This week, we take a look at Odunsi and Nonso Amadi's collaborative effort "War", a warm collection of records built around a central theme of love.
In 2017, Odunsi (The Engine) and Nonso Amadi teamed up to create a 4-song project called War. Contrary to the title’s violent connotations, the EP was created around a central theme of love, a topic the two artists are well versed in. At the time, Nonso Amadi’s “Tonight” was a love anthem, and it remains a cult classic till this very day. On the other hand, Odunsi’s “Desire” and “Situationships” were sleeper hits centered around the theme of romantic relationships as well. Smooth and bubbly throughout, the independently released War EP is an enjoyable ride.
The project starts with “Ocean”, a nostalgia-filled track. Introduced by a man named Fred, the opening track is dedicated to a woman whose love they want to drown in. It’s popular knowledge that amongst the many wonders nature has to offer, the ocean is by far the deepest and unexplored. This depth makes it a popular metaphor for musicians and writers when they want to address feelings of love that seem bigger than what regular words can express. “How deep is your love?” Odunsi asks after his verse, a rhetorical question seeing as no one can measure it exactly. The soft track produced by Higo and Harry is laid back and chill, reminiscent of waves lapping at the shores of a beach.
Up next is “Don’t”, an upbeat song that doubles as an earnest plea. Produced by Nonso Amadi, the track samples Kevin Lyttle’s 2004 smash hit “Turn Me On.” A sharp turnaround from the overwhelming feelings the artists express on the EP’s opener, “Don’t” sees them refusing to make the step from friends in a situationship to lovers. Rejecting the need for labels, Nonso Amadi’s hook is one continuous request:
“Don't make me love you
Don't make me love you
I don't want to love you
I don't have to love you”
Sometimes in a relationship, both parties want different things. Sticking with the status quo or moving to the next stage? Who even knows what’s best for everybody? Only one thing is clear - Odunsi and Nonso Amadi don’t want to be in love.
The pendulum swings between love and indifference throughout this project, and on “Stay”, it lands on love again. A bit raunchy and explicit than the other songs, the focus of the song tilts to sex, highlighting the sexual prowess of their lover - “Shorty ride the thing like a pro though, made her give it all like a promo” Odunsi sings, painting a picture in our minds and letting our imaginations run wild. Nonso Amadi confirms how bad she really is by begging her to stay on the chorus:
Shorty tell me that you'll stay, you’ll stay
Girl tell me that you'll stay, you'll stay
When you meet the one, shame goes out the window and you beg her to stay. Simple maths, really. The track ends with a reiteration of Nonso Amadi’s certainty that this woman is the one for him, as he repeatedly states “Oh Lord I’ve seen the light.”
The titular track “War” ends the EP and is a perfect summary of the conflicting emotions that define the tape. Nonso Amadi goes straight to this point with his verse - describing the topsy turvy-ness of romance and its accompanying emotions:
“Girl, when you say I don't need ya
Damn that sounds familiar
Counting the times I let you go
Then I feel like I need ya
Love gets unfamiliar”
Despite this confusion, the objective is clear and defined. Our heroes want love, not war. They are ready to make things work - it took them four tracks to come to this realisation, but it’s fine. Some of us take years. Odunsi captures this with his verse, ending the debate we have struggled with since Fred opened the doors to the EP:
I've been waiting for you girl, I've been patient for so long
I've been searching for sensations in the places that I shouldn't
Abi, you think say you too fine for me, You think say you get body
But it's alright, we can make it out one last time
The “alte” movement which kickstarted a change in Nigerian music was built on collaboration among the major acts. On War, Nonso Amadi and Odunsi (The Engine) encapsulate this principle well, with both artists showing smooth chemistry inspired by earlier R&B nostalgia. Since the project, both acts have gone on to different things - Odunsi releasing two projects since then while Nonso Amadi has mostly stuck to singles. Despite the contrast in their career trajectories, the release of War remains a great moment in the Nigerian underground R&B scene.