Bully Season Vol.1 is emblematic of a vocalist near the beginning of their journey. It’s an entertaining experience while it is on, but it does little to ask you to hit replay…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Most people might not instantly recognise the name Udoma Peter Kelvin Amba. And that wouldn’t come as a surprise. If I were to say Kel-P instead, I would expect their eyes to light up with recognition at the mention of the Grammy-award winning producer’s moniker. Subsequently, if I informed you that he released an EP recently, this might come as no surprise considering he is known for his prolific output. What might come as a surprise is the fact that Bully Season Vol. 1displays a new facet of Kel-P’s talents: his singing.
Kel-P seems to be the latest producer to cross into the booth as a vocalist, following the example of Maleek Berry, Tekno, Don Jazzy, Young Jonn, Pheelz, and the likes. Even more startling is the realisation that Kel-P is scarcely credited as a producer across Bully Season Vol.1, rather outsourcing majority of the production duties to Krizbeatz, Iotosh, KDAGREAT, London, and Northboi. This gives the impression that Kel-P was prepared to focus fully on his role as the vocalist.
The EP kicks off strongly with the light, bright guitar riffs of “Tropicana Baby.” Kel-P’s rich tenor fills out the airy ambience of the instrumental. The instrumental is completed by powerful Afroswing drums and a rumbling bassline. Kel-P’s delivery comes right out of a box of Afropop staples. You can hear a number of influences drawn from the artistes he has worked with, such as the evident Burna Boy-esque cadence with which he expresses, “I don’t mind settling, don’t mind settling…” The lyrical content is also as genre-typical, which means there’s nothing wrong with it but there’s also not much unique to latch on to.
“Sundress” doesn’t raise my expectations much as it starts. The initial off-kilter syncopations and Reggae bassline don’t seem to gel very well off the bat. However, as we get to the chorus, the deep sliding 808s and lively guitars tie the beat together. The chorus is also ushered in by a high note that is followed by surprisingly strong singing. The whole song has a slight Dancehall inflection that Kel-P seems comfortable delivering along. The melodies he employs outside of the chorus are straightforward but they work perfectly for what the song is doing. Once again, the lyrics don’t particularly stand out in any regard and are simply vehicles for the melodies on the song.
“One More Night” was the lead single released ahead of the EP. It begins with a sample that pays homage to Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s 2002 hit, “Dilemma.” It then transitions right into another Dancehall-slanted passage, built on simple drums and a steady bassline. Sparse guitars fill out the sensual soundscape for some sweet vocals. The chorus adds a pounding 808 bass to the mix under an admittedly catchy hook. The chorus melody is smooth and ends on a delectable falsetto. I also notice a single harmony line in the background which makes it evident how little Kel-P has used harmonisation up to this point. Perhaps he has not yet unlocked that in his artistry, or he is not inclined towards it as an artistic choice. Beyond the chorus, there’s a noticeably distracting amount of auto-tune pitch correction on Kel-P’s vocals. It can be quite distracting especially on the passages that don’t seem so melodically challenging. The song ends on a nice note with some smooth oohs and ahs over the bouncy instrumental.
London graces “True Love” with his magic touch, providing a smooth two-chord progression with soft keys, a sporadic sub bass line, and steady Afrobeat triplet drums. Kel-P dons his emotional hat with the lyrics and melodies here. There is even a stronger commitment to rounding out the sonic space with myriad harmony lines. While I’m not sure what exactly I expect from Kel-P, I constantly feel underwhelmed by the lyrical content. I think he relies so much on tried and tested lyrics and melodies that it ends up feeling very been-there-done-that even though he’s technically a novel artist. In spite of that, the song does sound sweet and is an effective Afrobeats love song featuring strong singing, a lovely hook, and good deliveries.
“Feel Lucky” concludes Bully Season Vol. 1 on an encouraging note. The instrumental has a unique bounce with buttery keys and understated drums. Kel-P responds to those with adaptive deliveries, switching from softly sung passages to fast-delivered Yoruba sections, and then incorporating Dancehall-like energies as well. There are a few more instances of distracting autotune, but the song is well-rounded and wonderfully constructed. Across the EP, this is the song I think gives the strongest inkling of the uniqueness Kel-P can offer as an artiste.
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Bully Season Vol.1 is emblematic of a vocalist near the beginning of their journey. Kel P has a strong ear for music as evidenced by his stellar career as a producer. He has also worked with many of the best talents that the African music scene and the Afrobeats world have to offer. It is evident that he has picked up a number of things from the people around him; however, he also has to put in his own figurative 10,000 hours as a vocalist. His pedigree affords him the very best of production, and the instrumentals on the EP are all top-of-the-line. And while there are a few credited writers across the project, Kel-P needs to develop his own sound and stylistic voice if he is to carve out a niche for himself as an artiste, similar to what he has achieved as a producer.
My biggest disappointment with Bully Season Vol.1 is the general sense of averageness or genericness on display in the lyrical and melodic departments. There were very few moments that were gripping or memorable in that respect; meaning that while Bully Season Vol.1 is a pleasant project to listen to, it doesn’t quite sink its hooks into the listener or make a big enough mark to have a lasting impact. It’s an entertaining experience while it is on, but it does little to ask you to hit replay.
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1.3
Sound Engineering – 1.4
Vocalisation – 1.4
Listening Experience – 1.4
Rating – 6.5/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.