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    A pulse review of Shallipopi's 'Shakespopi'

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    At best, ‘Shakespopi’ is an album that tests just how far listeners will accept anything placed over groovy Amapiano production.

    After ascending to mainstream success through a 6-track EP that packed four hit singles, it was clear that Shallipopi had struck gold with his hybrid of Hip Hop and Amapiano drenched in Benin City street lingo.

    Shallipopi’s non-conformist style of music is what endeared him to listeners. Borrowing from his cultural roots and reality that shape his life in the streets of Benin, he has become some sort of envoy for the people whose reality his music captures.

    It’s the confidence that comes with success that informs his latest album, ‘Shakespopi’ where he lives out his fantasy as a philosopher who ran so William Shakespeare could walk.

    Shallipopi is considered a street envoy whose music represents the reality of a life shaped by the peculiarities of Benin City. While this is true, he fails to convey that reality through music that’s remotely decent enough to capture its nuances beyond easy sampling and phonology.

    Even the street quips which help draw listeners to his music are painfully missing in this project. In an album where he was expected to drop catchy word plays and street nuggets that mirror the philosopher he cosplays, Shallipopi instead engages in poor attempts at rhyming and even poorer attempts at singing.

    ‘Shakespopi’ is meant to be Shallipopi’s philosophical musing but the only thought listeners get is his simplistic desire to enjoy a good time after enduring a hard life. Like its singular theme, the compositions take a singular path in lyricism, delivery, and production to make for a lethargic album.

    He waves his cultural flag on pacy Ogene drums on ‘ASAP’ where samples Edo state legendary musician Sir Waziri Oshomah. Whatever promise the tough-talking opener held was dowsed by his poor singing on ‘High Tension’ where he interpolates the famous Italian revolutionary song ‘Bella Ciao’ over the comfort of familiar Amapiano arrangements.

    When Shallipopi tries to sing, it’s with the speech-like style he uses in rapping. His singing lacks the form and shape to conjure melodies and this combines with his repetitive rap style to create an exhausting 25-minute listening experience.

    He made a bad attempt at singing on ‘Dey’ where his vocals are at cross purposes with the backup vocals. He makes a hash of ‘Billion’ with ridiculous rhymes like “Billions, Ceillion, Million, Dealing on, See me on, Opinion”. While the guest verses of Zerrydyl, Reesha, Tega Boi DC, and Jeneral elevates the track, Shallipopi’s verse tells the story of the album as it’s striking how easily Shallipopi was thoroughly outshined on his record and the guest artists didn’t even have to try.

    When he celebrates his newfound success on ‘Find Me’, his sing-rapping style is lazy and repetitive. He announces himself as a star on the horizon on ‘New Cat’ where he drowsily runs through the track with his rhymes rivaled by the sax inclusion which appears to be a bad afterthought.

    He parodies Asake’s swaggering technique on ‘Start Am’ where he relies on the jumpy Amapinao log drum to hide what was simply an awful delivery and rhyming.

    While relying on the Amapiano exploration that brought him success allows him to offer listeners something familiar, it turns out to be one of his undoing on ‘Shakespopi’. His delivery and lyricism take a narrow path as Shallipopi didn’t seem to put any effort into finding new ways to convey his thoughts.

    Little wonder that the only digestible tracks on the project are ‘Billions’ where four guest verses make his repetition negligible, and ‘ASAP’ & ‘100’ where the production steps away from the Amapiano monotony and perhaps nudges him to try harder like in ‘100’ where he channels Olamide Baddo in one of his most admirable attempt at rapping.

    Although Shallipopi is in the second year of his mainstream run, his sophomore album doesn’t suggest he’s growing as an artist. The album points to a lack of effort to elevate his musicality as he simply followed the template of his debut album on which he already exhausted the lyrics and delivery he nonchalantly recreated.

    Indeed, people will rightly argue that Shallipopi’s music doesn’t require intellectual inquisition as the maker does not pretend to make songs with any form of depth. However, ‘Shakespopi’ lacks the sonic properties to offer even pedestrian Afrobeats consumers a good time beyond a lazy reliance on Amapiano production. His singing is bad, his rhymes are comically juvenile, his use of street language – simplistic and tired, and his delivery repetitive. With all this missing, what then is there to hold on to?

    At best, ‘Shakespopi’ is an album that tests just how far listeners will accept anything placed over groovy Amapiano production. And when it almost inevitably scores a hit with ‘ASAP’, ‘Billions’, and ‘High Tension’ the experiment will be deemed a success.

    Pulse Rating: /10

    Album Sequencing: 1.2/2

    Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 0.5/2

    Production: 1/2

    Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 0.5/2

    Execution: 1/2

    TOTAL – 4.2

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