A lot of people have always had doubts about the artistic ability of Mr P when he took the decision to opt out of Psquare, essentially splitting what has been the greatest pop music group to come out of Africa.
It’s happened, and everyone has quickly moved to solo careers, displaying what they brought to the table, to create Psquare and what made them so great in the first place. Mr P, with his media-friendly mien, great looks and the ability to spin a good story, appeared to be ahead in the game already. Even before he dropped his first record, everyone rooted for who essentially was the flashier half of Psquare.
But sometimes, Gold isn’t always gold, and the shiniest things are just, well, shiny.
Peter Okoye’s shine hasn’t diminished, but it’s starting to look a bit superficial. Just take a look at his solo recording discography, and you find samples from American music mixing with a dose of Nigerian originality to create hybrid records. The man has released three records, ‘Cool it down’, ‘For my head,’ and ‘My way’. The numbers look good on them too, with the first two running into millions, and the most recent one almost at the 300,000 mark in just three days. Business is sure looking good.
But delve into the records, and you find the samples and bites off old American records simply staring you in the face.
‘Cool it down’, which is his first official release, has a sample. It takes the lines: “I say, take me there, I wanna go there, take me there, Let’s go there, take me to that great place of wonders and wayshens,” from Mya’s 1999 single, ‘Take me there’, one of our old-time favourites which features Maze, and Blinky Blink, and was a soundtrack for The Rugrats Movie’.
Up next is ‘My way’, a record which samples its instrumentals from Mario Winans’ ‘I don’t wanna know’, a 2003 song co-which features Diddy, and co-produced by Fugees. The single was a huge success worldwide, reaching #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #1 in the UK Top 40. It remains Winan’s only commercial hit single to date.
The video for ‘My way’, has Peter condemned to a desert by a jilted lover. It conceptually borrows from Chris Brown’s ‘Don’t wake me up’ visuals. Peter Okoye has always had his key influences from the 90s and early 2000’s R&B singers. From his dance patterns to his songcraft, he constantly infuses elements of other materials from this era into his craft.
This was a core part of early Psquare, where they remade entire records to score hits. But time and the evolution of Nigerian pop music has ensured that they have had to tweak their craft. But with the split, Peter seems to have fallen back on old techniques to create future records.
Admittedly, these are his early days. Mr P, as a solo artist is still less than a year old, relying not on the strength of his artistry, but the fanbase which Psquare built over the years. He simply needs to grow himself fast, tweak his artistry and push his boundaries. Perhaps, we might have less of these records in the future. Everything else is there; the ability to pull a good dance move, the looks, and the goodwill. He needs to get the creative process right and surround himself with people who can mine depths of creativity to craft records.
The main concern here is the limit on the window he has to impress and score his hits early. None of his records so far have created a dent in the scene. While much of the attention he has got has been from his media rounds, and the novel feeling of curiosity from fans who are still working on adjusting to him as a solo artist. But that can’t power him forever. He needs to actively provide them with great music to justify the followership on his solo journey.
For now, his originality is being called into question. How does he respond? Time will tell.