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On ‘Shakespopi’, Shallipopi Plays To His Divisive Strengths [Review]

On the 12th of April, 2014, Shallipopi continued his blistering run with the release of his sophomore album, Shakespopi.

Shakespopi Cover art.
Shakespopi Cover art.

The album arrives barely five months after the release of his thirteen-track debut LP, Presido La Pluto, in November 2023. It is yet another step forward in the artiste’s turnaround from his infamous backstory. Amidst this turnaround, Shallipopi has notably collaborated with Fireboy DML and Zlatan—while also sparking speculations about a collaboration with Rema.

Shakespopi features nine tracks, spanning twenty-five minutes in total. Shallipopi stands solo in all but one of the tracks, which features four guest artistes. Given the lack of lead singles, the project is the artiste’s first offering of the year; potentially, the most definitive. On the surface, Shallipopi trades the astronaut aesthetic on his debut’s cover art for a medieval one.

The album kicks off with ‘ASAP’, which draws listeners in with a Highlife interpolation before switching things up. In line with the album’s concept, and in classic Shallipopi fashion, the record is turgid with Quotables. He notably remarks, ‘Network slow nor mean say Wi-Fi disconnect (Clear)’, before talking tough. Primed to be a fan favourite, the song bears a simple message of urgency—in dealing with adversaries and in the grind. It is a fitting opener, with Shallipopi laying the requisite tongue-in-cheek foundation for a subversive statement of an album. He asserts:

Na Shalli dey write but na Shakespeare dey shake (eh)‘/’I’m the greatest philosopher, ain’t no time for debate (no debate)‘/’Wise like a tortoise, only a few fit relate (eh)

In laidback fashion, Shallipopi makes his imprint on the running joke of artistes’ pen game being likened to that of William Shakespeare. The beauty lies in the irony. Nonetheless, it is hard to not marvel at Shallipopi’s streetwise words on marble—complete with groovy production.

Shallipopi.

Shallipopi’s ear for listeners’ delight is apparent on the second track, ‘Hightension’. The record coasts on a reworked version of ‘Bella Ciao’, the theme song of the hit Netflix series, Money Heist. In line with the crescendo, Shallipopi sings:

As I dey match am‘/‘You no fit see me‘/’Cos I dey ja, I dey ja, I dey ja ja ja

On the track, Shallipopi does well to address a few supervening narratives. He notably sings, ‘If Shalli drop, if Shalli drop, Shalli is overrated‘/’Who no go no know‘/’If Shalli dey talk, dey say Shalli is underrated‘. Ever conscious of commercial sensibilities, Shallipopi deploys wit in giving a lustful spin on the ‘Bella’ part of the song title. Perhaps, the track may have been bigger if released a few years earlier. Nonetheless, it would be better to not bet against its potential in the present.

The third track, ‘100’ is easy on the ears. It notably features the line, ‘We no be enemies, that nor mean say we be friends‘. While well-produced and perfectly suited for outdoor blaring, ‘100’ falls short of the preceding tracks in quality and direction. ‘Dey’, arriving right after, is a slight improvement at best. Considering the striking quality of the project’s quotables, a line which namedrops Nasty C line falls flat. Shallipopi nonethless offers a glimmer of inspiration with the lines, ‘If I fall, I go rise up again‘/’But I can never fall down again‘.

Shallipopi.

Upbeat and groovy, the fifth track ‘Billion’ is curiously laden with four guest artistes: Reehaa, Zerrydl, Tega Boi DC and Jeneral. It is an unabashed celebration of the grind, with nothing more going for it. The next track, ‘Find Me’, tows a similar line with a slower pace. Shallipopi, dwelling on his purported high-demand status, notably namedrops Elon Musk—referencing his 2023 hit single of the same name. The next track, ‘New Cat’, is also referential—this time, of Davido’s infamous comment about Burna Boy in a 2023 interview. He affirms his status as one of the renowned new generation acts. Sadly, the record is a filler track at best.

By the time ‘Start Am’ and ‘Trees’ saunter in, it is clear that Shakespopi is a tale of two conflicting halves. On the former track, Shallipopi once again succumbs to the pull of a flat line on: ‘”Shalli, you are too savage. Are you 21 Savage or Tiwa Savage?“‘

By the end of Shakespopi, it is clear that Shallipopi would remain a divisive figure for a long while. Aware of the ample audience for his brand of suburban poetry, Shallipopi doubles down on his signature sound. Great production and catchy songwriting are non-negotiable ingredients, but one can only wonder how much is too much. While there are potential bangers on the project, it ultimately yields mixed results. It is entertaining enough to satisfy existing fans, but a potentially different case for newcomers.

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