(LAGOS, NIGERIA) I write this with so much pain in my heart, but this too had to be said. A few weeks ago, I was somewhere just chilling, away from the ‘notorious’ Lagos heat, when the radio came abuzz. The dial was on Wazobia FM I believe, and my man Skales’ new song (new at the time) was on air; Denge Pose. “What a title!” I thought to myself. It was my first time hearing the song, and to put it VERY MILDLY, I didn’t think highly of the song and consequently tuned out mentally. A couple of minutes later the male OAP’s voice rang out; however, I wasn’t attentive enough to identify who this OAP was; but to my surprise, he starts to chat with Skales, who had apparently been a guest on the show that day, ostensibly to promote his “new works”.
Naturally, I now listened in to the chat a bit more attentively. At a point during the chat, in answer to a question about his “new sound” as typified by most of his new music including Denge Pose, Skales said: “you know, we dey try diversify…” at that juncture, I zoned out again; only this time, I never returned to the show. There was no reason to return. I was running a whole gamut of unpleasant emotions concurrently.
First I was mad, then sad, then disappointed, then bitter, then a wave of some other emotions I still cannot capture in words, before I settled for pity. Yes, pity; pity felt like the right one. I felt pity first and foremost for myself for having the misfortune of watching, again, another great music talent tottering on the precipice of oblivion, for lack of proper guidance. Then I felt pity for Skales who must be having a hard time with his music career; (compared to where that (guy) was headed, he is struggling) then for Nigeria that may never enjoy the fullness of the talent that I KNOW resides in Skales; maybe not in that precise order
Let me take a moment to tell you about the Skales I used to know. I believe I first met him back in 2008; before E.M.E and all that glitz that seem to make people forget where they were headed. The most striking thing I remember about that Skales was that the kid was HUNGRY. He was always cheerful, always willing to work, always on the move and His passion was indomitable.
I was leaving Cubes after my lunch that fateful day in 2009, when I bumped into Skales at the entrance to the restaurant. We caught up for a bit then He told me he had just returned from Jos and that he had with him the joint that will change things. I’m always up for listening to new stuff so I obliged him. Boy!! From the first 30secs I knew “Heading for a Grammy” was a special jam. It had that most special ingredient I look for in an artiste or song; conviction.
Skales wasn’t the first Nigerian act to dream of coping a Grammy, nor indeed the first to let us know of such lofty private fantasies through their music. Indeed, He was the youngest, at the time, of many to make that now hackneyed claim. However, something in me believed that that young boy who had the presence of mind to compose and perform such a fantastic joint had whatever it would take to make that elusive dream a reality. I was SOLD.
He went on to release the song and performed it across the nation with that same conviction from which the song had sprung out. The radio community loved it (he couldn’t afford Payola. just PURE LOVE), people were requesting and his buzz shot up. He even went on to win some competition Airtel (ZAIN at the time) & Nigezie put together years back (I hope I remember well).
Everyone knew this was different; music for a reason, music from the heart. When E.M.E stepped in, I was genuinely happy for the young man. He deserved it. Good funding, huge industry clout and a young problem like Skales? I thought it was game-over, was I wrong? A video wasn’t even made for this epic work; apparently the label had other radical plans. I think they felt the need to create another Starboy. It would appear that Skales agreed to this plan, after all it guaranteed the “Goodlife.” They broke the golden rule: “if it aint broke don’t fix it.”
The Skales I met at Cubes is very different from the one I now see and hear. That purpose is missing. Also that Skales had just one single, one world class single, “Heading for the Grammy.” I mean, the title alone says it all, doesn’t it. Yet, beyond that title, the song itself described a vision; a herculean mission even, but the voice of the artiste, though young, was as convincing as it was purposeful. At least, I believed it.
On the contrary, the Skales I hear today has over 20 singles! You read correctly, 20 singles! With titles like Komole My baby, Wetin I want, Enter the action, Mukulu, Take care, Denge pose and so on (I do have a list of 22 but lets save time). I don’t know if its just me but, I hear no vision, no mission, no DIRECTION, no passion, and certainly no conviction.
Hey, lets park for a second. Of course you expect an artiste gifted like Skales to have had plenty materials over time. My problem with this is that some of those songs should have come in a single project (Mixtape. EP, album whatever) It’s toooo much as independent records (singles). It’s not a good look. So does it mean he stylishly dumped his album on us in bits? If that’s the case you know what it means. It didn’t “sell”.
Unfortunately, the above picture is a recurrent decimal in the Nigerian music scene, indeed globally too. Every now and then we find a great artiste emerge from the lonely valleys of anonymity to the great heights of international stardom, buoyed solely by the strength and character of their music, only for them to get to the top and then “diversify.”
The underlying logic behind this thought pattern, I would never be able to understand, never. I mean the logic that says; “what takes you to the top is unable to keep you at the top, so diversify when you get to the top.” Logic doesn’t get any illogical than this. I mean, who flies an airplane into the sky on aviation fuel and decides to maintain its altitude with PMS? This sh*t beats me all the time.
Don’t alter the formula. Improve on it. A lot of great musicians have suffered and are still suffering for this mistake.
It had to be said.
Words by Obinna Agwu
Obinna Agwu, a guest contributor to Africa Music Law, is an avid music buff with years of experience in the burgeoning Nigerian Music industry. He has worked as an artiste manager and A&R in the past, for a number of Nigerian artistes including M.I, Eva Alordiah, Morell, and Rayce, amongst others. In 2012, he was appointed A&R Manager for Trybe Records. He now works as an A&R executive with a music talent development company in Nigeria. You can follow him on twitter at @d_angrymob.
NOTE:The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Africa Music Law or its founder.
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