When Lil Kesh prostrated before Olamide at the 2015 Headies after Adekunle Gold received an award, many watchers were surprised. Do other youngsters accord their label bosses such adoration? The question remains even as Don Jazzy came on stage to call his new generation stars "children". That night ended with Reekado Banks from Don Jazzy's camp winning the Next Rated category, sparking controversy. That award, it was claimed by many including Olamide, belonged to Lil Kesh.
Weeks later and Lil Kesh's album proves just how much influence Olamide has over him. Look at the album titles, acronyms: Olamide has 2012's YBNL (Yahoo Boy No Laptop) and 2013's BGEL (Baddest Guy Ever Liveth); Lil Kesh has YAGI. And the first song ‘FSU (F**k S**T Up)’ has elements of the dark aesthetic Olamide employed early in his career.
Overall on YAGI, Lil Kesh, who is the son of a pastor, does something that must have been difficult considering his reputation acquired over the last two years which saw the release of the songs 'Efejoku' and the non-album singles 'Shoki' and 'Gbese'. He avoids using lewd lyrics. Not entirely. On the album's ninth song ‘Itunmo’ he says, "If I catch your girlfriends, gbogbo won lo ma latan gan.” [If I get your girlfriends, they'll all spread their legs] Four songs later he adds, "Girlfriend e to seju Simi, mo so fun ko bend over" [Your girlfriend is giving me the eye. I told her to bend over] on ‘Cause Trouble Pt 2’ featuring American-Nigerian rapper Wale. His promise of releasing "positive" songs is at least partly fulfilled.
Although Kesh would love to call YAGI a rap album, which it should be, it is a confusing one. What with all the singing. Lil Kesh may now be ubiquitous, but his rap technique is trapped in prepubescence. This manifests not just in his hurried eliding bars (something that shouldn't be confused with speed), but also in the abruptness with which he arrives at the end of his verses. There's almost no finality before the choruses come in.
His rhyming is average; the album yields only a few memorable lines, the best of which is, "Omo'ta ton wo Tom Ford." Lil Kesh's first song, ‘Lyrically’, has more punchlines than the YAGI album. Albums (especially debuts) have made youngsters either famous or more famous but for Lil Kesh who already has fame, it is unlikely that YAGI would convert new listeners. The album provides those who sneer at the current success of rappers who use Nigerian languages ("Local rappers" that is) with a perfect retort: Making money doesn't equal making sense.
One would have thought that following his decent performances on Olamide's 2015 album Street OT, YAGI would be a joy to listen to repeatedly, but the young rapper appears to have choked under the pressure of the public's anticipation, failing to exploit his obvious rap talent fully.
Olamide's gift as an artist may be in understanding what the market wants, and he might have helped Kesh achieve that pre-YAGI. On the the album itself, his magic dusts doesn't quite settle. Even if his magic may have worked, Olamide has shown a managerial inadequacy in releasing two singles of his own. Both songs have partly eclipsed his protégé's album. This is perhaps why artists at the peak of their careers shouldn't have signees, especially signees competing for the same audience. In releasing 'Abule Sowo' and 'Who you Epp', just around his protege's debut album release, Olamide has probably failed as an executive.
YAGI isn't a bad album. And were it not for the events that preceded its release, it might be said to be satisfactory. But now the album isn't satisfactory, so the unofficial contest is Reekado Banks' to lose. When he gets around to releasing his own debut album, Mr Banks will need to prove that yes, the Headies were right. Lil Kesh has made his task easy by half.