Lagos is an interesting place. It’s a land of opportunities, sweat, failure and untold hardship. It is also flowing with milk and honey, with enjoyment threatening to kill you at every point. It can elevate you to success, or rip your heart out with failure. However you see the city, whether for good or for bad, you are correct.
The most intriguing aspect of the city is how it offers everyone an individualistic experience of its riches. No two people have the same experience of Lagos. No matter how parallel their lives run. Everyone has a thousand stories to tell, and none of them are lies. The only dominant truisms of life have it that the city almost never sleeps. Drive through the city at night and you are sure to capture commercial activity in little nocturnal hubs and junctions.
And this is why two albums released in October by Olamide and Ajebutter22 are markedly different, but centre on the same city. The albums – “Lagos Nawa” and “What Happens In Lagos” – are conceptual Lagos albums, built by an experiential love for the city, and powered by the dualistic nature of life in Eko. Olamide and Ajebutter22 have individually spent over 10 years in Lagos, growing up, living life at different stations, and soaking in a diverse set of sounds driven by their factors such as parentage, the standard of living, household income and more.
Olamide comes from the ‘streets’ of Lagos. That core simplistic place, where life isn’t romanticized by wealth, and survival is a way of life. Down there in the slums of Bariga, the singer had to rise above the common enemies called poverty. He aspired to more, working hard at his music, and believing that things would change. Ajebutter22 comes from the cream of the crop. He lives on the opulent Island, has a family that possesses wealth. They passed him through a different school, where thriving is the minimum requirement. Survival has already been taken care of. Go into the world and be awesome.
But they have one thing in common: No matter how divergent their paths have been, they both turned out to be musicians, enjoying the Nigerian dream, with a mic in hand, and a Hennessy in the other. Not bad, eh?
“Lagos Nawa”: The Street Experience
Olamide’s “Lagos Nawa,” was a street project, drawn from cultural influences defined by living like as a ‘Kpako’ in Lagos.
The music on “Lagos Nawa” is one dimensional. This isn’t Baddo’s most relatable album. It panders to the street-driven definition of music. His previous albums have allowed inclusiveness and Hip-hop lead from the front. This project has ‘Wo’, a sound mined from the deepest street corners, as an introduction to where his artistry is at this point. Here, Hip-hop is the outsider, forcing its way into a space that isn’t currently conducive to it. From branding to delivery, Olamide is honest about delivering a ‘Wobe’ sound.
‘Wobe’ music isn’t for everyone. It’s an acquired taste and sound structure that is inspired by the street corners of Lagos. It is a subgenre that many have found a way to mine and fuse it with popular sound definitions for effect. Olamide has led this sound into pop culture, defining his artistry with this. On previous projects, he always found new ways to fuse this subgenre with more acceptable genres to create a mainstream that cocktail. It also helped that he was rapping too. Hip-hop is a genre that unifies a lot of people and provides them with knowledge, commentary and wisdom. On “Lagos Nawa” it is lacking.
“What Happens In Lagos”: Tushness Overload
For Ajebutter22, life in Lagos has a different meaning. Wealth has brought refinement to him, something that you can see even in his name. He is called Ajebutter for chrissakes! This young man wears his lifestyle like a charm, owning 100% of who he is. It is this acceptance that has enabled him to make ‘rich vibes’ music inspired by living in Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Life happens to him in mansions, suburbs, and the elite corporate circles. He’s a tush kid, and he makes music from that viewpoint.
Life on the Lagos Island writes itself as a unique movie script. There are characters, plot twists, heroes, villains, countless denouements, reflection, happiness and sadness. You can add the daily humour and you have the perfect script for a movie. But Ajebutter22 isn’t into making movies. He finds his joy in music, and he has successfully turned in a conceptual project that sings out as the stereotypical life of a Lagos big boy.
Similarities & Differences: Butter vs Kpako
Sound: While Ajebutter22 throws up the new school Afropolitan mellow vibes as his sound formation. Olamide mines from the hood, where everything is native, has deep character, and culture. Where you have the Konto vibe of the late 90’s from Olamide, Ajebutter offers you the ambient synth-heavy, cross-pollination of sounds.
They both scream hustle at you on ‘4 AM’ and ‘Fe nu shey street’. While the former involves the corporate world and its systems, the latter opens up the crude but effective ideology behind hustling outside an established professional system. Both rappers open up their hearts and self-reflect on ‘Happy Ending’ and ‘Shine.’ For parties, Olamide’s ‘Wo’, Saysaymaley’, ‘Majedodo’ are his core dance jams, while Ajebutter throws in ‘Bad gang’, ‘Ghana Bounce’, ‘Lifestyle’ as his lead records.
There are parallels to draw in living in Lagos, we are all human after all, and experiences overlap. What differentiates us is the level and context of it all. This is where Ajebutter22 and Olamide differ. The same Lagos, the same city filled with hustle and party.
But where they differ is in the specifics and sound structure. One is dredged from the mainland, while other chills on the Island. Pick your stand.