L. An alphabet that has been adopted by social media to indicate a loss/loser. There’s no guidelines as to what might fetch anyone or anything an ‘L’. It’s simply a construct of the majority.

Skales has been on the receiving end of so much banter on social media, some of which has been unfair. Left in the cold after his contract with Banky W’s EME imprint expired, Skales was dead in the water before pulling an applause worthy career turnaround. It is a little jarring to remember that Skales was signed alongside Wizkid to EME. Although both artists are enjoying success these days, it’s not far fetched to state that Wiz is on his own stratosphere.

Empire Mates State Of Mind, EME’s compilation album came out around the time I wasn’t too big on listening to foreign music. Shortly before the album came out, I was quite cautious about what/who I listened to, based on conspiracy theories linking famous American artists to the illuminati. I could care less about those things these days but during those days, I listened to music by Nigerian artists a lot of the time.

Empire Mates State Of Mind was my go-to album during that period, (my friends and) I listened to the album up to the point where the CD was basically living in the DVD player. In retrospect, the album was pretty bland, quite bloated and very formulaic. It was created to be a greatest hits album, meant to be packed with potential hit songs and it worked. Wizkid who was at his first peak was the standup guy on the LP and rightly so. He had the magic wand mic and he could do no wrong. From ‘Baddest Boy’ to ‘Dance For Me’ to ‘London Girl’ and more, Wizkid headlined the show with an innate swagger that bordered on his supreme ability to churn out hits.

For all of Wizkid’s enjoyable contributions on Empire, Skales was the most intriguing of the bunch on that album to me. Skales wasn’t an unknown quantity perse prior to the compilation but the jury was still out on him. Skales never got the chance to release a full length project on the EME imprint but his herculean contribution to the compilation – 11 appearances (second only to Banky’s 12) with two being solo outings (second only to Wizkid’s 3) – is as close as he got.

Versatility is the first thing that jumps to mind whenever I remember Skales’ contribution to Empire. Skales was the only artist on the roster to work with every artist on the album and each time he showed up, Skales did well enough to create a positive impression. His dynamic skill set was an advantage, he could sing quite well and was quite adept at rapping. Skales used the tools at his disposal to create/contribute to songs ranging from hit singles to album cuts. Empire was the coming out party for EME and even though the world was hung up on Wizkid, Skales showed the makings of a superstar talent.

In a not-too-sudden turn of events, Skales was let off by EME less than 2years after the compilation album. Widespread reason Skales’ contract wasn’t renewed was because ‘he refused to blow’. Skales who had been jeered at even while behind the walls of EME was now outside, defenseless, thrust back into the cold world of uncertainties and social media only increased its boos.

Skales’ career at the time was like an uncompleted building that looked like it was never going to reach completion. Skales was the consensus idea of a walking ‘L’ and the amount of banter that accrued at his feet increased. Many artists in Skales’ shoes would’ve quit, but he didn’t. He fought vigorously through the rough tides till he could let his anchor down and step on to his destination.

Man Of The Year, Skales’ debut album eventually came out in 2015 under the auspices of a new record label, Bassline Music. It was a very modish record but it had the hits that seemed elusive to Skales’ career. The mood felt very celebratory and it would be hard to ask for anything more from an artist who’s been beaten down countless times but didn’t break. Skales was out of the woods and he had started to thrive, the remaining banter was simply background noise.

There was a lot of struggle to get to where he is now and I expected that story to be a mainstay on The Never Say Never Guy, Skales’ sophomore album released earlier this week. There was something about persistence I saw (or wanted to see) on the album’s cover art, especially the claws beneath the title, that drew me in and created a tiny hype. Unfortunately, Skales basically recreated his debut album in content with a little update in sonic style.

It’s rare to hear Nigerian artists spend enough time on an album relating their personal stories and struggles on wax. When many eventually do, there’s a vagueness about what they’re trying to relate and eventually they turn the song into a novelty, the type that involves banal inspiration. Skales’ new album is a typical case.

Skales starts the album off with ‘Thank God’, the quotidian appreciative, quasi-gospel track peculiar to every Nigerian artist where they show gratitude to God for coming from the bottom to making plenty money. The kind of sentimental record every Nigerian can gravitate towards, surface level inspiration stuff. Next track is the touching but unimaginative ode to his ‘Mama’ which is also a norm. From there, the album enters its barrel of insipidity.

For an album with a run time of 70mins, Skales spends his time singing about what every other Nigerian artist sings about: Money and Women. Skales doesn’t create anything profound or new to show that he’s gained new perspective for an album. Never is an album filled with songs crafted with a singles mentality, Skales fought through his doubters to create mediocre music albums. Travesty.

The common saying is ‘it isn’t how far but how well that matters’. Skales seems to be focused on the former in terms of creating his music and that only means he’s focusing on what’s in front of his nose which is all materialistic. Answering ‘how well’ means a reflection on the journey thus far, an inner conversation Skales obviously isn’t willing to have or share.

Good music albums have a transcendental feel that goes beyond singing/rapping about money, women and alcohol in baseless fashion. It’s sad that music albums aren’t used by most Nigerian artists to exorcize their personal tragedies. This article might be pointing to Skales but in reality, it’s really a direct sub to 90% of the Nigerian music industry. Now that’s an L.

Words by Dennis, aka Scout, aka @ayo_dennis.

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Finding out why the caged bird sings, or raps.

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