Words by: Blossom Maduafokwa
Solidifying what has seemed like an eternal presence in the Nigerian music industry, rapper and record label executive Olamide has just dropped his twelfth studio album UY Scuti.
The Nigerian music world shook upon the UY Scuti’s release, and rightfully so. Olamide is a veteran in the industry, having shaped the landscape of Nigerian street music since his debut in 2011 and put on some of the most prolific Afrobeats artists today (the likes of Adekunle Gold, Fireboy DML, and Naira Marley, to name a few). While contemporary “Afrobeats politics” outside of Nigeria seems to forgo Olamide in favour of the big three – Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Davido – within the country, the artist practically has the populace within the palm of his hand. The question still holds whether this particular body of work lived up to the hype that it – like all Olamide releases – carries.
UY Scuti started off strong with a fresh, sweet track named “Need for Speed”. It is, in my opinion, one of the album’s best and a fantastic way to start off a project. It carries with it serious introductory energy, detailing to the audience what seems like a story of Olamide’s “hustle” to fame in the sometimes rough landscape of Lagos.
“Julie”, following soon after is an undeniable bop, a sweet love song to a non-descript “Julie”, that I can guarantee is being turned up in a Lagos club as we speak. “Rock”, which was pre-released, is without a doubt the album’s best, having already entered the top of domestic Nigerian charts as well as the UK Afrobeats chart.
From there, though, the album’s notable tracks become few and far between. He introduces newer artists Layydoe and Fave on tracks “Rough Up”, “Want”, and “PonPon”, and while they delivered exquisite performances (Layydoe single-handedly carried “Rough Up” with spectacular vocals), the tracks themselves are technically nothing to write home about. Faithful and consistent as ever, Olamide has a customary track with Igbo rapper Phyno, but even with the two powerhouses on one track they only created a slightly above average song.
UY Scuti ends, somehow both endearingly and oddly, with an ode to the worth of women called “So Much More”. But even this track fell a bit short, leaving me waiting for another track to properly round off the body of work.
Don’t get me wrong: there is not a single bad song on the album, and the album itself has a number of good songs. There are just only three great ones. Even with all this said, the album has a lot of symbolic significance for Olamide’s trajectory as an artist and as such cannot be written off.
To start, UY Scuti contained a total of 3 (or so) Dancehall-heavy tracks (“Julie”, “Rough Up”, “PonPon”, and arguably “Somebody”), showing the extent of his versatility. As an artist who is most notable for popularizing street music, there is a tendency to pigeonhole him as someone who can only produce hard Rap or street music. He already proved the world wrong with his last project Carpe Diem, which maintained street integrity with its famed track “Loading” but also provided down to earth chilled tracks like “Infinity” and “Shilalo”. Essentially, Olamide has been able to and continues to show his musical diversity as he grows and evolves as an artist.
(But, don’t get me wrong, street Olamide will always be my favorite.)
What’s more is that Olamide manages to do all this without betraying himself, or, for that matter, Nigeria. Maintaining relevance in the Nigerian music industry for a decade is no small task, and having done so Olamide has garnered a specific type of international acclaim. With this, the rapper could have any feature he desires on any project, yet he consistently and intentionally draws from Nigerian youth. On his last album, he featured the likes of Omah Lay and Bella Shmurda, and Bad Boy Timz, on UY Scuti, two of his three features were young, talented Nigerian women on the edge of breaking it big.
UY Scuti, essentially, can be seen as a reflection of Olamide as an artist – of where he is now and all the places that he plans to go in the future. We don’t need much to know that for him, regardless of what he embarks upon in the future his trajectory will continue upwards. The album was, after all, presumably named for what Olamide sees himself as, UY Scuti, the name of the biggest known star in our universe.
Album Rating: 6/10
Notable Songs: “Need for Speed,” “Rock,” “Julie”