10 of the best: Olamide

Over the past five years, Olamide has become one of the most consistent performing acts in Nigeria. So that by the end of 2015, he was Nigeria's most watched artist on YouTube. 

Olamide is perhaps the most listened-to artist in Nigeria
Olamide is perhaps the most listened-to artist in Nigeria

All of his five albums—Rapsodi (2011), YBNL (2012), Baddest Guy Ever Liveth (2013), Street OT (2014), Eyan Mayweather (2015)—have met with some success. When the last one was released, it knocked off British popstar Adele from the number 1 spot on iTunes Nigeria.

With albums released every year since 2011, part of Olamide's formula for success has been the relentless release of music in mostly rap and pop genres. For the list which follows, only songs in the rap genre have been considered, with the exception of 'Melo Melo,' a unique item in the Bariga-bred rapper's catalogue.

While this list takes into account the indigenous nature of Olamide’s music, it also considers such aspects as lyrics, wordplay, rhyme and delivery, elements common to most songs in the hiphop genre.

10. Jesu O'kola (translation: Jesus has no tribal mark)

Produced by Pheelz, this song off Olamide’s sophomore album YBNL talks about succeeding despite not belonging to any group and sticking to indigenous rap. He even provides an early Nollywood reference: "Olamide ja won l'aya bi Karashika" (Olamide puts fear in them like ‘Karashika’—a horror film also alluded to by Falz.)

Aduke's accompanying vocals provide a mellifluous lift to the painstaking verses and gives it a polish absent on any other song on the album.

9. Sitting on the Throne

This is one of the high points of Olamide’s Baddest Guy Ever Liveth album. ‘Sitting on the Throne’ is a laid back song with almost no punch line or wordplay. Nevertheless, it is a defining song, with its pacific chorus providing a deathblow to people hoping for a beef between Olamide, MI and Reminisce. He says in the chorus: "Fuck what you've heard, everybody na king for him lane."

8. Rayban Abacha

Released as a single intended to be part of a street mixtape that never saw the light of day, ‘Rayban Abacha’ has a seamless thread of punchlines as first verse.

On it, Olamide holds onto the insularity of his Yoruba rap: "l'm running around getting dough...I don't care if you don't hear me though." Elsewhere he says, "I'm chopping chopping rappers, bimpe ewedu Ni m'on to."  (rough translation: I'm chopping rappers, like I'm separating leaves from their stalk.)

7. Anifowoshe

A partly biographical song that tells the story of the young rapper's childhood in the slums of Bariga where threats from landlords and extreme poverty forced him into finding himself. The song samples KWAM 1's eponymous song, and the video is enough to water one's eyes especially if one shares a similar rags to riches story.

Olamide captures his childhood suffering in the second verse where he goes: "Sorrows and tears ma fi mi se catwalk, won ma tun se high-five." (sorrows and tears played with me so much and even high-fived me afterwards.)

6. Hustle Loyalty Respect.

With the exception of ‘Local Rappers,’ ‘Hustle Loyalty Respect’, by Olamide and Reminisce make other collaborations between the two sound like child’s play. 

Olamide goes first: "Won Ni o je ka ni beef, beef is part of hiphop." (They say we should be rivals, rivalry is part of hiphop). Reminisce replies on the second verse, "O tu wa ninu video, mo ro pe e ni beef ni, attitude e yen da gan, iwa yi, gift ni." (You are appearing in his video. Shouldn't you be rivals? You must have a good attitude. Your character must be a gift."

5. Melo Melo

A melodious song about two lovers, ‘Melo Melo’ is Olamide's attempt at a love ballad, with a violin enveloping the song. This song lured Olamide-neutrals and scorners as much as it beguiled fans.

4. Voice of the Street (V.O.T.S)

This is one of the best songs on the YBNL album. It is more or less a pledge of allegiance to the streets. He addresses those who want him to rap more in English than Yoruba. He asks them "Se Lil Wayne gbo Yoruba?" (Does Lil' Wayne understand Yoruba?)

3. Eni Duro

The street anthem. This song, alongside its jaw-dropping street-themed video is what brought Olamide into prominence. ‘Eni Duro’ is a near five-minute song of completely unconnected yet rightly placed sentences. It is a self-acclamatory song that tries hard not to be bumptious.

2. Ilefo Illuminati (The swagger of an illuminati).

Olamide quotes KWAM1, the fuji artist he samples on 'Anifowoshe', and modifies Julius Caesar's "veni vedi vici", implying that he is going to be in the music scene for a long time, his swift rise notwithstanding. The song employs eerie, semi-occultic sounds similar to Jay Z's Onto the next One.

1. Young Erikina (Young Monster)

Tagged by some as the greatest Olamide song that never made it into an album. Young Erikina was released as a promo single following the success of Rapsodi. The eerie sounds which would become synonymous with some of his other rap songs are used here. There are references to Ishawuru and Ayamatanga, monster-like creatures from '90s Nigeria television. The rhyme on 'Young Erikina' is flawless, and at some point involves the use of three different languages in sequence.



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