Legend Or No Legend might not be up to Mushin 2 Mo Hits. That era may be gone for good. Wande Coal seems to have moved beyond that success, and he seems to see no need trying to replicate that epic cultural moment…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
The definition of Wande Coal leans on varied factors. One is the age of the respondent, and another depends on how versatile they are with the Nigerian music industry. However, the consensus is that Wande Coal is a legend, or something close. This conversation has been on the rise in the last two years. There have been Twitter trends to that effect, and even Coal was forced to join the conversation. Legend Or No Legend, the title of his third album, now serves as a poser.
Wande Coal, born close to four decades ago, is one of the artistes who laid the blueprint for the modern Nigerian music industry. His debut 2009 album, Mushin 2 Mo’ Hits, changed his life, as well as the Nigerian music industry. He would inspire many artistes with that album, too. Olamide, Fireboy, and Oxlade are some of those that have confessed how the album inspired them.
Sophomore slump is a tag every artiste tries to run from, and only a few have been able to avoid falling into its deep hole. Wande Coal seemed to be one of the unlucky ones. His 2015 follow-up album, Wanted, didn’t quite live up to expectations, nor could it touch the helm of Mushin 2 Mo’ Hits. So many factors were responsible for this: Wande Coal was no longer with Mo’ Hits by the time he released this album, the break between the album release was too long, and creatively, he was not in his best form. Wanted was rushed and lacked cohesiveness. Wande Coal only wanted to release an album, perhaps to prove a point. The points were highly noted.
Realms, his 2020 extended play failed to shore up Wande Coal’s legacy. Highlighted by “Again,” yet there was nothing lofty about the body of work. Perhaps the pre-release singles were the impeding factors; five out of the seven songs on the project had been previously released.
The questions about Coal’s legacy began after the release of Wanted, and more essentially when his sonic ‘offsprings,’ like Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Fireboy started making international exploits and Wande Coal’s influence was restricted to Nigeria where he struggled to make a hit song.
The music industry knows Wande Coal created magic with M2M; but beyond the magic, what more? This question is what Legend Or No Legend tries to answer.
The first word you hear on this album is a production of Dunnie, the producer of “Nobody Holy.” Wande Coal skillfully kills more than one bird by starting this album with “Nobody Holy.” The song serves as an inspiration to the listeners as Wande Coal urges them to avoid hypocrisy. With a blasting horn, heavy drum, and boisterous guitar, Wande Coal makes a statement with this song. It registers. It’s so soulful that it’s hard to listen just once. “Nobody” is a sweet mix of Samba music and Afrobeat, and the female backup singers give off a Fela Kuti-esque aura. You might even mistake them for the Kalakuta Queens.
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The supremely catchy “Come My Way” sees Wande Coal putting his famous falsetto to good use. The song is flawlessly set, showing off the range Coal has acquired as a vocalist and songwriter over the years. This song ranks as the oldest on this album. “3 Square Meal” is a free-flowing track that spotlights Wande Coal’s journey to stardom. He shares the story of how he got out of bad situations. Let your eyes be on the money, he seems to sing.
Wande Coal detests disrespect. On the Kel-P-produced “E Choke,” Wande craves for money and honour. The flow and delivery shares similarity with “3 Square Meal.” “E Choke,” as a title is taken from the catchphrase popularised by singer, Davido. On this track, Wande Coal is in his element as he sings about his sonic exploits. He’s not scared to blow his trumpet.
“Let Them Know” is a love song that conveys Wande Coal’s yearning to keep his love life private. The lyrics are poetic and heartfelt and are sure to resound with listeners who have experienced the complexities of romantic relationships. Kel-P creates a blend of upbeat drums, smooth guitar riffs, and catchy melodies.
First teased in 2021, the T-Pain-assisted “Streets” is a sleek tribute to the streets with T-Pain and Wande Coal singing about their sonic prowess and acceptance in the streets. A glittering baseline highlights this song’s production.
“Kpe Paso” serves as a tribute to Fuji music maestro, Alhaji Wasiu Alabi Pasuma. With Olamide’s hazy vocals on the hook, Wande Coal provides two impeccable verses to complement the song. The triple entendre used in the opening verse: K’on ma bami so oh/Şebi mo ti so pe, k’on ma bami şe oh/Omo Paso ni mi gan, orobo ki bo oh/Won ti fę lo mu Pepsi mi, orobo ki bo oh,” is alluring to hear. Beyond the tribute, Wande Coal restates his legacy, artistic prowess, and street orientation on this song.
“Ebelebe” sounds like a typical Wizkid song. The slow hook, dreary lyrics, and dreamy flow all collapse to birth this track. This is their first song together since the 2011 “For Me.”
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Wande Coal basks in his euphoria on “Genesis.” The track is a mix of different genres, and a crafty way of showing his versatility. Fireboy, one of Wande Coal’s disciples, comes up on “Jabo.” Fireboy’s impeccable vocal delivery becomes the Yin to Coal’s Yang as they both sing about a woman who makes them go wild.
The penultimate track, “Sho Ma Gba,” is a freestyle that sees Wande singing about a myriad of issues, including love, life and people. “I Don’t Feel Love” takes us back to the quintessential Wande Coal. This track reminds me of the 2008 “Ololufe.” By ending Legend Or No Legend with “I Don’t Feel Love,” Wande Coal might have just given the listeners a glimpse of the battle he has been facing.
The question of Wande Coal’s legendary status seems to have been settled, even before the release of this album. With Legend Or No Legend, he simply puts things in proper perspective. He’s a legend, and on this album, he does what legends do: he shows his versatility across genres, on his terms.
For once, we have a proper follow up to Mushin 2 Mo’ Hits. The maturity and evolution are too staggering to go unnoticed. While we might not have the ingenuity of Don Jazzy at the helm of production, the young and promising producers like Dunnie, P.Priime, Kel P and more all have the necessary skill and acumen to bear on this project.
The collaborations are sparse, thereby giving Wande enough time to show his prowess as an artiste. Legend Or No Legend might not be up to Mushin 2 Mo Hits. That era may be gone for good. Wande Coal seems to have moved beyond that success, and he seems to see no need trying to replicate that epic cultural moment.
Where does Wande Coal go from here? He simply needs to put in more work, and perhaps, one or two albums in the next three to five years. Right now, he has nothing to prove, he only needs to savour his legendary status like some of his contemporaries.
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1.2
Sound Engineering – 1.3
Vocalisation – 2
Listening Experience – 1.4
Rating – 6.9
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s Most Prolific Freelance Music Critic. He has over 600 album reviews in his archive.