- Can the dancehall singer avoid the kiss of death with his debut album?
Patoranking is a beneficiary of something I like to call the ‘Davido Effect’.
The ‘Davido Effect’ is at once a shot in the arm and a kiss of death for the nascent career of a musical artiste.
Let me explain; Davido, literally an unknown, releases the single ‘Back When’ and manages to snag Naeto C to spit some verses. On the strength of that single, Davido becomes a bona fide musical star, booking huge venues, getting hot collabos, snagging endorsements and making the tabloids and gossip blogs.
And all that while Davido had no album, no EP, no body of work to define his career, to solidify his fame or cachet.
That career progression has now been replicated over and over, from Yemi Alade with ‘Johnny’ to Patoranking with ‘Alubarika’; Koker with ‘Kolewerk’ to Adekunle Gold with ‘Orente’, and Reekado Banks with ‘Katapot’.
An artiste of whatever stripe – music, literature, art, movies – is often defined by a body of work, that which the French call an oeuvre, through which critics can trace a trajectory of development, influences, sublimity or genius.
The Nigerian music scene continues to defy this tried and tested rule by producing superstars standing and falling on the shaky foundation of one single. Think Sean Tizzle, think Ycee, think Lil Kesh.
Patoranking seemed fated to that same outcome even though he followed up on ‘Alubarika’ with other hits like ‘Girlie O’, ‘My Woman, My Everything’, ‘Daniella Whine’ and ‘Make Am’.
But there was always that question mark, that creeping doubt; can he stand on his own two feet with a full album that would hit the mark, please listeners and cement his reputation? To answer that question, Patoranking had to produce an album and so was born God Over Everything (GOE).
The reference to God may seem fortuitous, but while the album was percolating, Patoranking was made a judge on a reality TV show that was broadcast across Africa, a fact that guaranteed him instant recognition across the continent. Not bad PR for an album launch.
The album opens with Mama Patoranking going spiritual with a prayer. The first song, ‘Patoranking’ is an average ode to self. ‘This is my album’, he seems to say, as he then proceeds to call his own name after almost every beat.
‘GOE’ would have been better served as J.O.E, Jah Over Everything since Patoranking, even though I am not sure he makes the case himself, has been styled as Nigeria’s biggest surviving dancehall artiste especially with what seems like an abdication by Baba Dee and General Pype.
The eponymous track ‘GOE’ is a praise song but if I were God, I would choose ‘Writing on the Wall’ which is a better constructed paean to the creator. The opening verse alone is much more than the sum of the parts of GOE and I suspect it would give Papa God more pleasure than the hastily cobbled together ‘GOE’, which I suspect was recorded just for the album title. ‘GOE’ is like Cain’s sacrifice while ‘Writing on the Wall’ is more of Abel’s, a sweet smelling savour.
Listen to the opening verse and see why:
‘God is my saviour and my strength
Your blessings so long me don’t know the length
Even when they say me parents can’t pay rent
Me still a thank him hundred percent.’
The album picks up from ‘Cheating Zone’ which is a song taken straight from the Gregory Isaacs‘ (or Blackky) play book. Shut your eyes and cock your ears a certain way and you could be listening to ‘Night Nurse’. This is Patoranking at his very best.
He is playful, seductive, youthful and shows off his reggae chops. The lady is saying stop, but what you hear is ‘stop it, I like it’.
‘On my way to work, me saw this pretty girl
Me was scared to talk cos she’s a city girl
Me wanna get close, me wanna know ya
You got a cute nose, hope nobody told ya…
She say there he goes, Mr. Player
She say where you from, smooth talker…
Excuse me, bad boy that look like Makavelli
Are you the boy wey me a see inna me tellie…
She say no no no no no no
I got a man waiting at home
no no no no no no
This ain’t no cheating zone.’
The reference to Gregory Isaacs is intentional and helps in situating Patoranking’s debut as an experimental album from a man who had released five monster hit singles and was not completely sure whether to stick strictly to dancehall, or reggae or highlife or fuji or even RnB. What we end up with on our plate is a debut album that is like a mop of influences. Almost every song reminds you of something before it.
‘Money’ is the thumping and obligatory rags to riches story and we have heard it many times before: Wizkid with ‘Ojuelegba’, Timaya with ‘Plantain Boy’, Davido with ‘Back When’ and now, Patoranking with ‘Money’. He and Phyno tear it up in a song that most dudes hustling for some paper will make their ring tones.
‘I remember when owu dey blow me
No body hear my story, nobody want to know me
Nobody want my glory
Na im I first give dem Alubarika, now dem dey find me for America
All my land na in kilometres, dem wan to know my speedometer
From nobody eh to somebody eh
Go tell Daddy eh, go tell mummy eh
Nobody fit stop God hand…
Say the boy don be man, money dey find me, eh’
Patoranking goes from Alubarika to America while Phyno cooks beats as if he is in the chemistry lab.
‘Killing Me’ is on some massive highlife ish while ‘This Kind Luv’ (featuring Wizkid) takes us on an intense Afrobeat moment. Listen to that seemingly errant horn and you get the picture, and while I don’t speak Yoruba, I know Wizkid is fronting as usual when he says ‘I get money lapo’. Brilliant song that elevates Sarz, the producer, to a class all his own.
Sarkodie shows why he is hotter than fire. He kills the song on ‘No Kissing Baby’, switching as he does from English to Twi to Pidgin. This is a certified club banger.
‘Mama Aboyo’ doesn’t grab you from first listen but then it grows on you. Olamide and Patoranking travel back into time to galala territory. No one knows for sure what Aboyo has done but having skipped town, Olamide seeks out his mother. ‘Mama Aboyo, if you see Aboyo, make you warn Aboyo.’
There is, as always, in Olamide’s street ditties, an air of playful menace.
‘Daniella Whine’ is pure dancehall and Patoranking’s collabo with Elephant Man and Konshense is a beauty. But dude, it’s wind not whine o.
I am shocked to say this but my best song on G.O.E is the fuji inspired ‘Ayinde’, featuring the king himself, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, KWAM 1. The song is mature, sedate, well arranged and cleanly produced. Shut your car doors, put on the AC and turn the volume as high as it will go. Then relax as you experience an intense aural massage helmed by Major Bangz.
GOE gets high marks for standing up to scrutiny. The jury is still out on whether Patoranking is a dancehall hall artiste or whether what he speaks is patois, but what is abundantly clear from his debut album is that dude is not just a fine face, he is serious about this business and will be here for a while longer.
Toni Kan is the author of The Carnivorous City published by Cassava Republic.
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