Skales is more man of the moment than Man of the year
Few debut albums have been as long in the works as Skales’. Since signing with Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) in 2009, the artiste, born Raoul John Njeng-Njeng has struggled to achieve the kind of success that came almost naturally to his former comrade in arms Wizkid. The lowlights of his unfruitful spell at EME are common knowledge for pop culture enthusiasts but none more conspicuous than his inability to record a solo album in all that time.
After he was put out of his EME misery, Skales scored his first hit single, Shake body in 2014. Like Iyanya before him, the need to recapture the commercial appeal of the breakout single has overwhelmed both he and his Baseline record label. The disc, Man of the year is the unfortunate evil fruit of this obsession.
Really it is hard to fault an artiste who chooses to rely on what worked the last time to stay atop the food chain, especially for someone like Skales who has had his stock as an artiste plummet so terribly in the past. For whatever you say about Iyanya and his seeming refusal to do any form of decent singing these days, it is the explosion of the incoherent but lovable Kukere that catapulted him onto the A-list and into this particular conversation.
Skales quickly abandons any promise he once showed of heading for a Grammy and goes the predictable formulaic route on Man of the year. For a while, he achieves some success and it seems as if audiences are in for a harmless, pleasurable ride.
After a forgettable and barely decipherable intro by Cool FM’s Do2DTun, the action swings instantly into the Burna Boy assisted I’m a winner, a joyous delight that manages to survive Skales’ opening lines, I don popular pass Jaja of Opobo/Them go regret cos dem one do me ojoro. He rallies soon enough with his rap verse in the final act. This quickly segues into Lo Le. It is produced by South Africa’s Uhuru so you have heard it before, more times than you care to recall but that doesn’t make it any easier to resist. This is obviously the club banger of the 22 track disc.
The first half of the album is the most pleasurable with other radio friendly treats like Always, Wonder and Ijo ayo (featuring guests Davido, Reekado Banks and Olamide respectively.) After this promising start, the disc quietly disintegrates as Skales and his team abandon rhyme and reason in their search for whatever has worked for every wannabe pop star in the past 2 years. The blatant lack of personality is off putting and further alienates listeners looking for a clue as to what Skales is about as an artiste or even as a person.
What he offers in place of distinguishing himself is a Kcee/Harry Song rip off, Whats up, a Sean Tizzle-lite Koleyewon and half-hearted dance hall jams like I’m for real and Naughty.
Man of the year reaches its nadir with unforgivable fluff like Swagger man (with Phyno and Ice Prince who have both never sounded worse on any record this year) and No condition (sporting a dismal use of auto tune). The torture continues almost non stop with the insipid Happy, the migraine inducing Your body hot and the regurgitative Another round. Actually, only the bravest will still be hanging around by this time. Things are so dire, even Chocolate City’s Victoria Kimani scores a touch down for the first time in a long while on OMG!
At this stage of his career, Skales is more occupied with singing than rapping and as such, it is a welcome surprise to discover the young Skales of old going at it so freely and eloquently on Fa ra we, as well as on the album outro, I Forget.
Production is handled by names like Spellz and DJ Coublon and Skales unsurprisingly does not make time for any of his former EME colleagues to appear as guest artistes. For the record, none of his Baseline records colleagues make the cut either. While the best middle finger wave would have been a show of undeniable good music, nothing on this record is indicative of an artiste looking beyond his five minutes of fame.
And maybe it is just as he planned it. Man of the year should be enough to send Skales to the A-list and keep the endorsement and concert dreams alive.
But the boastful title is quite misleading. Skales hasn’t done man of the year quality work on the record. Neither is he in the running for man of the season. At best, he can only hope for a more modest and fleeting title.
Perhaps a man of the moment.
The writer tweets from @drwill20