Once I heard Oxlade on Mamiwota back in 2018, I was drawn to his sound in a way I hadn’t felt about any vocalist out of Nigeria’s mainstream music scene since I first heard Wande Coal on D’banj’s Move Your Body back in ‘06. I hate to do this because it may subconsciously stir up a comparison in your minds, and that’s definitely not my intention. This is Oxlade’s moment and I’d like to treat it as such. I thought Oxlade’s voice brought a unique aura to Mamiwota, and it was truly special.
I know I’m beginning to sound like a fan boy but placing him on that musical pedestal came with lofty expectations, and if he fell short of them I will be equally vocal in expressing them. This pedestal I placed him on led me to crawl the internet through every music streaming service I had access to for more music but there wasn’t much to be heard at the time.
Until one day, I searched Oxlade on Apple Music and found Shugar – a song which I rinsed in the months that followed. He went on to shine on guest appearances that followed in the coming months, as he jumped on multiple records with acts like Joeboy, DJ Voyst, Fireboy DML, DJ Tunez, Alpha Ojini, Juls, Jinmi Abduls and the Afro Nation track, Craze, with Reekado Banks. Oxlade was breaking into different circles, and his career was fast gaining momentum, but even with all these happening, the music purist in me wanted a full length project, and with the immense reception Oxygene is receiving, it turns out I wasn’t the only one anticipating this project.
OXLADE SHUGAR VIDEO
Your foray into the project begins with the sound of smoke blowing into the air, before exploding into a beat comprising of electric hats and a guitar riff laid over mellow kick drums. Mainstream music today relies heavily on sonic prowess than vocal excellence, but even with these sonic elements strung together brilliantly, Oxlade’s vocals remains the center of attention. He goes on to sing a song about love, serenading a love interest by likening her to oxygen, calling her ‘the air that I breathe’, as he scores a great opener to the project with O2. Where O2 alludes the life his love interest gives him, further down the project, he brilliantly juxtaposes that life when he yells ‘something must to kill a man’ on Weakness. The drum-laden instrumental to the song is pulsating, and Oxlade’s crooning and harmonies leave an indelible mark on your auditory system.
When we talk palmwine music, prolific producer, Spax, can be considered as a leader of the wave of this subsect of the Afrobeat genre by virtue of his stellar work with rap duo, Show Dem Camp. Oxlade enlists Spax’ palmwine magic on project’s lead single, Away. One thing Oxlade excels at is his understanding of his voice and knowing what every drop of beat demands from his vocal box per time. He knows when to sound like a soft lover boy, when to sound a bit urban, and when to lean more to his local side, or the Yoruba boy in him. On Away, he sings on various pitches to create layered vocals, over a rustic drum pattern, and some well-pulled strings that makes all the pieces come together to create a record that will go down as one of the stellar songs in his discography. Hold On is cut from the same clothe, except it has a synth-pop feel to it and he sings about a recurring theme across the project – the power of love.
A dance record is always welcomed at anytime, and Kokose is Oxlade’s enjoyable effort on Oxygene. He switches from the recurring theme of love to get your body moving. Spax/ production fuses sweet percussions and swirling drums that allow Oxlade do his thing on a mid-tempo. It’s a vibe and I need quarantine to end, so I can catch a dutty whine to this. In a culture that enables acts with his vocal prowess to pay little attention to writing great lyrics, it’s admirable to see that when Oxlade isn’t making lamba (dance music), his songwriting can be just purposeful enough to leave you with something tangible to walk away with. On Tables Turn he enlists vocalist, Moelogo, and they both use their voices to tell a story on karma, as they recollect the times they were overlooked.
Every now and then artistes like Oxlade come along; the ones who supply groovy harmonies and enchanting vocals from their first drop. These kind of artistes often bring a temporal rush of excitement to the fans, but make music observers dig deeper to see if there is more to them than just melodies. Across the 6 songs by Oxlade on Oxygene, the production formula doesn’t stray too far off each other, but his eclectic harmonies & vocal dexterity makes each song a unique experience. For the most part, Oxlade’s debut only emphasises what we have known for sometime now – he’s a talented vocalist – and he plays to his strength, as no new peculiar quality of is put on display. At the moment, I can’t pinpoint a standalone hit record, however, if you listen long enough, his vocals serve as the glue that can make the music across the project stick to your mind. It’s only his first project and he’s got more work ahead. Let’s see how it all unfolds.