Four years and a slew of singles after his debut album, Ghetto University, Runtown has returned with a placeholder for his sophomore, a six-track extended play album which he calls Tradition.
How unoriginal a name, one is wont to ask.
Tradition? What Tradition, Mr Runtown?
Perhaps, a bit of context. Ghetto University, released late 2015, never quite realised its full potentials because of the customary yuletide glut. It was also put out when the album, as a product had begun its decline and was losing relevance. Singles welcomed their meteoric rise. Playlists suddenly had value.
After the lacklustre reception of his album, Runtown was lucky to release a massive single, ‘Mad Over You’, which summarily changed his career.
A mid-tempo song declaring love to a Ghanaian girl set the tune and routine of Nigerian musician singing about Ghanaian girls—but ‘Mad Over You’ was uncannily special.
Tradition differs from his debut, obviously. Fewer songs meant fewer songs but not necessarily tighter curation. While Ghetto University was a maelstrom of sounds and a playground of experimentation, Tradition is ‘Mad Over You’ redux and replicated.
Syrupy vocals, doused in synth and boxed in mid-tempo. Lyrical concerns hardly stray away from affection, braggadocio, dance or inebriation. And with clunky song titles like ‘Redemption’, ‘Emotions’, ‘Tradition’ and ‘Unleash’—one would think Runtown is channelling Tekno famed for his one-word song titles.
‘Redemption’ (produced by Del B.) sounds a lot like the Blaqjerzee-produced Wizkid’s ‘Fever’. Runtown’s obsession with rhymes gives the song a different feel from the stuttering cadence of Wizkid. A better song, if you ask me, but not in leaps and bounds.
On the Elputo-produced ‘Tradition’, Runtown filches the tune from Donell Jones’ ‘This Love’ but while the latter is a classic jam, the former is a cheap bread spread. To update that classic R & B song which jumpstarts dance gatherings with chutzpa will be to find the right aliquots of gravitas, cadence and lyrical dexterity. Runtown disappoints on all counts.
This is worrisome because he used to kinda be a songwriter of note. He returns the caveat on the Ghetto Univesity album cover to Tradition, “All Tracks Written by Runtown”.
It will be prudent to tell Runtown and his cohort (read the entire mainstream industry and Adekunle Gold) to go and hire songwriters.
What differentiates this EP from the track, ‘Mad Over You’, is that dancehall raga feel. It shows subtly on the eponymous ‘Tradition’ song and obviously on the Spellz-produced ‘International Badman Killa’. Runtown is channelling Beenie Man, when he might as well channel himself and repeat, revisit or return ‘Bend Down Pause’.
Instead, he does away with the promise of his earlier originality and latches to assured reins of sprouting mediocre songs tempered by that ‘Mad Over You’ shtick.
The standout song on this EP is ‘Unleash’ featuring the London-based Nigerian rapper, Fekky. This song, too, is couched in the ethos of ‘Mad Over You’, although instead of an anonymous Ghana girl, he namechecks a certain Vanessa.
Tradition adds an item to Runtown’s discography but hardly improves his chances of reinventing himself either as an iconoclast or as a mainstream musician. If anything, he has dumped his fair song-writing skills for the pangolo ambience of syrupy vocals and mid-tempo tinny sounds.
He needs to get over ‘Mad Over You’.