Lost Files is a column dedicated to celebrating older projects that might have flown under the radar when they were released. This week, Oluchukwu Nwabuikwu remembers Ladipoe's first major-label offering, Talk About Poe.
Before he won a Grammy with Simi, before he topped all the charts with Buju by his side, before he remixed “Pon Pon Pon '' with Blaqbonez, all Ladipoe wanted was for us to talk about him. In 2017, he signed with Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records with the view to increase his audience. This came after years of honing his craft and releasing critically acclaimed work that did not translate into the deserving mainstream appeal. After signing the deal, Talk About Poe was released in 2018. The 30-minute album was a statement of intent, the work of a matured rapper that understood his audience and was finally ready to give them something real.
A key aspect of Poe’s strategy and growth is his acceptance of community. As a talent nurtured in the rap scene by older heads such as ShowDemCamp and MI Abaga, Ladipoe is never shy to reach out for a collaboration or be the rung a newer act uses to climb. On Talk About Poe, the featured artistes are perfect choices, never overshadowing the main act but support solidly, showing their worth as top-tier artistes in their own right.
The album begins with the lighthearted “Intro”, a recorded telephone call from his family on his birthday, wishing him a great year. The seemingly trivial addition ironically foreshadows the rest of the project as the journey he embarks on at the start of a new year is similar to the journey that is his album. Up next is “Voices” featuring Ghanian singer Efya. The first real track is expectedly somber as Ladipoe spits bars about life, insecurities, and hopes for his career. However, despite the distractions, the voices in his head orchestrate, he remains grounded and focused on his path. The track ends with another recorded phone call of a woman praying and blessing his career. This is the final voice that cuts through the noise, reaffirming his convictions and setting him up with the confidence needed to continue.
“Double Homicide” features Ghost, one-half of ShowDemCamp, Poe’s frequent collaborators. Both rappers deliver bar after bar on the pure hip hop track to back their claims as top MCs in the game. Ladipoe raps:
“I don’t have to qualify the rappers that I nullify/ It’s easy being dope when the rest of them are borderline.”
Not to be outdone on the bragging front, Ghost also puts out his claims for rap royalty:
“Hate to brag, but any kid who got our autograph/Should feel honoured ‘cos it’s gonna become an artefact!”
The song went on to inspire the “Triple Homicide Challenge”, a freestyle challenge that brought a lot of hip hop talent to the fore, another pointer of the importance of uplifting others to Poe.
Over groovy instrumentals, Seyi Shay on the hook of “Red Light '' signals the change in tone on the album. Serious rap aside, the project turned into a relationship avenue, with the next few songs detailing Ladipoe’s struggles with love as well as lighter and more casual encounters with women, a nod to his city’s well-publicised relationship dramas. After getting the red light, Ladipoe explores a complicated relationship with an ex-flame on “Step Closer”. Although his brain warns against rekindling things between them, the chorus by Funbi toes a different line, admitting that his heart still wants love. A slower and more tempered track than its predecessor, “One Step Closer” is a joy to listen to with great songwriting in addition to the chemistry Ladipoe and Funbi achieve over drums and pianos.
“Falling” is next off the love assembly line and features a still relatively underground Tems. Over melancholy production with afro-swing influences, the two express personal desires and expectations in a relationship. Ladipoe has come full circle on love and romance at this juncture: from casual flings to exes, and finally, relationships. As he explores love, he also comes to the conclusion that it cannot all be beds of roses, and the hurdles are a necessary step in the process:
“I had to realize sometimes falling is the biggest step that we ever take/ All I need is a leap of faith.”
On “Mood”, Ladipoe comes down from his throne as King of the New School to talk about things personal to him. As the title suggests, the track is calm with a smooth vibe that lulls and ushers you into his world. Alternating between random trains of thought, “Mood” is intimate, a conversation between Ladipoe and the listener. After asking weird and funny questions like “What would Afrobeats sound like if you couldn’t say whine?”, he reveals fears he struggles with: ”I pray my sanity stays intact/I feel like profanity is all I have/I feel like I’m literally turning into a genie/’cos lately I’ve been feeling trapped.” A refreshing take on struggles with ambition and growth, “Mood” is a poignant reminder of personal challenges and their toll on the mind, despite how stable everything looks from the outside.
“Win-Win” is an afro-trap anthem that also serves as an insight into Poe’s perspective on his career, as well as plans for the next stage. While bemoaning the haters and those showing him fake love at this stage of his career, his eyes are also looking to the future, weighed down by ambition, but still excited by his potential and the possibilities available.
“Do I want to be another dot beside another dot inside a telescope?/Or do I want to be the biggest independent star that gets to sign Davido? baby, please don’t vex/did you read those texts?/you want me home/but I’m pretty sure we need those checks.”
Sir Dauda’s voice is one of the best in the game, and he proves it on the hook, belting out the lyrics in the soft, yet gruff way only he can. Hello and goodbye, beginning and end. As the album comes to a close, Poe also ponders about the things he needs to start, to hold on to and to end, in order to enter a new phase of his career.
The journey comes to an end with “Revival”. Singers sing, dancers dance, and as all rappers are prone to do, Ladipoe raps. As his closing notes on a body of work that set him apart from his peers while bringing the more vulnerable and intimate parts to the fore, Poe issues a warning to the industry about his plans to take over. Starting with “I don’t care about your punchlines”, the intent is clear and expected, because, since growth is the common thread through artistes and creative minds, the only way after a fantastic debut is an even more fantastic sophomore project and consolidated steps to improve the appeal and the quality of music. He stresses the need for a revival, displaying a willingness to carry everybody along on the journey.
Since the album, Ladipoe has gone on to do even more amazing things, building on the solid foundation to conquer the Nigerian music space. The self-crowned “King of the Revival” has stayed true to his word, thrilling packed audiences and climbing charts while leading a revival with his peers in local hip hop. A testament to the strength of convictions and planning, he is doing everything he said he would on Talk About Poe.