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“Realness Over Hype” Review: Victor AD Reinforces Himself as a Sonic Conveyor of Hope

“Realness Over Hype” Review: Victor AD Reinforces Himself as a Sonic Conveyor of Hope

Realness Over Hype - Victor AD - review - Afrocritik

With a focused sense of storytelling, the album is like a memoir  inviting us into Victor AD’s world…

By Abioye Damilare Samson

Six years before the release of his latest album, Realness Over Hype, Victor AD popped on the radar with his breakthrough single, “Wetin We Gain” where he infused his grief and aspirations over a backdrop of mellow vibe and soft-hitting synths beat tagged ‘Pon Pon’ sound: the de rigueur instrumental for most Nigerian artistes during that period.

“Wetin We Gain” was everywhere. Far from sounding hyperbolic, one could barely walk a road in Nigeria and not hear Victor AD’s voice pleading to God; entreating to not be forgotten, craving for the type of wealth that competes with Dangote’s and enriches him to buy a Benz. As one of the most critically acclaimed songs of 2018, it sparked polarised conversations. The responses to the song broadly fell into two camps of listeners: first, those who criticised the lofty lyrics and believed that it encouraged fraudulent criminals; and those, like myself, who took it as a ghetto gospel, an inspiration to “hustle hard” — the Nigerian buzzword for working hard. 

After the success of the hit track, with nods in three categories at the 2019 Headies Awards — Best Pop Single, Next Rated, and Song of the Year—Victor AD released “Tire You”, a song that employed a similar sonic palette of his hit track and featured Davido. Five years later, with a catalogue filled with singles, collaborations and projects such as Red Eye — the debut album released in 2019 — and  Nothing to Prove EP released in 2021, his sophomore studio album,  Realness Over Hype arrives at the moment when the music industry yearns for a new style of artistry in music composition and delivery. The album cover pictures Victor AD seated at a centre with red beads around his neck, amidst individuals of varying ages, all dressed in native attire. His posture exudes confidence as the picture pays homage to his roots, being from the southern Delta State. Comprising a total of 14 tracks, Realness Over Hype showcases collaborations with 2Baba, Mayokun, Bella Shmurda, Joshua Adere, Kelvyn Boy, and Selez.

Realness Over Hype - Victor AD - review - Afrocritik
Realness Over Hype album cover

One thing is true; Victor AD makes music for people grappling with life challenges, offering hope as sonic balm, and faith in God as the ultimate path to comfort.  The titular track opener, “Realness Over Hype”, sets the tone for the album with his signature theme of pleading to God.  It opens with the angelic choral voice before his voice is ushered in accompanied by a violin sound, “Olorun let me live the kind of life that I’m meant to live”, he sings.

“See God”, which follows, is a slow mid-tempo heartfelt tune.  Featuring 2Baba, Victor AD penned and composed this track a decade ago. There’s no flaw in the delivery on this track. Despite being a slow mid-tempo tune, it maintains a steady arrangement that keeps one engaged while allowing the message to sink in. His brilliant lyricism, which advocates for patience in the most poetic way, is delivered with just enough rhythm to keep it animated. 

The album gets groovy with the log drum-laced “Billion Dollar”. It has a bouncy Amapiano tune enlivened by its catchy chorus,  “One billion dollar, one billion dollar for my hand, transaction plenty, transaction plenty for my hand” and the flute sound that shines through — just enough of everything  to pull you  to the dance floor. 

The lush ditty “Your Heart” kickstarts with soft guitar riffs, soon joined by an enchanting saxophone intro. He injects the love ballad with passionate lyricism, declaring boldly, “I have been around the world, all I want is your heart”. Victor AD recruits Joshua Adere on the sultry track, “Again”. The sincerity in Joshua Adere’s voice and Victor AD’s desire for a chance to prove himself makes for an emotional listen. He shares the love story of a lady whom he’s involved with in what seems like a toxic relationship. “She gives me migraine, she gives me joy”, he sings in Nigerian Pidgin over a fast-paced reggae-fusion beat. 

He samples Oritsafemi and The Junglist’s Galala song,  “Eye Don Clear” on the pre-released “Eye Clear” and taps Bella Shmurda as a guest artiste. On another pre-released song, “Simple Life”, the singer  urges listeners to find joy in life’s simple pleasures, even amidst its countless tribulations. He teams up with Kelvyn Boy on “Person Daughter” to serenade a lady named Anita. There is a stunning feature with one of Nigerian most captivating artiste, Mayorkun, on the Amapiano-tinged track, “Owo Lo Se” where Mayokun, with his quick wit and melodious inputs spotlight the song. On the slow but emotional tune “Celebrate”, Victor AD pays homage to God, with the chorus emphasising gratitude in appreciating God in every circumstance.

Victor ADs Picture 1 jpg
Victor AD

As an artiste helmed with the passion to make music for optimistic people, he collaborates with Selez on the Reggae song, “Victorious”. Both artistes preach the message of hope; “I’m gonna be victorious, I’m coming for those things they said I couldn’t get”, Victor AD sings in the chorus. It’s an uplifting rhythm that begs for skanking on the dancefloor. “Holy Water” is cut from the same cloth that made “Wetin We Gain” with its lyrics. However, unlike the lofty dreams listed in the latter, the former focuses more on the realities of life struggles such as the burdens of Black tax and its impact.

“MIDF (Na Money I Dey Find)”, the closing track, starts with a voice record of a man praying to God. Victor AD delivers like a closing event, drawing the curtains with ad-libs. The track sees the singer floating over soft guitar strumming and mid-tempo drumbeats. The song captures the essence of hustling, portraying the relentless pursuit of financial stability and the struggles faced by individuals who lack support system. “Na money we dey find oh, Person wey no get helper, Don dey give light to NEPA,” he sings.

Realness Over Hype - Victor AD - review - Afrocritik
Victor AD

Realness Over Hype is a feast of seemingly different genres — Afrobeats, Dancehall, Reggae, and Afro-pop — that sit well alongside  each other. With a focused sense of storytelling, the album is like a memoir, inviting us into Victor AD’s world: it’s like listening to him during a late evening at the beach with close friends as he chats about life struggles, doling out stories of love and pains, and basking in the joy of his faith in God. 

With Realness Over Hype, Victor AD affirms himself as the sonic messenger of hope, and as he continues to make music that earmarks him as a poster boy for representing the pain of the average Nigerian, I say, long may the dream continue.

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Lyricism – 2.0

Tracklisting – 1.0

Sound Engineering – 1.5

Vocalisation – 1.8

Listening Experience – 1.5

Rating – 7.8/10

Abioye Damilare is a music journalist and culture writer focused on the African entertainment Industry. Reading new publications and listening to music are two of his favourite pastimes when he is not writing. Connect with him on Twitter and IG: @Dreyschronicle.

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