In contemporary Nigerian music, the jury is still out on what should be done with the Long-Playing album. Should it be done away with as a true testimonial of its principal or as an inconsequential archival material fit only for the obscure discography?
The answer to this question could be story for the gods or ‘Greatness’, DJ Neptune’s long-awaited and presumably definitive contribution in terms of the Long Playing album. At about 53 minutes and 15 tracks, DJ Neptune’s first album comes at a time when the LP album is being derided.
The single is having its best showing. It is faddish for soaring new artists to drop single after single, aiming for success, recognition and air play piecemeal by piecemeal. The prototype is the exemplary Teckno who has dropped single after one-word titled single in a long reign as Nigerian’s golden boy of music. Presumably, his creative descent hasn’t begun but it can’t be long anymore, yet he does not have an album to his name.
Of course, the EP album, has a better fate than the LP. With the EP, one can dismiss artistic range on the altar of brevity for a tightly curated project. Makes it more confounding that DJ Neptune, an old hand, would go the long haul, the full nine yard with an album.
Being an integral part of the culture, Disc Jockeys have been indispensable to Hip-Hop projects. In Nigerian popular music, the DJ also holds some cultural currency like their kith, the On Air Radio Personality. DJs curate the radio airwaves. They decide what songs to play at clubs, parties and shows. It will be misleading to conclude that musicians depend solely on DJs. Wrong, DJs also need good music. DJs also need the spotlight for themselves. DJs hunger for creative capital. This is why DJ Khalid has become somewhat indispensable in far-away America. This is why DJ Spinall, DJ Cuppy and DJ Exclusive are hot right now in Nigeria.
Back to ‘Greatness’ and DJ Neptune. Calling his collaborative album ‘Greatness’ feels like insisting on giving feedback on your own material. Blame it on his influences as a DJ. Although here, he is not only making a playlist, he also sees to the songs from conception to post-production including promotional hype.
Every ‘hot’ musician working in contemporary Nigerian pop music is represented here except Falz. The album begins strongly with ‘Blood & Fire’ featuring the Abaga brothers. For a minor moment, one remembers the DJ Neptune of ‘1,2,3 fame’. Then we are reined into the chore of listening to the different fusions of music that govern the zeitgeist. It almost feels like any given radio play where you are expected to love some songs more than others.
The 15 songs are different kinds of ear candies with different tastes suited for the same palate. One can make a case for the songs with fewer features. Burna Boy is fiery as usual on ‘Shayo’; Mayorkun brings soulful melodies to ‘Tear Rubber’; Kizz Daniel samples Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s ‘Umqombothi’ in ‘Wait’; Runtown is gorgeous on my personal favourite, ‘Why’; Maleek Berry and Niniola put in their respective bests in ‘My World’ and ‘Rolling’ respectively. These songs stand out because of their respective individual talents.
‘Greatness’ would have served a motley of aspiring musicians better. Hence there are no ‘wow’ effects because calculated risks are not taken. Every song is engineered to be a potential hit. That is not greatness; that is cheating.