As with most tracks on the album, Davolee delves into themes of devotion and reliance on God, which sometimes comes off as monotonous…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
Long before “Afro-Adura” – a subgenre within Afrobeats – was christened, there was the Afro-Adura star, Davolee, who straddled in this music genre. He first gained prominence as a protégé of the Nigerian rapper and record label founder, Olamide, who was signed to YBNL Records. The success of his Afro-Adura-leaning tracks bestowed on him a seeming leadership role, catching the attention of young listeners who enjoy his pleasurable tunes as he confronts street struggles through his lyricism. His songs were like a light in the dark, with striving hard and making money as a dominant theme. Na My Shoe I Buckle, his sophomore album, also explores this arch, continuing Davolee’s unchanging narrative.
Davolee has since been known, albeit by a few like myself, as a boisterous storyteller. His ingenuity could easily pass him off as a distant cousin to the likes of talented rappers and storytellers such as Nas and J.Cole. The Nigerian-born rapper, singer, and label executive of Davolee Music Records has had an arduous journey in the music industry. Born in the Isolo, Lagos, Davolee’s unpleasant upbringing formed the bedrock of some of his songs, fragments of which are scattered on Festival Bar (1-4), his freestyles released between 2016 and 2022. These tracks narrate his experiences and how the outcomes have shaped him, up until meeting with Olamide.
Davolee’s time with YBNL Records failed to bring a desirable outcome with his relationship with the label suffering as his tracks were scrapped from the 2018 YBNL Mafia Family album. He took his destiny into his own hands by independently releasing his single, “Way” the same year. Two albums and an extended play later, the tireless freestyle artiste enters the music scene again, showing listeners that there is more to his artistry than rhyming into the microphone. Na My Shoe I Buckle is his strategic return to the spotlight. The project’s title also raises the curiosity of intending listeners, even as it has little to do with the content of the album.
The album opens with “Banu So”, a poignant track that delivers Davolee’s trademark style. Over a mid-piano chord, Davolee sings about the relatable plights of those who live in the ghetto, particularly the young adult demography. He urges listeners to put their hope in God. As with most tracks on the album, Davolee delves into themes of devotion and reliance on God, which sometimes comes off as monotonous. It is difficult to fault this, however, as he sings for a demography that finds solace in such orations.
“You can’t get my attention before the bank alert”, Davolee sings on the mid-tempo second track “Bank Alert”. His vulnerability is revealed as he sings about his childhood and his relationship with money. These themes are difficult to ignore, offering a platform for him to share relatable stories about his upbringing.
“Change Moni”, which comes next, is a heartfelt rendition that finds the singer highlighting the essence of money in man’s pursuit of relationship or love. The track is laid on mid-strings, drums, and snares. The humour-filled song finds Davolee singing about his nonchalance towards love and relationships. “Change Noni” firmly takes the spotlight on this album. With a cultivated level of charisma and catchiness, he spotlights the reason money takes precedence in his life.
“I Pray” boasts of a smooth snare, kicks, and drums, as the artiste exceeds expectations with a slick singing flow; a street sermon, and an odd revelation about drug use. Davolee has always been open about his drug use, and in this song, he reveals his battle with drugs while urging the listeners to seek solace in God.
On “Black Jesus”, we finally hear the title of the album in the song intro: “Tori Olorun, shebi na my shoe I buckle”. Davolee bounces between fanfare and speaker-shredding log drums as he seeks God’s protection and guidance on his journey. The artiste is more composed on this song, and we can hear lyrics that are sequentially arranged. The hook is sunny, they provide the impetus for Davolee’s two verses. “Asawo”, is emblematic of the singer’s artistic growth. The track finds the artiste reflecting on his consistency, his many tribulations, and his determination to never be deterred by them.
Otega, a street-hop artiste and a fellow street disciple, firmly makes a spectacular appearance on “Fun For Love”. The song highlights the fickleness of the streets, as they express the need to overcome challenges in life. Following on with their recently released “Locked Up“, Davolee, again, links up with Zanku rapper, Zlatan Ibile, on the replayable, Amapiano-drenched “West Africa Time.” The track is built on a log drum, snares, and kicks, as both artistes sing about their plight. The backup singers contribute little to the song, and their lethargic input is at best a distraction.
Another equally addictive song on this album is the Amapiano-spiced, party-themed track, “4Million Places”. Beyond the faux American accent on this track, it is a commendable attempt by Davolee at creating a party track. There is also the “Back”, spiced by Lemon Adisa-serenading, sultry vocals and Olafaya’s technically impressive pen game, which finds the featured artistes mouthing about their sexual prowess.
The title aside, Na My Shoe I Buckle contains songs that are arguably difficult to ignore. The tracks come off as songs Davolee recorded two years ago. It is also evident that there was a lack of proper planning in creating this project, as money and hustle remain the dominant topics on this album and this sometimes makes the project tiring to listen to. Davolee attempts to spice things up with backup singers, but this effort falls flatly, as these singers’ renderings are delivered lazily. The featured artistes are also deliberately kept short, offering Davolee enough solo shining moments on eight tracks out of the eleven tracks on this project. Still, Na My Shoe I Buckle, as an Amapiano-devoted project with the log drum to the kicks and more, is enjoyable, especially as Davolee relies heavily on the South Africa subgenre to create this album.
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 2
Vocalisation – 1
Listening Experience – 1
Rating – 6/10
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s most prolific freelance music critic. He has over 600 album reviews in his archive.