Oxygene… A Bold Beginning For Oxlade
Nigeria’s diversely talented music landscape has highlighted yet another promising star, Ikuforiji Olaitan, otherwise known as Oxlade. Listening to him for the first time leaves you stunned at his distinct musical chemistry. There’s something so silky about his sound that stuns you. It clearly tells you that this is different; something fresh.
His musical baptism shows he’s from a one-hit-wonder; that was his iconic collaboration with Chocolate City rapper, Blaqbonez, on Mamiwota. The track eventually showcased his vocal prowess to the consciousness of bigger industry acts such as M.I. Abaga, Davido, BOJ, Bizzle Osikoya, and many others.
It is that same pure fire and hard work that has re-surfaced in his debut body of work, a six-tracked extended playlist (EP) titled Oxygene. Coincidentally, it is the same title of French composer’s, Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 six-track album.
Within a week since its March 27 digital release, Oxygene became most-streamed album (within Nigeria) on Apple Music’s charts, surpassing industry heavyweights such as Chike and Fireboy. The reason is not beyond Oxlade’s intentional and free-spirited musical expression – a style of music un-appreciated, but now gradually gaining appeal among Nigerian music fans.
The Afro-fusion singer describes his sound as “A bridge between the Alte (Afro-fusion/experimental music expressions) and the mainstream.”
The 23-year-old Surulere born independent artiste, who recently began a distribution partnership with The Plug Media, has definitely set the bar high for himself with this debut. The hunger his thriving previous singles stirred in his fans is finally quelled on Oxygene.
Like most commercially successful love-related albums, Oxygene was born out of a recent heartbreak. While drawing on semantics, he titles the masterpiece, Oxygene, with a double meaning – first, a strong metaphor of how music is as important to him as healthy air (Oxygen) and how it is in his ‘gene’; secondly, a description of his connection with the estranged lover in the project, the singer explained.
A rich 17-minute listen, Oxygene feels like a personal glimpse into the life-diary of the independent artiste.
It is a well-traversed storyline with love-professing songs, starting with ‘02’: Girl, you are the air that I breathe….You be my 02,” and sifting to Hold On, where he remarks on his clinginess to his lover. Then, it sways to the project’s powerhouse, the groovy Afro-beat Away, telling a tale of his fantasy to fly away with his lover. Then, it slides to its relatively weakest song (If you place it among the other tracks, in terms of content uniqueness), a dancehall record titled Kokose; the song style doesn’t go down well with the artiste’s vocal texture. Then, it continues with Weakness and finally closes with the pep-giver, Tables Turn.
Ultimately, the project brings out Ox’s lyrical prowess, which he under explores in his breakout singles. The album’s rich production, with a touch from professionals such as Spax, Lussh, Echo, Nosa Apollo, Dera, including his breakout catalyst, Alpha Ojini, maintains the industry standards that has currently attracted over 10,000 streams, with more to come. It dons balanced, mastered sounds that provide a good listening experience. However, it is significant that Oxlade didn’t work with his long-time producer, Ojah B, on this project.
On the minuses, Oxygene’s brevity leaves you a bit unsatisfied. However, it is a nearly un-distractible 17-minute listen; kudos to its apt track list arrangement.
One key feature about the album is its rich blend of indigenous languages: Yoruba, Pidgin with English. Oxlade juggles it in a most relatable, but entertaining way. No doubt, it’s a major boost to the flavour of his sound, which has a local yet international appeal, especially on the power track on the album: ‘Away’.
While Oxygene might not be the instant classic fans craved to hear, it sure is a bold memory of Olaitan’s sojourn to stardom.
The project closes with prayers from Oxlade’s grandmother, who raised him for a good number of years, and the prophecies she makes of his imminent career success are more realistic than optimistic, from the look of things.