On the night of November 12, 2019, Universal Music Nigeria took journalists, A&Rs and other music workers to ATV Lagos, Oniru.
Amidst bonfires, welcome plates of small chops and alcohol, Bolly Lomo sought to lighten the mood. We were there for the unveiling of Universal Music Nigeria‘s new act, Alpha’P. He is the talented and dreaded teenager with the confidence of a 30-year-old. His real name is Emmanuel Princewill.
A few moments before he arrives, a bonfire at the entrance to the secluded area where the event took place spilled onto dried grass. An attendee who was gently rolling up near the fire improvised to take the fire out with sand. In a little way, that set the tone for events of the day. We will get to that soon…
A few moments later, dressed in a biege overcoat and a pair of dark shades, Alpha P rolled up on a dunebuggy with pumped tires. The event soon commenced and we got treated to the five songs on the now released, King of Wolves EP – the EP dropped at 11 am today, November 15, 2019. While chatting with BollyLomo, Alpha’P who is a church boy described his music as “Spiritual.”
Standing confidently and addressing an initially unresponsive crowd that seemingly wondered where he’s from, he said that he was unique and different. He also said he hoped the audience has a good time. Well, if members of the audience was initially cynical, they left ATV with lots of thoughts.
The first song on the EP is ‘Fayah.’ It opens up with a canister of melodies filled with piano chords and a woozy cloud string. You might be forgiven for almost getting bored before the percussion drops. The kick and the bongo drums perform magic and Alpha P ushers in verses filled with the adulation of a faceless woman named Amaka.
‘Fayah’ merges the beats per minute and essence of 2016 dancehall music with afrobeats. The song’s climax fittingly lands amidst a collision of mumbles, adlibs and expletives. Depending on how you look at it or your enjoyment of the song, you might criticize the bland – or lack of – lyiricism.
‘Paloma’ makes no sense lyrically, but the afrobeats sounds and the adlibed chants we first got on 0:09 turn the song on its head. Produced by London, the song would ordinarily be destined to be a fan-favourite. Those underlying guitar chords on 1:29 are bliss. London is the real winner on this song. Whatever anybody had done on this song, it would have made sense.
London returns on the very afrobeat ‘Radar.’ The percussion of the song heavily borrows from Native American Neo-Folk of Arlo Guthrie on ‘Waimanolo Blues’ or native LatinX sounds of a mariachi band. Even the very attractive sound that forms the hook on ‘Radar’ is very Native American. This is original gbef music.
Then comes this writer’s favourite song on the EP, ‘More.’ It’s such a beautiful song from a sub-genre he likes to call, ‘Alternative Trap.’ The song opens up to melodies of alternative pop and spazzed out vocal strumming. The song comes alive on its hook and around, “More and more and more…”
One thing Alpha P is brilliant at is creating excitement with his verses, slowing down just before his hook and then allowing his hook to flourish naturally. Most people don’t know how to do that. That way, he creates different brands on excitement with his songs while his hooks retain power.
‘Tonight’ is a beautiful song that feels like 2017 XXXTentacion, Lil Peep or Ski Mask The Slump God. This is not a trap song, this is alternative rock. The song is also projects the mastery of desolation from a lonely heart. The song is magical and it’s sound that drives entire arenas of stans during a performance.
He’s talented – He can make music.He has incredible range and international appeal. He also has incredible confidence and could be a great showman/performer.
More importantly, King of Wolves EP is a brilliant project with beautiful songs. Ordinarily, this EP would have been as joyous as a 90th minute winner in a UEFA Champions League final, but people might never get to hear it. Even worse, people who get to listen might never judge Alpha P or his music fairly.
The big problem is that he’ll never be able to shake the ‘You sound like Rema’ tag. The world might be big enough for everyone to flourish, but first impressions last long in music. In the situation of having a similar sound to an established act, the conversation will not be about the music but the similarities. In music, loyalty is also a funny thing that drives success and failure.
Rema’s target market is Alpha’s. Yes, Chudy K excelled, but with what and for how long? Universal Music Group made a grave mistake by letting Alpha have this target on his back and this writer hopes they don’t regret it. Nobody will see it Alpha P as Rema’s former bandmate, they will see him as a copycat – that’s ‘first in time bias’ for you.
Yeah I understand, trying to change an artist is risking the possibility of losing that artist’s creative or performative confidence. This is who Alpha P is. He is not imitating Rema, it’s just one of those situations where whichever one came first would have been deemed ‘original.’ It is hard, but Alpha P is a teenager – he can be tweaked both musically and brand-wise. UMG should have done that.
As awesome as he is, why did Universal Music let London – known for producing for Rema – produce for Alpha P? Why are they using the ‘Rema-formula’ for him? This is unfair on UMG Nigeria itself and Alpha P. This boy is too big a talent to be put through this and this EP is awesome.
His image is equally ‘too Rema.’ A good A&R could have helped him find his sound. He could have helped Alpha P reduced the similarities with Rema to the barest minimum. All they had to do was carefully select the beats he works on and reduce his dependence on singing from his nose. Our society is cynical and judgmental and music lovers have the worst attention span.
It’s so sad that a chunk of Alpha P’s target audience might never truly see how talented he is because of the obvious similarities to Rema. Asides ‘Fayah,’ every song on King of Wolves has a Rema sonic variation. ‘Tonight‘ and ‘More’ are a mix of Rema Freestyles EP and ‘Why.‘ People will inevitably liken ‘Paloma’ to ‘Lady’ and ‘Radar’ to ‘Rewind.’
It’s so sad that If Universal Music Group hope this could push Alpha P’s profile, it’s not a bad strategy. However, with the track record of similar artists, it’s more likely to backfire than pay off.
We saw it it D’Banj and Durella, 2Baba and Joel Amadi, Isolate and 9ice, Skally Mental and Terry G and so forth. But one thing we will admit is that Alpha P is slightly more enjoyable than Rema. He also seems to have an even better mastery of beats than Rema. He can punch holes at will and he can just sway effortlessly.
Alpha also has better cadences and technique than Rema. As ‘Tonight’ suggests, he’s also quite deeper. However, he’s less audible. Nonetheless, King of Wolves EP is what this writer will jam all weekend. It’s a beautiful EP.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
8.7/10 – Champion