To commemorate the album's 10th anniversary, we ranked every song on it from worst to best.
When it is all said and done, 36-year-old J-town rapper Ice Prince will go down as one of the biggest hip-hop acts to have ever stepped foot into a recording booth in the country. At the peak of his powers, he was in part responsible ー without a shade of doubt ー for the proliferation of hip-hop in Nigeria and even beyond its shores. He possessed ー and arguable still does ー a unique and irreplicable swagger, one that seeped into his music and made his cadence uncompromisingly elegant. While his lyrical prowess might have come under question on several occasions, his mastered ability to thread the fine line between rapping and singing was next to none, dishing out a barrage of memorable guest verses while also cooking up cosmic hits of his own.
While Ice Prince had already garnered sizeable attraction since releasing a handful of singles back in his hometown and eventually penning a record deal with Chocolate City, it’s the release of E.L.I (Everbody Loves Ice Prince), his 2011 debut, that ultimately springboarded him to immense prominence and edged him into a class of infallible acts that retain dominance for years.
Upon release, E.L.I was immediately a fan favourite, receiving massive acclaim from the public, albeit not with the critics who gave polarizing reviews. On the one hand, many said that the album lacked a unifying sound as Ice Prince’s attempt to deliver a diverse record eventually landed him everywhere and nowhere. On the other hand, some critics praised the former Choc City signee’s attempt at saddling various genres together as it added variety to the listening experience and somewhat challenged what a ‘proper hip-hop record’ should sound like.
All of these didn’t seem to matter much. E.L.I went on to produce a string of hits and evergreen records: “Juju”, “Superstar”, “Olofofo”, “Somebody Lied” and most notably “Oleku”. The album also earned Ice Prince several nominations at the 2012 Headies Award and eventually bagged the Best Rap Album award.
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, we here at B.Side took another look at the album, ranking its 17 tracks from worst to best.
17. “Small Small” (feat. Sean Tero)
A running theme of Everybody Loves Ice Prince is the struggle to get to the top of his game and the help he received from God on this journey. “Small Small” is another track dedicated to this growth. Asides from telling the story of his ascension to fame, the track doubles as a piece of advice to those on the come up, and just like “Rain Drops” above, he tells them to bide their time and go for their dreams because life “na small small.”
16. “By This Time” (feat. Wizboyy)
“By This Time” is a jam celebrating Ice Prince’s rise to the top. Enjoying the adulation of fans from Nigeria to Europe, Ice Prince is cocky, delivering his verses with an assured swagger. The hook is handled by Wizboy who brings all of his beer parlour highlife talents to the stage: “By this time yesterday, them no know who I be/By this time yesterday, I no fit chop belle full/But today for Naija, na we dey run the show…”
15. “See Myself”
“Feels like I’m dreaming; the meaning is hidden”, Ice Prince raps on “See Myself.” Sometimes, when dreams come true, and you get to places that only existed in your imagination, there is a tendency to pause and take in all you’ve faced until that period. “See Myself” is a reflective track, creating the imagery of an artist at a concert surprised by the love of the fans singing their lyrics back to them. On an album filled with tracks dedicated to how he is treated like a superstar, “See Myself” is a peek into his own reaction to all the love, showing that he is also human even at his height.
14. “End of Story” (feat. Samklef)
Before he became an infamous Instagram blogger, Samklef was one of the country’s hottest music acts, as a record producer and musician. On “End of Story”, he is enlisted by Ice Prince to assist on a tune dedicated to the extravagance of their lifestyles as A-List acts. On the 4-minute track, Ice Prince is at his braggadocious best, listing the perks of being a star to his listeners.
13. “Rain Drops”
Life is unpredictable, and this uncertainty means that there will definitely be bumps in the road. Despite this, it is important to keep your head high and focused on your goals while trying to enjoy every step of the way. This is the message encapsulated in “Rain Drops”, where Ice Prince discusses success and failure, emphasizing the need to take it slow and easy, warning his listeners not to get deterred by the hitches they may face on the road as these circumstances are temporary.
12. “Dat Nigga” (feat. Morrell)
As the title suggests, “Dat Nigga” puts Ice Prince and Morell on what they consider their rightful places at the top of the game. Unlike their peers and haters, their focus is on improving their craft and making more money. As a result, they have no time for small talk and distractions. Besides handling the hook, Morell gives an excellent performance on his verse, rounding off a hard-hitting groovy track.
11. “Find You”
One of the mellow songs on the album, “Find You” is a tribute to Ice Prince’s deceased parents. The first verse is addressed to his mother, while the second one is to his father. The track discusses the pain of losing both parents and his joy at making something of his life and making them proud. The outro features his little sister talking about missing her parents and thanking God for Ice Prince’s success.
10. “Remember (Intro)”
The first song comes in at number 10, but this does not take anything away from its potency. As an intro to the album, it pays tribute to all the artists who came before Ice Prince. Over a mellow beat, he acknowledges the achievements of those who paved the way for him, not just in rap, but in Nigerian music. Fela, Sunny Nneji, Onyeka Owenu, Zak Zaky, OJB Jezreel, Ruggedman, Eedris Abdulkareem and a host of others all get a mention for their contributions to the success of the industry as well as for inspiring him. Bringing it to the present, he also salutes his peers: Wizkid, Jesse Jagz, Brymo and M.I Abaga.
9. “Wassup Wassup” (feat. 2face)
Featuring 2baba, who, at the time, was one of the hottest names in the country, “Wassup Wassup” is a groovy tune detailing the artists’ successes in the music industry despite the evil eye of their haters who want to see them fall. They attribute this success to their grind and God, who continues to watch over them. 2face’s sing-rap delivery adequately matches Ice Prince’s characteristically measured flow. A banger.
Upon the release of this album, Ice Prince went on a press run, granting various interviews from city to city. In one of his many interviews, he revealed that while making this album, he always had in mind that he didn’t want to be “just another rapper,” and so this largely influenced his decision to explore various soundscapes and genres. Here, he raps and sings over potent highlife production from former label-mate Jesse Jagz. While his comfort zone is floating over hip-hop-inspired production, he doesn’t necessarily sound out of place here as he serenades his love interest particularly with a catchy and repetitive hook that found a home at various events and particularly wedding parties.
7. “Somebody Lied”
“Somebody Lied” basically addresses the various cock-and-bull success stories, failed promises and fallacies that he has been endlessly fed over the years. While he uses the first verse to dissect personal stories — explaining the various dreams he was sold, especially the famous one about the metropolitan Lagos city flowing with milk and honey — he cleverly uses the second verse to pass social commentary, digging into the false hopes the government has sold its people for years. The third verse is equally sturdy as he again recounts the different hills of lies and false stories that people made up to discourage him or derail his career.
6. “Olofofo” (ft Wizkid)
Wizkid and Ice prince were undoubtedly two of the hottest acts out in 2011, and it was only right they got together on a record. Wizkid is the star here and expectedly so. He delivers a sonorous and zippy hook, calling out all the backbiters and naysayers. “Sometimes I wonder what they say when they see me passing by,” he sings. He, however, doesn’t pay them too much mind, and the same goes for Ice Prince, who doesn’t pass up the opportunity to deliver cheesy lines about the haters: “They all talk about me much / They don’t tie me down just like Reeboks / Now we getting a cut just like scissors.” Never change, Mr Panshak.
5. “Magician” (ft. J Milla & Yung L)
First things first, Jesse Jagz doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being such an incredible producer. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his all-round artistry period. Drawing inspiration from the popular Jamaican dancehall genre, the production here is top tier and Ice Prince also brings his A-game, once again showing just how artistically flexible he can be. He calmly coasts over the beat with a melodic, mid-tempo flow as he’s joined by ex-Grip Boyz crew member J Milla and Yung L, who deliver solid verses equally.
4. “Thank you” (ft. Choc Boiz)
In their golden era, Chocolate City made it a tradition to end their various albums with a posse cut that mostly featured all four of their flagship artists: Ice Prince, Brymo, M.I Abaga and Jesse Jagz. “Thank you”, the closer here, is one of their stronger collaborations as Brymo delivers an incredibly tuneful hook and Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz and M.I Abaga all take turns to out-do the next with their witty bars, tongue-twisting wordplays and dynamic, air-tight flows.
Once again, this song’s potency is primarily due to Jesse Jagz’s production, which meshes addictive percussions with bubbly synths. Ice Prince is once again floating as he clearly details and brags about his larger-than-life lifestyle. “We don’t buy drinks at the bar / They supply us cos they know who we are / Brand new clothes and the best of guitars / Girl on my lap like i play the guitar,” he raps ostentatiously in the opening verse. The repetitive hook, which serves as an anchor for the song, carries an instant appeal, making “Superstar” a timeless record that’ll steer up even the most lukewarm of audiences at any given time.
2. “Oleku” (ft Brymo)
This song’s reputation highly precedes it. Nothing much needs to be said. One of the greatest records to have come out of the continent in the past decade. End of.
Many fans might debate the placement of this song. Obviously not because of its quality but because they think it’s undeserving of the number one spot, a spot that they would reserve for “Oleku” and, to be honest, a very solid case can be made for this. However, the most vital weapon in Ice Prince’s artistic armoury is his ability to merge singing and rapping with great aplomb and finesse. Very few acts could thread the line the way he does, sometimes indistinctly swinging to both sides of the pendulum with relative ease. This intrinsic ability also made him self-sufficient on various records, delivering impressive verses and delivering even better hooks. On “Juju”, a 5-minute modern classic, the full scope of his artistry is on display as he calmly sings one of his most memorable hooks to date before going off to spit astute stream-of-consciousness verses.
Words: Boluwatife Adeyemi & Oluchukwu Nwabuikwu