By Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera
Rudeboy’s first solo album begins with a track titled “Nowhere To Go” but by the time the LP runs its course, we find that he is anything but directionless; his debut offering is a musical project that rides on a deliberate trajectory.
We also find that it is a project which attempts to blend old sonics into today’s music. Titled Rudykillus, the title hints at his desire to “launch an artistic onslaught that would be lethal to the senses”. Expectations for the record were not necessarily above the roof, but a minimum standard was expected nonetheless: as one half of the (defunct) P-Square duo, Rudeboy, real name Paul Okoye, had taken on much of the singing, and was rumoured to have done much of the songwriting too. In any case, since the duo split in early 2017, he has managed to score a number of hit singles, including “Audio Money” and “Reason With Me”, the latter of which has been streamed 113 million times on YouTube.
With a running time of 57 minutes, this 15-track LP is a little longer than most modern Nigerian albums, which usually feature songs that are shorter than three minutes, primarily for the sake of streaming algorithms.
The first four songs on the record – “Nowhere To Go”, “Ayoyo”, “Focus” and “Ego N’ekwu” – dwell on romance, money, and adulation of feminine beauty, in the manner of P-Square classics like “Beautiful Onyinye” and “Ifunanya”. Rendered in Igbo, “Ego N’Ekwu” in particular runs with a melody that is really infectious, and it could feature in Igbo traditional weddings in the coming months.
On the songs that follow – “Fall in Love”, “Something Must Kill A Man” and “Ihen’eme” – Rudeboy attempts (successfully) to infuse reggae into the prevailing rhythm while crooning lyrics that address the themes of love, lust, and the supernatural. His ingenuity is evident in the sampling of an old gospel song on “Ihe n’eme,” while fiddling with drums that hint at old reggae tunes.
“Audio Money”, “Reason with Me” and “Woman” – three previously released songs – reappear on the album as bonus tracks. The rhythm in “Audio Money” and the catharsis evoked by “Reason with Me” mean that both songs stand out as tracks that hold their weight, and are not just mere appendages to a larger body of work. They provide a befitting close for the album and certainly make it more listenable.
Rudykillus is good music in the sense that Rudeboy whips up enjoyable tracks. In terms of artistic innovation, however, he brings nothing exactly refreshing. Perhaps, he is sticking to his guns, which is okay, but great art rarely plays it safe. Having been the “singer” for P-Square, it was only natural that Rudeboy inherited the duo’s signature pop and dancehall sound. On Rudykillus, he recreates this sound, and the result is a pretty good melodic experiment. However, the record struggles to match the musicality of Game Over or the adventurousness of Invasion. In the end, nothing new is birthed.
The album is fated to achieve commercial success to a good degree, partly because of the inherited fan base and partly because of the target audience. The songs in this LP will be widely played in traditional marriages across the country, and during the festive season in December when people head to their hometowns for the holidays.
Rudykillus is by no means a poor album, but it is largely formulaic, and places too much reliance on the dexterity of its producers and sound engineers. It fails to serve up any sort of novelty, but it is entertaining nonetheless. We will have to wait for further projects to see if Rudeboy will pull something more spectacular than this.
Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera is a writer and freelance journalist. You can reach him at Chukwuderamichael@gmail.com