy hat on ‘Chimichanga.’ He hates to see his woman sad and wants her to spend his money like she was, ‘Chimichanga’ – whatever that means.
The love continues on Vstix-produced ‘Unconditionally’ as Olamide makes music for his wife, Bukunmi Aisha Adedeji AKA Mummy Milli. What gave him away are the lines, “You keep making me better, that’s why I’d never try to place you with another. I’d always be your short gun, ride to the end with you till the wheels fall off…”
He also raps, “I know that I’ve made a couple decisions that I’m not proud of, so I know I have to buckle up…” You might remember that in 2019, Olamide reportedly fathered a child with OAP, Maria Okan. Those lines might be alluding to some moments like that.
Then he bars out, “I nor understand, but na you get the under wey I stand. E come be like say I dey mad, like Kanye when e dey wear MAGA hat…” Wild bars, fam.
What is ‘Carpe Diem’?
Carpe Diem is Latin for ‘Seize the day’ or loosely, ‘Seize the moment.’ With it, Olamide simply preaches that he is choosing to seize the moment rather than grasp at straws. While some of this change can be attributed to Olamide’s new affiliation with EMPIRE Distribution, it’s also about Olamide’s appetite to extend his stay at the top rather than roll over and die.
Across the 12 tracks and 38 minutes that make ‘Carpe Diem,’ Olamide speaks more to the heart and soul of his female fan base. While women have always loved Olamide, it was usually about women liking Olamide for who he is without any necessary effort from the rapper. Songs like ‘Melo Melo’ were outliers.
But this time, Olamide directly addresses them with beats and styles that will appeal to them. This direction also speaks to Olamide’s understanding of the current realities of the Nigerian soundscape and why acts like Joeboy, Fireboy, Omah Lay and Rema are adored. They appeal to their female fan base with topics of love and sex delivered in affectionate formats.
Olamide talks sex
When he borrows Omah Lay’s burgeoning reliability at profanity and sexual innuendos to discuss elements of sex on ‘Infinity,’ he metaphorically refers to a penis as “Baboska..” In the past, he would have said the Yoruba word for ‘penis.’ And trust me, that Yoruba word is naturally foul by its very sound. Similar metaphors and innuendo populate this song.
On ‘Shilalo,’ Olamide also uses ‘Shilalo’ as a metaphor for sex on the Afro-swing beat. He then sung-raps his verses like a Soundcloud rapper before giving a shout-out to Beyonce, “You the baddest b*tch like Ms. Carter…”
While he still retains his ties to the street with some of his expressions on ‘Green Light,’ ‘Shilalo’ and especially ‘Do Better,’ they are mostly shrouded in the larger topics without being an impediment.
On ‘999 EP,’ he tried to rap in English but he lacked substance and resonance – not here though. On the Afro-swing track ‘At Your Service,’ Olamide delivers in English as he discusses his perpetual readiness for sex with a particular woman.
While he would have discussed the woman like just another woman in the past, there is an affection to how he discusses sex here. Amazing!
‘Do Better’ is the most street-heavy record on ‘Carpe Diem.’ While it feels dated as a Young Jonn beat, the song is just good and it is not a Zanku record. With a discussion on love-filled sex, Olamide plays a man who admits a need to do better to himself, amidst complaints from his woman.
Could this also be a dedication to his wife? It’s possible, but the points are not compelling enough.
The wildest line on ‘Carpe Diem’ also dropped off ‘Do Better.’ Olamide raps, “I’m singing in your ear, mo fe je e bi mosquito…” In English that means, “I’m singing in your ears, I want to bite you like a mosquito…” That beat feels like merging music from a Celestial Church’s crusade with modern Afro-pop.
Olamide and life
On the album opener ‘Another Level,’ Olamide boldly declares, “Me I nor dey find their validation, all of them [dey] steady seek attention, I dey another level…” His raps are more methodical on a beat that matches Terry G-esque percussion with warped out Electronic chops. He delivers in English as he brags and fires shots at his detractors.
While he would have littered this track with ‘razz’ curses in the past, he is calmer in address. “Run won mo’le bi run Rooney, maje ki won lo counter…” is a bar too. In English that means, “Murk them in their ends like Rooney, don’t let them get out on the counter…”
‘Triumphant’ follows a similar pattern to ‘Another Level’ as it also alludes to the superstar lifestyle and the many angles to it. But more interestingly, it feels like a prequel to ‘Rich and Famous.’ Featuring the super-talented Bella Shmurda who sings about a conservative life propelled by a rough background, Olamide tells his rags-to-riches story.
Olamide is honest and wears his heart on his sleeve. He talks about his ‘hustle days’ and how his mental health used to inspire the color patterns of his hair as well as the loss of his parents just as he was finally making money. He also discusses how he turned to weed to deal with the pain.
While ‘Rich and Famous’ discusses his aversion to the bright lights and vanities of the superstar lifestyle, this is the background and reason for that aversion. He has seen a lot and now wants to simply be calm and to be cool.
The ‘OG’ in Olamide then seeps in towards the end of Olamide’s verse. He raps, “Changing the narrative for the ghetto youths. O le wa lati ghetto k’oni sense k’o de wa classy…” In English that means, “You might come from the ghetto and still have sense and class…” This introspect and substance. Bella Shmurda is a star, if he is ready to grab it.
Nonetheless, Olamide isn’t all ‘work and no play.’ On the Gqom beauty, ‘Loading’ on which Bad Boy Timz produces one of the best Nigerian hooks of 2020, Olamide goes to a wild party where debauchery is the order of the day. While ‘Plenty’ featuring Fireboy is the weakest song on this album, it does feel like its best choice for another single.
First off, the production on this album is super-impressive – 18-year-old P-Prime did himself proud. For critique, check ‘Miscellaneous’ in Pulse Nigeria’s first thoughts on ‘Carpe Diem’ HERE.
In terms of quality and replay value, Carpe Diem is only bettered by Baddest Guy Ever Liveth [BGEL] in Olamide’s discography. While YBNL has bigger hits and the best songs on YBNL have greater shock value, acceptance and instant attraction, the album has a few fillers.
On the other hand, Carpe Diem is a slow-burn with songs like a C&S candle destined for the enemy’s house. While it’s still a magnus opus moment, ‘Carpe Diem’ is Olamide’s best album in terms of sound engineering.
It also has zero fillers and it has a topical sonic and topical cohesion merged with a topical progression that no other Olamide album has. It’s his calmest and most methodical bit of music and it marries contemporary conformity with a unique identity.
As noted in a previous article, Carpe Diem is like merging the Olamide of ‘Rich and Famous,’ and Fireboy’s ‘Afar’ with the Olamide of ‘Melo Melo.’ What was not on that article is that this version of Olamide uses his new mature, calmer centre to produce a beautiful collection of Afro-pop that will stand the test of time. He is also more honest and vulnerable than he’s ever been.
He discusses losing his parents, sex with his wife and admits his faults as a husband. That said, the album art isn’t insufficient to thoroughly reflect the spirit of this album.
Take a bow, Baddo. You did this…
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
Themes and Delivery: 1.8/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.8/2
8.5 – Champion