The year is 2008 and I’m watching Skales perform for the first time at the Future Awards pre-awards conference in Lagos. The hall is disappointingly small, but Skales’ still-going, swagger-laced performance creates an illusion of space. He raps eloquently and confidently, an artiste sure of himself. Just fresh from winning the Zain Tru Search competition…
The year is 2008 and I’m watching Skales perform for the first time at the Future Awards pre-awards conference in Lagos. The hall is disappointingly small, but Skales’ still-going, swagger-laced performance creates an illusion of space. He raps eloquently and confidently, an artiste sure of himself.
Just fresh from winning the Zain Tru Search competition in the North Central region, Skales shines with a supreme hip hop halo and everyone in the hall knows it. He would later go ahead to release his Jesse-Jagz produced debut single Must Shine, and Heading for a Grammy in 2009.
The latter inspired by Kanye West’s Jesus Walks, Skales’ punchlines are cosmically brilliant. Heading for a Grammy wasn’t just any other song: it was bursting with heavy conviction, and in it was the critical compass that was suppose to direct Skales’ musical journey.
After his departure from EME in 2014, at which he spent incubating and watching his fellow label mate Wizkid blossom and prosper, one would expect his debut album, Man of the Year, to be indicative of Skales’ strength as a rapper. That album, in truth, did show his versatility; that he could switch from rapping to singing is fairly commendable in the context of artistic range. But still, the entire body of work fell into that lazy commercial pop shtick. Granted, he isn’t the only artiste deprioritising talents for mainstream marketability, but Skales seems to be fine in selling a self-created mimick.
And perhaps it’s unfair to compare him with Wizkid, whose evolution in sound isn’t far off the tangent and with better odds at winning a Grammy. In a recent interview with the Nigerian Tribune newspaper, Skales’ confidence for his soon-to-be released second album is nostalgic and familiar.
“My album will be bigger than anything Nigerians ever heard,” he says to Segun Adebayo, the interviewer, whose list of questions doesn’t make any reference to Skales’ rap roots and the kind of album we are expecting. It’s interesting that on the question on being relevant, Skales’ response is disappointing for rap heads like myself. “Basically, I plan to put out more remarkable music; more smash hits my Naija fans would relatively love. I hope to achieve more greatness with this because frankly, that’s the only way I can stay relevant.” he said.
Understandably, this isn’t Skales’ fault. His mid-tempo song Temper brought a wave of success on which he is riding on, and his collaboration with Burna Boy on the remix burnishes the song with a modern afro beat appeal. Skales’ confidence bounces off this cushion and it’s unhealthy. The pressure to always be “relevant” will mount, and this would have been different if Skales had allowed himself to evolve organically.
Maybe Skales has put together a good album, possibly a great one, even. But he isn’t Kanye West, so he should sit down and relax and let the album do the talking.