The duo return to their rap roots on the 15-track project.
For the better part of two decades, hip-hop duo Show Dem Camp (SDC), consisting of Tec (Wale Davies) and Ghost (Olumide Ayeni), have been wowing fans with impeccable delivery, wordplay and an authentic sound hard to replicate. However, the pair are still considered outsiders and “alternative” in an industry saturated with afrobeats music. Despite a few successes, hip hop has never claimed centre stage in the Nigerian music scene, relegating rappers to the “underground” for most of their careers. From time to time, few make headlines for trending songs or even “beef”, but the cream of the crop is still the exclusive property of afrobeats. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and despite the tastebuds of the majority veering to one dish, it is impossible to deny the flavour of the veteran rappers.
After taking a more commercial route with the first and second installments of their Palmwine Music series, it seemed to some that they had lost the verve for “real rap”, and were content with racking in more fans and organising palmwine festivals. This, of course, was a silly argument and did not hold any water as good music is good music, and the new sound they were exploring was unique and enjoyable. But to clear the doubts, on January 1 2019, they dropped Clone Wars Vol IV with hard-hitting bars about the country’s socio-political state, with their usual dynamic perspective. It was a statement to end all the side talk: no matter what you do, do not doubt SDC’s ability to flow. Happy New Year.
There comes a time in an artiste’s career where any new project tests their legacy and relevance. When this stage rolls around, every bar or verse is put under intense scrutiny; every collaboration is viewed with scepticism, and detractors are quick to dismiss entire albums at the slightest slip-up. To be fair, this is a treatment only given to artistes of a certain class: those who have lasted long and well in the game that their consistency and quality at the top looks too good to be true. That time is here for Show Dem Camp; it’s 2021 and the duo is back with their first project in almost two years, Clone Wars Vol. 5 - The Algorhythm.
The album’s strength lies in the collaborations, most of them younger artistes, a symbolic passing of the guard. These new stars did not disappoint as they brought their A-Game to a body of work whose preceding reputation demanded it. Ladipoe, the leader of the revival, makes a return to an SDC project after missing out on Palmwine Express. Tomi Thomas and his peculiar reggae and dancehall vibe appear on two songs including the promotional single “Rise of The Underdogs 2”; Shalom Dubas makes the coldest transition from bar-spitting rapper to heart-melting singer; Ogranya’s devastating voice complements Moss and Alpha Ojini’s solid verses on “Streets” and Tomi Owo’s humanity is laid bare through a silky chorus on “Human.” Veteran superstars Jesse Jagz and Reminisce strut their stuff on “Vipers” and “Tycoon”, but the most striking featured performance comes from Chop Life Crew’s Mojo, who steps up to the plate and knocks “Tycoon” out of the park with his verse. Watch out for that song on your annual “rap performance of the year” polls.
The topics they treat are unfortunately the same as they were two years ago. Politicians are stealing from an exhausted national purse; the police and armed forces – institutions created to protect the citizenry – are killing them. The naira is less valuable than it was two minutes ago, sexual assault crime rates keep climbing, and everything looks stagnant. The difference between this album and Vol IV is the change of perspective. Tec and Ghost are older now, and with age comes tiredness. It has been pretty frustrating for them to watch nothing change despite the best efforts of young Nigerians to make progress happen. Their view of the leaders at the top is summarized in two of the skits on the album. On “Big Liko”, two men talk about solving a scandal of national importance and their solution is to lie to the public, a trend common with the country’s leaders who continue with their corrupt practices even in the face of evidence. On “Big Dream” a politician assesses the grind and graft of young people in the country as they work to circumvent the problems posed by the state and plots to crush their dreams.
Despite experimenting with a variety of producers and beats, the overall mood is calmer and melancholic as they work through the issues that are weighing heavily on their minds. On “Ghost Rant”, Ghost is angry and exhausted by the events of 20th October 2020 and the violence and the resulting chaos. He specifically references Oke, a young graphic designer who was killed in the aftermath of the massacre. The pain in his voice is contagious, the events of that day etched in a collective scar in the hearts of young people across the nation: “From the dark, we attract the light/ See the silence is broke now/I still hear the screams in my dreams/ Wake up with pillows soaked wow.”
On “Bright Skies”, retirement is a possibility for Tec as he compares his run to Michael Jordan’s: “Might be my Last dance/So I shoot the three.” Having made known his desire to nurture and introduce the next set of stars (see Tems), and with his passion dimming a little bit, we might see that happening a little bit earlier than expected.
Still on the October 2020 protests, the pair give a subtle nod to the women who were instrumental in organising and making sure things ran smoothly with legal and medical help as well as financial support for those affected. Often attacked maliciously and accused of many things, including theft, the Feminist Coalition has remained accountable throughout. On “Align”, Tec raps: “You had a head start/ no more expo guy, just align/With African women/ they've been designed/ To lead us to the finishing line.”
Following up on “Human”, he goes: “We need to do it now/No more sitting on the fence/We need to Realize our queens/Are really our greatest strength.”
Long story short, our favourite rappers are tired, but that’s okay; heroes get tired sometimes. However, this fatigue is a blessing in disguise as it lets them give their perspective without rushing, the wise elders sitting down and seeing what the standing children cannot. The bad news is plenty, but it is not all the news. There are positives for them, and us too. Their unique ability to use jokes as a complementary storytelling tool is as sharp as ever too, as observed in the skits. Finally, and maybe most importantly, their place in the annals of Nigerian rap history has been cemented. If this project was a bet against their legacy, then they won the bet without a sweat. As Tec raps on “YKTV”, SDC are “Dropping classic after classic, man this s**t is true to form.”
Listen to Clone Wars Vol. 5 - The Algorhythm below.