L.A.X’s latest album, No Bad Vibes, stretches his discography to three albums in a ten-year career. For peaks, he started out on a high, emerging in the Nigerian music scene cloaked in the regalia of the Wizkid-founded Starboy Entertainment in 2013.
L.A.X’s introduction was the Wizkid-assisted “Caro”, a single set in the percussion-focused soundscape that was Nigeria’s staple at the time. It was the sort of single with which Wizkid ruled over Nigeria’s dance floors, set to the same breakneck pace as tracks like “On Top Your Matter”, “In My Bed”, and “Show You The Money”.
Produced by the iconic duo of Legendury Beatz, then Starboy’s in-house producers, it was as fine an introduction as he would have hoped for, and it was no large surprise to see him reunite the band for his actual debut single, “Ginger”, the following year. There, the two artists swapped places, and L.A.X reprised in fine success the role he had played in “Caro” earlier.
For his early efforts he was awarded several nominations for both songs in 2013 and 14, eventually clinching the award for Best Diasporan Artist at 2014’s Nigerian Entertainment Awards. Maintaining this blistering start, however, would prove challenging, so that subsequent releases would struggle to replicate this impact, and this changed little even when he reunited with Wizkid for 2018’s “Nobody”.
As Nigerian Pop began to mellow at about the turn of the decade, L.A.X’s resurgence would come via slinky, sex-addled lines delivered over rhythmically soothing production. 2021’s “Sempe”, off Zaza Vibes, his sophomore album, was a remarkable highpoint, and as it was part of a run of releases that also included “Go Low” and “Faster”, he would come to reestablish himself strongly in Nigeria’s industry.
No Bad Vibes arrives at the cusp of this revival, and as it holds the potential to cement him with deeper roots this time, L.A.X has taken his time to curate a 12-track album that takes in a little of everything from Nigeria’s music soundscape.
His main themes—his love for life and the beautiful women it, and the semi-veiled braggadocio that comes with being the son of a billionaire magnate—resonate across all the tracks, and even when he leans into his tender side, like for the Ayra Starr-assisted “Options”, he can emerge with enough authenticity to sell their romance.
Elsewhere he remains the exuberant playboy, a side he allows flourish most significantly on “Zaza”, with lines like “I’ll give you love like Zaza/ I’ll buy you that new Prada/ Nobody do it like Zaza” playing up his sexual and financial prowess.
He leans more into his sexuality for “Waist Drop”, “Rora” and “Sweetest Tune”, a slightly variegated trio of Afropop tunes that bear in common an exaltation of the feminine form. To prevent No Bad Vibes from falling into the fairly common Achilles heel of repetitiveness, he has recruited a diversity of featured artists.
Ayra Starr on “Options” is a standout in songwriting and chemistry, mirroring modern-day romance without painting over its more cynical side, but other acts are able to deliver in pure song quality and ensure it will be a struggle to pick a favorite track.
For “Balance”, L.A.X recruits Dutch rapper, Ronnie Flex, and the duo spin round low-tempo pop, allowing lines run into each other with no clear demarcations between artists. He brings on Jamaican dancehall star Konshens for “Change Your Life”, drawing from the Caribbean for a track about the transforming power of his love, while Ghanaian Drill artist Black Sherif brings a rarely-seen sensual side to “Bounce”.
This collaborative eagerness, even with artists pooled from diverse continents and genres, ultimately elevates No Bad Vibes above albums of this cut. It is also a key differentiator from the similarly named Zaza Vibes, for on his last album he had relied on much bigger Nigerian names. For No Bad Vibes, he trades popularity for chemistry, and leaves with the better bargain–musically if not commercially.
Clemzy, whose signature “Bring the heat, Clemzy” can be heard on tracks by Tiwa Savage, Mayorkun, Ajebo Hustlers and more, is L.A.X’s go-to producer these days, and it was he who was behind the boards for monster hits like “Go Low” and “Sempe”.
He unsurprisingly gets the lion’s share of production credits here, with nearly half of No Bad Vibe’s songs bearing his tag: “Zaza”, “Waist Drop”, “Bounce”, “Sweetest Tune” and “Energy”. The last of these also credits him (and DJ Obi) as a featured artist, and Clemzy is able to bring enough vibrancy to position his feature as a potential soundtrack to night clubs.
As “Go Low” was released at the height of Nigeria’s relationship with Amapiano in 2020 to become the turning point for his career, there was no doubt he would lean into the genre once more for No Bad Vibes. His forays into Amapiano, “Para” and “Joani” carry all the authenticity of its South African origins.
He recruited Amapiano specialist DJ and production duo, Smeez and D3AN, behind the boards. On the latter track, he also features Tanzanian artist Loui, and in true Amapiano form, Smeez and D3AN take you on an uphill trip, building up patiently before climaxing with the heaviest drum sets.
No Bad Vibes is a statement of where L.A.X is right now, and it is a whirlwind of romance, wealth and good vibes. By looking beyond big name artists and the pressure to deliver they bring, he can set his sights on the perfect features to complement his style, and the diversity they contribute allows him reveal a different part of himself on every track.
So as he switches from negotiating a relationship with an ardent Ayra Starr on “Options” to dousing a “Gonga Aso” sample in Amapiano production for “Para”, you can feel there is a lot to L.A.X’s artistry still yet to be uncovered, and with each new release he pulls closer to his final form.