Album Review: Believe – Sugarboy

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Up until November when he announced his departure, Kiss Daniel has been the flagship artiste for G-Worldwide, the trending record label fronted by Festus Ehimare (Emperor Geezy). Sugarboy has been a distant second. Believe, his debut record helps to explain the seeming disconnect between the two popstars who must have at some point in their careers, traded dreams of hitting the limelight.

Mr Daniel enjoyed an excellent if derivative run of hit singles (Woju, Laye) before landing with his debut, the stunning, New Era. Sugarboy hasn’t been that privileged. He scored a major hit, Hola Hola last year but that has been about it. Other notable outings have been on singles with Kiss Daniel or in house DJ Shabsy.

Believe was timed to ride the Hola Hola wave but subsequent singles, Dada Omo and Jofunmi failed to catch fire. Hardly surprising as there is nothing on the album that is quite as buoyant as that levitating single. And it appears in the album’s final act.

The idea is to discover the other twenty one tracks on display but no one ever needed that many tracks to sell a debut album. With Believe, Sugarboy appears to have been set up to fail as his particular brand of light reggae and dancehall isn’t quite as arresting and he lacks the presence- vocal or physical- to sustain interest in his brand.

He toes the label’s line of excluding external artistes from interfering with his sound. While this was a winning move for Kiss Daniel who came correct with the hits and with the easily marketable pop appeal, Sugarboy has proven a tougher nut to crack. Kiss Daniel returns the favor- Sugarboy was the sole guest on New Era– and while he gamely brightens up inferior material like Kilamity and Ekene, there is only so much that he can genuinely do.

It is up to Sugarboy to convincingly package and market his product but he isn’t quite ready for the big leagues. There is a pop career in his future, and the choice of material heavily reflects this, but he needs to go back to the drawing board to come up with something that isn’t the hackneyed, run off the mill afropop sound obtainable from two C-list studio rats.

Not that Sugarboy- born Umoren Akanimoh Felix- does not benefit from his label’s access to A-list beat makers. DJ Coublon who has made magic with Kiss Daniel over and over again contributes two entries, Neighbour and Dada Omo. While the latter is an improvement on the former, both songs are not reflective of DJ Coublon’s hit making or melody crafting abilities.

Young John, whose middle name should be get-up-and-dance rehashes his Mama formula for Seri Koko but Sugarboy cannot quite summon up the energy to make the song work. Beat Burx does the heavy lifting, present in fourteen tracks but Papi J and Tony Ross make contributions. Most of them are merely shrug inducing.

The songs that make up Believe are mostly mid-tempo snooze fests. They are feel good in approach but the finish is so basic that it requires a singer with an extra something to sell them. Sugarboy isn’t that singer. He isn’t quite ready for an album cycle and if the audience is to truly connect with his work beyond the occasional hit or assist, he needs to spend more time in artiste development.

With Mr Daniel’s departure, Sugarboy should be looking to step in as G-Worldwide’s numero uno. It is hard to believe he can pull it off.

Album Name: Believe
Artist: Sugarboy
Year: 2017
Tracks: 22

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Wilfred Okiche

Wilfred Okiche

Wilfred Okiche is a movie buff and music head. He is still waiting for that one record that will change his life and remains ever optimistic. You can follow him on Twitter @drwill20

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