Presido La Pluto, Shallipopi

Who neva live the life no fit sabi.  Shallipopi is for the street boys of the Niger Delta. I used to complain that Edo music never got enough recognition. We’d blast Kaptain on the speakers every day while we kitted up to play football, but nobody in the mainstream gave a f**k about Kaptain. Lagos paid him no mind. This is why Shallipopi’s ascent to the throne is even more satisfying— it’s been a long time coming, believe me. He brought a different dynamic to the oversaturated predominantly Yoruba music scene with his breakthrough hit, Elon Musk. All of a sudden, mount was on everyone’s lips. What did these people know about Niger Delta slang? But he was making them take notice. An EP soon followed, the Ovonramwen Nogbaisi inspired Obapluto going absolutely nuclear. The rising sun which spreads over all. Shalli repped Edo culture in a way that not many before him were able to manage, flying the flag of a great, proud people.

To many, it must still have felt like a gimmick, mere “Yahoopiano”, so there was uneasiness when he announced a full-length album. Could he deliver? After all, album culture in Nigeria had only started to resurge recently, and there were doubts about whether he had enough substance for a full-length project. But if Shallipopi heard the naysayers, he paid them no mind. Presido la Pluto was released on the 10th of November by Shalli’s Plutomania Records imprint, distributed by Dvpper Digital, the same music distribution service Seyi Vibez, T.I Blaze and Balloranking are affiliated with. You see what they have in common: street energy and intense output. With no major label pulling the strings and dictating output, they drop at will. All four have released albums in 2023, in fact, Seyi Vibez has dropped two. Naturally, they’re also able to follow through with their undiluted visions for their music. No label, no problem.

Shallipopi flexes his length and girth on this project right from the intro. It’s slower, more introspective. What is life if not a moving train, traveling from tough beginnings to lush, green pastures? The grass-to-grace narrative that has enthralled Nigerians since the days of MKO Abiola and even before then is on show here again. It quickly gets braggadocious: unprotected sex with enemies as a metaphor for destroying those who oppose him, reminding us just how one-of-a-kind he is, and of course, did he mention that his money was as tall as the ceiling? The album continues in the same manner, easy party music delivered in Shalli’s unique off-beat cadence. “Dem say I dey talk for music. Na that one be the vibe. Na that one people dey like. Na that one people dey like, so I gats vibe. E clear, you no fit deny.”, he says on Evil Receive. And he’s right. Blueface came into the limelight in 2018 with an off-beat rap style. E-40 had done the same over two decades earlier, some would even refer to him as the father of the off-beat rap style. This same off-beat pattern that has been so derided when applied to African music by mavericks such as Seyi Vibez and Shallipopi. Shallipopi is right to say that people like his music, his influence is undeniable. So perhaps we should allow him to vibe. He does just that on the next song, Cast, enlisting the hottest Nigerian feature right now: Odumodublvck. The two go toe-to-toe on this party anthem, trying to outdo each other, and I think Odumodu may have just come out on top. Predictably, it’s the best-performing song on the album, debuting at No. 2 on the TurnTable Charts for the week of November 10th, 2023 to November 16th, 2023.

There are several other standout tracks on the album, Things on Things notable among them, but Wet on Me stands out even more to me. Shallipopi recruits his younger brother for this absolutely licentious tune, and I know their mother must have been aghast when she first heard it. Crown and Divine Uzama would certainly be getting calls from concerned relatives and church members alike in the days to come. Oscroh, the lead single for the album is quite something. It takes true genius to repurpose a nursery rhyme to laud the sex trade. Shalli pays tribute to this noble profession saying, Pluto boy, no love, that make me king of OS. No bitch boy, no love, that make me king of OS. Since the day I was born, I dey order oscroh”. Yes, OS/ oscroh means exactly what you think it means. The playfulness continues on the Focalistic collaboration: Over the Seas. And this time, it’s the Spongebob Squarepants theme song that’s interpolated to devastating effect. Who lives in Pluto over the seas?

On Jungle, Shalli takes a break from Amapiano and raps over a simple Lil Baby type beat. The change to a slower style allows him to be more candid, “RIP Osha, mehn, I feel am. In my family, I’m the only breadwinner”, but honestly, he’s more suited to the party-starters. So What?, a Tekno and Shallipopi duet closes out the album, and the Masterkraft-produced tune has undeniably Igbo instrumentalisation. Perhaps it’s only right that two ‘Omo Igbo‘ would combine like this.

What a brilliant debut album. The Benin Renaissance is afoot, and perhaps just like the Roman Empire found new life through the works of Da Vinci, Machiavelli et al, the Ancient Benin Empire, perhaps the oldest and most highly developed state in the coastal hinterland of West Africa can find new life in modern work. Long live Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, the last ruler of an independent Kingdom of Benin.

Okojie Osakwe Simeon

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