Lost Files is a column dedicated to celebrating older projects that might have flown under the radar when they were released. This week, we revisit Tiwa Savage's ode to love and all its wahala, Sugarcane EP.
A perennial tropical grass with tall stout jointed stems from which sugar is extracted. The fibrous residue can be used as fuel, in fibreboard, and for several other purposes, e.g music.
On September 22, 2017, Tiwa Savage released Sugarcane, a six-song EP. In an interview with Fader, she revealed that the EP was an impromptu decision as she had recorded a lot of music for her album due the following year. The EP, therefore, doubled as a surprise and appetizer for fans who were hungry for new music from the afrobeats superstar. This turned out to be a lucky stroke for members of her fanbase, as the album slated for 2018 wasn’t released till 2020.
Just like the definition above, Tiwa chose Sugarcane as the title because the songs sounded “sweet and different” to her. Before this project, the singer had been in the public eye for her well-publicized marriage troubles and separation from her husband Tunji ‘Tee Billz’ Balogun. Even her deal with Roc Nation, which was a great move for her career and would ordinarily be headline-worthy, seemed to be lost in the racket. But as they say, it’s always darkest before dawn, and in the wake of that controversy and public invasion of her private life, Tiwa found the strength to move on and begin work on her next studio project. After the sweat, the sweet. Supported by two singles, Sugarcane is a tribute to love and the different ways it shows itself in our lives, from the rosy parts to periods of uncertainty.
The first and titular track, “Sugarcane” is produced by Spellz and is heavy on the Afropop, the sound that majorly runs through the project. Dedicated to a relationship that makes her giddy inside and a partner that is so sweet, he seems too good to be true, “Sugarcane” is a perfect introduction to the EP.
Up next is “Get It Now”, a song warning a man she knows is interested in her about dragging his feet. Being uncertain about making a move towards a person you like is a very relatable feeling, and while you might have sympathy for this scared man, Tiwa is having none of it. To borrow twitter lingo, she’s a spec and if he’s not quick enough, his window to move to her will get shut: “I know you really want me, yeah/I know you want me, aaah/Your time is running out/You better get in now.”
Bubblegum Love Pop has always been a Tiwa Savage staple, and on “Me and You”, she shows that despite the criticisms of lazy songwriting the genre gets, it can still be enjoyable. Produced by Maleek Berry, who also provides additional vocals, the track’s afrobeats and dancehall influences spark whatever part of the brain that’s responsible for dancing and compels your feet and head to move to its infectious rhythms.
Similar to “Sugarcane” in content but with a slower tempo and vibe, “Hold Me Down” features a lovestruck Tiwa professing her affection to a romantic interest. Produced by P2J, the song is one of Tiwa’s stronger vocal performances and is different from the other songs on the EP with softer instrumentals and more emphasis on voice than beat. The song’s lyrics are powerful and pleading as well, with Tiwa convincing her lover of the genuineness of her feelings towards him while indirectly asking him to follow her until the end. “I really like the way you take me high/don't let me fall/You should know by now/Na only you wey fi hold me down.”
“All Over” was the first promotional single for Sugarcane and honestly, there’s nothing I will write about it that you don’t know already. The lyrics are funny and showcase Tiwa Savage at her suggestive best, giving hints about how her partner loves her. A radio-friendly tune, the Baby Fresh-produced jam got (and still gets) massive airplay on stations all over the country.
Last but not least, “Ma Lo”, featuring Wizkid and Spellz, who produced the track, closes the EP with a bang. Inspired by highlife, a genre Tiwa isn’t afraid to experiment with, “Ma Lo” was an instant hit, making its way to various end-of-year playlists and becoming Tiwa Savage’s most-streamed song on Spotify, with over 20 million streams on the streaming service. Videos of Coldplay’s Chris Martin dancing to it also went viral on social media, adding to its popularity.
Like most women in the industry, Tiwa Savage’s career path hasn’t been straightforward throughout. But, despite the ups and downs, she has always found a way to move on from the controversy and reinvent herself and her sound. So while you enjoy her latest project Celia and make Tiktoks to “Koroba”, spare a thought for the Sugarcane EP, a work of art that doubles as an ode to love and all its wahala, as well as a testament to her strength and mental fortitude to persist despite hurdles and naysayers.