Asake walked so Seyi Vibez could run, and while Seyi Vibez is not exactly moving at the same pace as Asake, he is not lagging far behind, either…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Seyi Vibez is a relatively new voice on the block. His rise to prominence began around 2019, and he’s been providing a steady stream of singles since then. In a bid to stamp himself firmly in the mainstream, he recently unveiled his second official album, Billion Dollar Baby, which shot to the top of Apple Music’s album charts.
Typically referred to as a Street-Hop artiste, Seyi Vibez strikes me more as an Afro-Fusion act. It just so happened that the instrumentals he frequently performed over were tinged with touches of Hip-Hop and various other genres. The talented singer and songwriter displays his vocal adaptability in spades on the album.
The project begins with the title track, “Billion Dollar Baby,” a reflective cut built on soft keys and emotive saxophone passages. Seyi Vibez espouses introspective thoughts about his journey so far, saying, “I no fit hear all the haters talk, ‘Cause I’m writing songs all night long, Say the young G getting too lit, Never let the fame get into me.” The moving chorus is fortified by rousing choral backing vocals and whistling flutes. The song serves as a fitting intro track, setting the tone for the rest of the album and immersing the listener in the world and story about to be unveiled. The heartfelt delivery communicates clearly, even through vocals that I feel have been processed a bit too thickly. The autotune and high-pitched vocals are becoming typical of Afro-Fusion artistes in this ilk, but they are a bit too conspicuous in the mix here.
The next song is “Darling,” which finds Seyi Vibez singing slightly cliché lyrics at his eponymous darling. “You high pass palmi, God bless your mummy for this your body, I want to lavish all my money, on top your body,” he sings sweetly over an instrumental that comes across a bit bare-bones. It has a simple drum pattern that gets repetitive, and these sit atop lacklustre pad chords and synthetic brass lines. Simi makes an appearance as a featured artist and her sugary vocals add a certain spice to the song as she always seems to. However, her verse is also a bit lacking in the lyrical department, relying on genre staples like “Me ride for you, Me no lie for you oh baby, Whenever you need me oh baby, Sh’o ma pe mi.”Seyi Vibezutilises more group vocals in the song’s outro, and I find them tastefully done. They seem to be a strength of his style and he uses them effectively.
This is evident in the next song, “Ife.” The group vocals interspersed in both verses and the beginning of the chorus are extremely warm and endearing. The chorus features an interpolation of the Yoruba song, “Eji Owuro,” (made popular by Sola Allyson) which makes it quite endearing. Unfortunately, the second half of the chorus is dragged down by the high-pitched vocals employed. They can be a tad grating. Thankfully, the song as a whole retains its sweetness. The instrumental is soft yet energetic, featuring rattling shakers, Amapiano log drums and a wailing violin melody. Another strength Seyi Vibez demonstrates on this song and throughout the album is the way he incorporates additional vocals. The backgrounds of the songs are littered with sonorous harmonies and soulful adlibs. Seyi Vibez seems to be in a similar stylistic lane as Asake, combining influences from Amapiano, Fuji, Street-Hop, and Afrobeats.
“Saro” follows in the same footsteps, sprinkling Amapiano log drums on a mostly Afrobeats instrumental. The song is awash with saxophone passages that sometimes clash and get a bit muddled. Seyi Vibez speaks on his life and struggles, with a recurring female voice backing him up beautifully. “Let my troubles go, o di’bga, Them ah ask ‘How I take survive?,’ But I tell them ‘Aye l’oja.’ Who notice if I no dey online?” they sing with palpable earnestness. Seyi Vibez is able to infuse a lot of emotion and sincerity in his voice and delivery. This effect is enhanced each time he is backed up by multiple voices like on the brilliant hook of this song.
The way “Chance” begins is sure to draw comparisons with Asake’s “Organise” with its Fuji-inspired chanting. In fact, this song is heavily soaked in Fuji influences. The melodic aspects of the instrumental are minimal and make room for the vocals to provide majority of the driving rhythm. The singing is almost exclusively in Yoruba and has that almost-improvised free-flowing sing-chanting that is typical of Fuji songs. And just to top it off, there is a healthy smattering of Amapiano drums and layered percussions. The sparse instrumentals melt into the background and allow the listener to really pay attention to Seyi Vibez. Closer listen might reveal certain elements that don’t quite mesh too well, but it is unlikely many would hear that beneath Seyi Vibez’s captivating delivery.
“As I dey work, fun mi l’owo bi billion dollars,” Seyi implores on “Billion Dollar,” a track that was released as a single preceding the album. He keenly looks towards a brighter future for himself over another warm solemn Amapiano-infused instrumental. While I am sure Yoruba speakers will uncover a lot of relatable and poignant gems in Seyi Vibez’s lyrics, a surprising quality of his work is his ability to communicate his emotion and feeling to the listener, even if they are unable to directly understand the words he is singing. That is a rare skill.
“Bullion Van” is another prosperity anthem on which Seyi Vibez and his stellar backup singers pray, “Bullion van, bullion van. Make my money pass bullion van, bullion van.” The song contains a number of clever writing moments, including a riff on Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy” and even some French lyrics. My only gripe with the song is that sometimes the drums have a tendency to sound a bit scattered and discordant.
“Gangsta” puts a pause on the Amapiano instrumentals and takes a stab at Afroswing. The simple drum pattern bounces over sparse chords. Even though the song takes a slower and softer direction, Seyi Vibez still calls on his massive arrangement of backing vocals, but this is one instance where it doesn’t quite work. They end up overpowering the instrumental in some places, and the song feels unbalanced as a result. The lyrics tell us the song intends to be romantic: “Bawo n mosheyshee I don fall in love, Ghetto boy like me don dey fall in love, Love of my life, afi wo nikan.” Yet, this sense of romance gets lost in the delivery.
The pace picks up again on “+234,” an energetic and lively tune centred on enjoying one’s life. “O por o por o por o por, Make I chop life on a low, sh’omo,” Seyi Vibez croons with the assistance of his backup choir. The song is short but bright and enjoyable. It also sees Seyi Vibez begin with a very different delivery from what he has used thus far. It is deeper, slower, more relaxed and more suave. The high-pitched vocals sound much more fitting here and provide interesting contrast. The instrumental is straightforward but still manages to be delightful.
The tenth song is titled “Ten,” seemingly because it’s the tenth song, as it doesn’t seem to correlate much with the theme of the song. Mayorkun handles the chorus with deftness, reminding the listener to give thanks to the Almighty in every situation. He also adds a bit of extra flavour as he backs Seyi Vibez with harmonies and adlibs. While the song is topically quite unfocused, it is still an inviting listen due to the vocal performances and the interesting instrumental. Mayorkun’s silky voice glides easily over the glossy chords and sliding 808s.
The album rounds off with “Bank of America,” bringing us firmly back into Amapiano territory. This is where Seyi Vibez is at his best; embodying his emotions over Amapiano-adjacent instrumentals with his backing posse in tow. This upbeat hopeful prosperity anthem will get feet moving and heads bopping. The lyrics are succinct and catchy, the melodies are memorable and snappy, and the instrumental is vibrant and buoyant. The delivery is the icing on the sonic cake, making this a very strong note to close the album on.
It would be easy to regard Billion Dollar Baby as an album simply intended to capitalise on the recent proliferation of the Amapiano sound and Asake’s success mixing it with Fuji and Afrobeats. However, doing so would be reductive and would be doing disservice to the very intentional and congruous artistry Seyi Vibez presents. Admittedly, Billion Dollar Baby takes a different sonic direction to his previous work but the building blocks were already in development. As a relatively new artiste, Seyi Vibez is still in the stage where development comes hand-in-hand with experimentation. On this album, he has found a conducive vessel for his unique gruff voice and simplified lyricism.
The album is exceptionally cohesive. The songs all sound related to each other. Sometimes they bleed slightly into each other and may require a bit more variation, but they form a strong collection. There is room for improvement in terms of the engineering. Some of the vocals sound over-processed, and some of the mixes feel a bit unbalanced. Nonetheless, the power and emotion packed into the delivery, the group vocals, the harmonies, and the chants shine through and connect with the listener. I think Seyi Vibez has identified his niche. Hopefully, more time and experience will smoothen out some of the rougher edges. For now, I don’t think he will fully be able to shake the Asake comparisons, but this is typically the case when new styles are being explored. Asake walked so Seyi Vibez could run, and while Seyi Vibez is not exactly moving at the same pace as Asake, he is not lagging far behind, either. I hope Seyi Vibezcontinues to inject his uniqueness into his sound. Who knows just how far he can go then.
Lyricism – 1.2
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 1.5
Listening Experience – 1.3
Rating – 6/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.