The Good Doctor Dami Ajayi reviews Oma Lay’s debut EP . Thisislagos.ng resident music critic says the Port Harcourt boy is leading the vanguard of a change of guard in the Nigerian music scene. Apple Music agrees as it debuts its “Africa Rising” programme with Oma Lay as curtain raiser. This is a triple threat to watch – singer, songwriter and producer.
2020 has brought yet another musical gem.
One from Port Harcourt (like Burna Boy); one whose ancestry tracks back to the highlife ferment (his grandfather Adalolo is famed to have played drums for Celestine Ukwu); one whose allure and appeal is instant (like Rema) and one whose oeuvre already reminds us that there is a change of guard currently happening on our music scene.
Think Joe Boy, Fire Boy, Crayon, and, of course, Rema. Omah Lay joins this crew of newbies rather nicely and the older guards, if not worried, are consolidating or strategizing. Or how will you explain Adekunle Gold’s recent re-branding as AG Baby. Some may think his new look suits him but there are those who find anachronism therein.
Omay Lay’s play on the last item of his moniker suggesting his album title may subscribe to the #DontLeaveMe challenge, but jokes apart, it is a big foot forward. At 5 tracks lasting 14 mins, Get Layd is a compilation of songs about love situations.
Take ‘Damn’ produced by Bizzouch. It has that dreamy tune emphasized by piano chops. It is a love song characterised with expletives. Damn, being the exclamation for describing that which may defy description. Here the song persona is insisting on the measure of love he is receiving and it is a well-known trait. That sweet lip-licking boy posturing with the babyface youth appeal and career incline, all magnet to the un-named ‘she’ on the record.
‘Lo Lo Lo’ is more upbeat and possesses that Afrobeats shuffle. It is a triumph that Omah Lay produced this song and there are highlife moments provided by the guitar riffs by Abel Lead Us. There definitely progress on this track: Omah Lay has found words to describe his response, but permit his stutter. Love become Lo Lo Lo, for reasons best unexplored. His self-professed good looks continues to be gambit and his appeal is a showing of love (or lo lo lo): something that requires the privacy of a bedroom.
When propositions are rebuffed, things like expletives and stutter have to be shelved for clearer approaches. ‘You’ has that Raga bent even if it is still mostly Afrobeats. Metaphors of the core elements of earth like fire and water are recruited alongside the unbiased of the judiciary. ‘You’ enjoys a bit more clarity than the previous song but loses that playful edge. Blame this on its earlier duty as a breakthrough single of sorts.
‘Bad Influence’ is perhaps the finest song on this project for the dual reason that it is near confession and the closest you come to the gritty realities of this affection that remains unrequited. Omah Lay attends to this refusal to engage by taking to the barstool.
‘Bad Influence’ is the second song he produces on this album and the only one he mixes and masters. Abel Lead Us brings in more solemn guitar riffs and the effect is more melancholic than dreamy.
‘Ye Ye Ye’ is the climax of this EP. The love interest has finally acquiesced to what had been proposed earlier. The ditty is an explicit description of a sexual encounter and the ‘ye ye ye’ is not a stutter; it is at best the description of a moan and at worst an acknowledgement of pain.
The male sexual gaze is almost always about power, never about tenderness and participant’s feedback. From Fela’s Na Poi through Femi Kuti’s Bang Bang Bang to Olamide’s Up in the club, the participant has been at best silenced. Omah Lay updates this with primal sounds but this does not take anything from the appeal the song has garnered.
Get Layd tracks the history of a bedroom bound affection and does so exhaustively within the new shuffling sound of Afrobeats music. There is promise here, when we reflect on Omah Lay’s abilities outside the studio booth. He mixes, produces and writes songs. Plus he is good looking.
Rema may have been delivered his competition.