Tuesday, 23 April 2024
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Show Dem Camp marries the best elements on ‘Palmwine Music 3’ [Album Review]

With Palmwine Music 3, Show Dem Camp close the chapter on a critically acclaimed, commercial franchise built on the crux of highlife indented sounds, lush Afrobeat percussion and feel-good grooves.

Show Dem Camp's 'Palmwine Music 3' Cover art.
Show Dem Camp’s ‘Palmwine Music 3’ Cover art.

When engaging in discourse about artists with the greatest discographies in the contemporary Nigerian music era, names like Asa, Brymo and to an extent, Burna Boy would come up for singers. And then you’d have M.I Abaga and Olamide, the greatest Nigerian rappers of all-time—when the discussion tilts towards Hip-Hop. However, SDC has a strong and rightful claim to such legendary discography territory.

The Clone Wars series cements their legacy in Nigerian Hip-Hop hall of fame, as arguably the greatest rap franchise in contemporary times. It’s the album run with heavier hitting bars, tighter rap cadence and rhyme schemes and also more introspective topics. The Palmwine Music franchise on the other hand is the more commercialized, mainstream half of their catalogue. Devout SDC fans are privy of the fact, that the albums in this series is basically a deep exploration into the sonic tenets, that their BOJ and Ladipoe assisted record, Feel Alright—was built on and it’s only a compliment to their rich artistry, how much they’ve consolidated and built on that sound over time.

Tec (back) and Ghost (front) of the Show Dem Camp.

In many ways, Palmwine Music 3 is the maturation of that sonic journey from the first installment. At the primal, innate nature of this sound is subtle high-life synthesizers and horns, that mantains the strong cultural element of inherent African genres. The beats, kicks and snares are also more traditional, although they might follow contemporary arrangements and overall it exudes the strong pathos of being on a beach. The album also merges the best parts of the first 2 albums in the franchise and the slight sonic deviation in Palmwine Express, that saw a less methodical approach to the sound.

The radio thematic approach that’s been emblematic of the Clone Wars series, returns on the album opener. The topical direction of the album—love, relationship dynamics and strifes—is clearly spelt out before the ride commences. On Head Over Heels ft. Victony, the rap duo is expressing in explicit, matter-of-fact terms about how euphoric and intoxicating love could be.

When we get to the Tems-assisted, Live Life—which is one of the best songs on the albums—the kicks are laced with a stronger baseline and the rhythmic guitar strings are reverberating all through the percussion. Ghost And Tec take turns rapping about the soft life, highlighted with pristine luxury and picturesque sceneries. Tems also brings on her A-game with a catchy and resonant hook, declaring that she wouldn’t be apologetic about losing herself in the magic of living life.

Tems receives her award for ‘Best Collaboration’ at the 2022 BET awards, flanked by her manager, Muyiwa Adeniyi (right) and Tec of SDC (left.) The rapper is very much involved in the creative direction of her music.

The feel-good vibes remain consistent as the album progresses. Oxlade delivers one of his best feature performances on Mine Alone, with a hook that’s evident of the sonic potency of his vocals and a second verse, that’s the perfect breather between verses that wax poetic on the lengths both rappers are willing to go to satisfy their lovers. The love theme goes on hiatus, when BOJ comes into play on the mid-tempo Kele, where the overall sentiment, borders on defying odds, coming out on top and establishing a long lasting legacy.

Bellah is bitter on WYW, singing “I hope she cheats you” and the rappers are equally jaded on their verses, iterating the fact that they don’t wish the best for their old lovers. It’s not much of a memorable track sonically, but its distinct topic salvages it to some extent. On the next track, the trademark Palmwine horns and groovy snares are back, as Tim Lyre reroutes the topic to a sensual one, pleading with his lover to make him Feel Something.

The sensuality bleeds into Freaky and both rappers get creative in painting vivid imageries on inebriating sexual encounters and adventures. Mannywellz’s hook leaves much to be desired and is one of the weakest choruses on the project. It does the album a great good, that Lojay’s stellar performance on Your Love comes right after and erases the underwhelming parts of the previous track, almost instantly. This is one of the best songs on the album, and this writer believes with intentional push—it could go on to become successful in the mainstream scene.

We venture into Afro-R&B territory with Rolling. The production here is minimalistic with subtle riffs and chords, unlike other songs where these elements are more pronounced. Tec outshines everyone else on the track and delivers one of the best verses on the album, commending his lover’s resilience and fighting spirit through the tough times. TOBI holds his own exceedingly well in his own verse and hook and he is also one of the more impressive features on the album.

Spax returns from previous installments to helm production. His ability to weave beats from the specific sonic clothe of the franchise is very crucial to its success.

Bad Design is more classical R&B, with a much lower BPM. It’s an ideal soundscape territory for WurlD to thrive in and M.anifest to provide some much needed diversity and range in rap delivery, that’s solely been on the shoulder of SDC since the album’s inception. Apollo is this writer’s favorite track on the album and it is hips-gyrating, funky African music at its best. Tay Iwar reminds us all why he’s one of the most sought out acts on album features these days, and Ghost is back to his relentless, aggressive rhyme scheme best, chronicling precise details about how strong of a hold his woman has on him.

The album ends on a high note, as the last three tracks return to traditional percussive instrumentals. Old Flame featuring Nesta and long-time collaborator, Ladipoe has prominent shakers, punctuated with faint guitar strings. The beat isn’t doing much, so the rappers have leeway to go harder on their respective deliveries. If It’s Love ft. Twelve XII, has the same sonic template, only the bass here is slightly more pronounced. When the curtains finally fall on the Moelogo-assisted No Regrets, the rappers express gratitude and reminisce about the obstacles they demolished on their way to the top.

Palmwine Music 3 is the perfect way to end the series. It features the sonic ingredients from the first 2 installments, combined with the more methodical, thematic approach of Palmwine Express. Despite its numerous features, it never for once felt bloated as a result of the sheer number of artists in it. This is a glaring evidence of great A&R that facilitated an ideal environment for all guest artists to excel on their respective tracks, whilst still maintaining the overall cohesive feel that’s quintessential of the Palmwine series.

The skits that pop up at intermittent intervals—to serve the radio concept of the album—are much needed breathes of fresh air and effective transitional tools. Ghost and Tec also deliver some impressive rapping on here. It’s no news that they reserve their much technical and hardcore rap for the Clone War series. However they flirt with said technicality on this album, whilst exercising caution not to over-indulge it, so it doesn’t compromise the project’s intended, feel-good vibes. All in all, like the previous installments—this album would age well. The question that beckons however is whether or not, it would generate a major mainstream moment, that a commercial album of this ilk should.

Only time would tell.

Final Verdict:

Sonic Cohesion: 1.6/2
Unharried Transitions: 1.4/2
Pristine & Expansive Production: 1.6/2
Songwriting: 1.8/2
Track Sequencing/Topical Progression: 1.6/2

Total: 8/10.

This review is written by T.J. Martins, an album talks’ writer.

Listen to ‘Palmwine Music 3’ here:

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