The moment rappers Olamide and Phyno (please don’t call them local) dropped their seminal single, Ghost mode back in 2012, a collaborative album was considered a no-brainer, an idea that would take only a matter of time to come to fruition.
Their sizzling, boisterous chemistry, not happened upon on any rap song in recent times was so infectious, it powered Ghost mode to the top of every deejay’s playlist and on to the mouth of every music lover. One didn’t even need to understand the local dialects to appreciate Ghost mode’s hard edged, raw appeal. Olamide, boisterous, attacking with his could-care-less staccato barrage, delivered mostly in Yoruba, and Phyno, precision sharp and bursting at the seams, seductively making his case for mainstream Igbo hip hop.
On subsequent collaborations (Dope money, Aju, In my circle), both acts would attempt to replicate the magic of Ghost mode and continue to tease the mind blowing awesomeness of a joint studio album. A lot of wishes were granted when the disc, 2 Kings was announced as their first compilation effort. While awesome on paper, and in its somewhat cheeky title, the content of 2 Kings is in reality, less than mind blowing.
The disc sounds like a mix tape, at times, raw and unpolished technically, at other times, it plays like a made for the times slick pop/rap effort, complete with Wizkid collaboration. Said duet- it stars Olamide and Wizkid, absent Phyno- with pop music’s crown prince is easily the most commercial sounding song on the 10 track album. Olamide huffs and puffs and makes a lot of empty noises about conquering some lady while Wizkid makes the sound entirely danceable and ear wormy.
Another collaboration, Carry me go is striking only because once guest singer Stormrex shows up, both Olamide and Phyno are left floundering hopelessly. Olamide especially has nothing to say or do here and almost tanks the rest of the song if not for Stormrex’s obstinate efforts to give a decent account of herself.
But thankfully, the majority of the disc is about these 2 unlikely soulmates and their random back and forths alone are almost worth the price of admission. The album opener, Cypher has both acts trading barbs and punchlines. Co-produced by Pheelz (Olamide) and BBanks, it reminds audiences of sounds of days past and sets the stage for what is sure to follow on the record.
Both guys, now stars in their own rights do not necessarily have anything fresh to say on this disc, neither do they rejig old inclinations with fresh points of view. They talk the regular; about getting money, upgraded statuses, girls, fast cars, more money, haters, more girls…you get the drift.
In the midst of the noise, Phyno churns out a stellar performance in God be with us while Olamide’s mentee, Lil Kesh pulls off something similar but naughty in the rambunctious shoki inspired Ladi. For the most part, Olamide coasts along adequately, never slipping into total disaster territory but also never attempting to do better than the basics. For a necessary appreciation of his talents as rapper and hit maker, this disc definitely isn’t the place to search.
Which is unfair really. That these two torchbearers of indigenous rap, coming off the peak of their popular appeal would come together to put out a record without a palpable theme or inspiration and fritter away an opportunity this project should have presented.
2 Kings plays like it was recorded separately with songs independent of the other, only for both acts to attempt a patchy, melding job after receiving a lucrative offer. As the album follow up to Ghost mode, it barely scores and does not even bother living up to that single’s stridently superior standards. But put side by side among whatever else is out there, the bar is instantly lowered and 2 Kings begins to sound like it is hot stuff.
It could (and should) have been hotter.
– Wilfred Okiche