Ajebutter 22

Ajebutter22: Soundtrack To The Good Life Review

“Soundtrack To The Good Life” is a title that would suffice for the entirety of Ajebutter 22’s discography. He released the brilliant What Happens In Lagos in 2017, which chronicled the ups and downs of the fast moving city in which dreams envisioned in the morning could be fulfilled or crushed by evening.

Mostly, though, he beamed his view on the highest strata of the state, setting his album inside the exclusive clubs of Lagos Island and the posh restaurants of Lekki. He is unapologetic in his affluence, working in a different direction to the purse tightening measures Nigeria’s ever-worsening economy imposes on its citizens, though he does not pretend to be unaware of their plight. 

But he is afterall, an Ajebutter (roughly: one born with a silver spoon), so he will live life to the most lavish goodness it has to offer. Soundtrack To The Good Life intends to continue on that path, and it reveals about as much in its title. What doesn’t make it to the title, though, is the romantic side he weaves into the album’s overall theme, as he uses his desire to lavish luxury on the one he loves as an extension of his own extravagance. 

Koromone kicks things off with spoken word poetry on “Soft Life Manifestation”, as she did on What Happens In Lagos, and she channels Ajebutter 22’s spirit, fantasising about paradise resorts, strawberry champagne and summers in Marbella. If that was a vision statement for the good life, consider the following track, “Soft Life”, a mission statement. He pairs with Ladipoe here, who had expressed similar sentiments on 2021’s “Feelings”.

The Ajebo Hustlers–assisted “Enjoyment” opens the door to the album’s love-laced side, as the Port Harcourt duo join him to invite a special woman into the good life. As is to be expected, Piego handles the chorus, and he makes a fine proposition with lines like “Let me into your life/ Use enjoyment blind your eye, baby”, while Knowledge is assigned the final verse to clinch the deal. 

Soundtrack To The Good Life rests primarily in the mellow hip hop range, with no part of the production feeling extravagant or forced. It is a great fit for its theme, allowing Ajebutter 22 to deliver his affluent boasts with an off-handed shrug that makes them that more significant.

Proclaiming himself the “Minister For Faaji” (“King Of Faaji”) , “Mascot For Enjoyment” (“Floating”) and “Minister For Enjoyment” (“Enjoyment”) may come off as a little repetitive, but as he has carried the persona so well across albums, it might as well be his middle name. Thankfully, rap rhymes about his actual stage name (bordering on “butter” and its relationship to “bread”) are given a rest on this album; they were just about exhausted on 2017’s What Happens In Lagos

Elsewhere, Ajebutter 22’s writing doesn’t hold up to the highs of his previous work. His style of rap is not dependent on complex production or the varied delivery of his own flow; his greatest strength is in his lyricism and rhyme. And so he will churn lines out with as little vocal distortion as possible, he wants you to hear every line of the wordplay he employs and feel the click in your head when you unravel his message.

He employs sleek writing on “African Man”, which is the album’s most lascivious touchpoint, singing about how “She always comes first and I always come late/ She ask me why I say African time”. The next track, “Floating”, matches this, and he concedes on the chorus—”I’m just floating through all my troubles—that even the much famed soft life is not devoid of problems. Efforts like these are, however, undermined by some tracks that appear later. 

The second half of the album leans more on pop than rap, and that means richer choruses and, sadly, more sparse verses. “Sunmoju”, “Light Spark” and “Finish Me” lack the intricately woven composition he has previously spoiled us with, though they function in isolation as great mellow pop songs. 

He takes on even more at the tail end of the album, incorporating Amapiano, seemingly a must-have for any Nigerian album post-pandemic. “King of Parole” punctuates its production with log drums, and the throbbing feel they bring highlights the pomp behind lyrics like “Mo fowo si bundle/ Owo ye wa double/ Mo gbomo lo shopping/ We spend like it’s nothing”. As with everything else he does, he borrows the South African genre in its more mellow form, never allowing the beat get too wild that it distracts from his measured vocals and the words they convey. 

The next track, “Amapiano x Shisha” predictably carries this over, though this time he is less in control as he cedes some power to club hypeman Toby Shang. The place of hypemen in music (and even outside it) may vary by individual taste depending on your love or detest for them, but thankfully Toby Shang is fairly unobtrusive, inserting lines like “Amapiano is the new wave now” and signature lamba “Just give me that vibe” to fill in spaces where log drums would otherwise have been left to do their thing.

Still, it does feel like Ajebutter 22 use of the genre is noticeably low effort, and with such generic lines, he has not committed the best of his songwriting to this experiment. And unlike other similarly low level lyricism elsewhere (see Tiwa Savage on the mildly controversial “Koo Koo Fun”), production is not good enough to make a case for itself.

Frequent collaborators Falz and BOJ are noticeably absent, though the latter is name-dropped two different times for a teaser that is never fulfilled. The artists on the album, though, more than soften the blow of their absence. Ghanaian artists Joey B and KiDi are enlisted for “Dey Ok”, which features vibrant percussion and piano work that enable their vocals shine.

Oxlade’s contribution on “Unconditionally” is cut from the same sonic cloth. The topic this time is an interest in a romantic foil, though Oxlade chooses some very clichéd lines to express it: “You’re all I want/ You’re all I need”. Singer, Jeff Akoh basically recreates this on “Fire”: “Girl you set me on fire/ You are my desire”, so his excellent vocal rendition on the chorus is let down by worn out lyrics. 

Ajebutter 22 ends his album on a note of gratitude to God, a decision that is common among Nigerian musicians, as he celebrates a larger audience and sold out concerts. Being who he is, though, gratefulness easily slips into decadence. “Woman and money that’s all I chase”, he sings, ensuring his album’s closer will never make it to any gospel charts.

Melissa contributes her breezy vocals to this, and she helps pry a celebratory song out of Ajebutter 22 ‘s boastful hands. Soundtrack To The Good Life thus ends on a near-perfect note, as Ajebutter 22 is able to bring to fulfilment the goals he celebrated in advance for 8 years ago. 

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