As early as five years ago, there’s been a constant teasing of an album from the kings who are J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. It is easy to get crazy over this prospect. These people are big, they are our heroes, they’re both geniuses, they’re friends. Surely, a collaboration wouldn’t hurt. It’ll be murder!!!
No. Pause and think. A staff writer of Dj Booth once echoed the sentiments: It is a bad idea. In as much as their subject matter are almost the same, they approach it differently and for a generation that thrives off the WHO MURDERED WHO? mantra to judge rappers on a song, it’ll be a judgement of personal bias and interest. It will take away from the larger concept. That is why a collaborative album is tricky. Done right, it is the heavens unravelling before us. Wrong, it is disturbing.
In Nigeria, this concept is not common. This can be due to a number of factors. Competition, chief among them. The average Nigerian artiste sees others around him or her to be competition, not fellow artisans that can push the craft and bar higher. Then, contractual restrictions. This deserves no much explanation. Artistes hungry for a deal will put pen to paper on almost anything. As long as they flaunt the cars and benefits that come with screaming your sponsor’s name at the end of a track. Most importantly, a lack of chemistry?
A collaborative album finds common ground. It creates a planet where Zeus and Thor can exist without thunderstorms happening every second. Maybe that is why the Cole Kendrick album might fail. Maybe. Maybe it is why Nigerian artistes rarely create this interesting art. The last collaboration album from Nigeria I remember is the 2Kings album by Olamide and Phyno. Coming off their Ghost Mode collab, there was a need for more music that featured them both. Ordinary collaborations would’ve been appropriate, not an album. The album wasn’t a failure per se, but the tracks belonged to them individually, not collectively. Some tracks were made for Phyno, some for Olamide. A good collaborative album makes all the tracks for both artistes, an equal opportunity.
Simi and Falz is the more recent. Chemistry, it is titled. The album cover has them both almost naked, staring into each other’s eyes. It seemed as if they were selling the rumors of them being in a relationship, instead of good music. The album do brags some few notable tracks though, and the chemistry is evident. However, they fail to exploit it. It is like a marketer saying his product can kill insects, whilst his hair is laden with lice.
In my head, there are a couple of Nigerian collaborative albums that would work. Sound Sultan and 2baba happen to be a pair I so fancy. Their style is critically human and protestant but when it comes to it, they can make bangers. The music they create is unselfish and can thrive in a group offering, and it is why they might make a landmark collaborative album. My brain tickles with the thought of it.
Ycee and Falz is another pair. Each artiste in a collaborative album has a style, a subject matter. A style that is somewhat sacrificed for the larger good of the album. However, the subject matter, when wielded with a creative ingenuity, can be molded together to create pure magic. It is like mixing vodka and juice. You sacrifice the individual tastes for a new fantasy. Ycee is a swag rapper, a new school influenced persona no doubt influenced by the likes of Gucci Mane and Olamide, and trap music of Southern part of the U.S.A. He is, however, no lyrical slouch. He proved this as he held his own against Falz in the song Something Light. He has that smooth vibe that can assume the nature of water, flowing into anything. He is the young person’s young person. Falz, on the other hand, is a humorous lad. With an educated background, it falls on him to educate most times, and does he do it well? His Boosit collab with Cobhams Asuquo is a gem in which he tackles various societal vices from unfulfilled election promises to rape, to alcoholism and domestic abuse.
Here’s the catch: Imagine a song featuring Ycee and Falz that talks about the young person in the streets, hoping for that breakthrough. Imagine, close your eyes and imagine what both these MCs will bring to the table, however diverse and great. Maybe I denote, probably too much, that this kind of album should ‘talk’ about something. However, if the song doesn’t talk about something, it should be great music. So far, we’ve been unable to see (or hear, rather) that from the few collaborative albums from Nigerian artistes.
This should change. The world of music is moving at a fast pace and Nigeria should buy better sneakers. It is refreshing to know that I could wake up to a joint album from Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper tomorrow. However, my dreams of one by Ycee and Falz, or Brymo and Asa could be termed wishful thinking.
We ought to shed our egos and legal talk and make great music. Together.