Deep Cuts: Revisiting BOJ’s “BOTM” places his trajectory into perspective
emblematic of BOJ’s unique appeal
emblematic of BOJ’s unique appeal
BOJ was always destined to be great. In 2013, he lined classic records such as Show Dem Camp’s “Feel Alright” and Ajebutter22’s “Omo Pastor” with his unmistakable vocals in the form of a smooth husk which could soundtrack the quintessential Lagos movie. Paired with the rap efforts of his collaborators, both songs became early manifestations of a new alternative movement, and BOJ became a vehicle for its journey into the future.
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The years after then have unravelled favourably for Bolaji Ojudokan. He has released music at his own pace, yet manages to stoke sufficient hype around projects. A debut album with longtime cohorts DRB Lasgidi underscored the collective’s still-groovy synergy and influence on alternative culture. Acclaimed collaborative projects with Ajebutter 22 spawned cult classics like “Yawa” and “Too Many Women”. It’s been a brilliant run-up to his forthcoming sophomore ‘Gbagada Express’, particularly because of its stacked feature list which again highlights BOJ’s artistic tendencies as a collaborator. It’s clear that he’s not so much concerned with being the lone star as much as curating a wholesome sonic experience.
However, BOJ has also been known to take the microphone by himself, especially during the early years of his solo career. While he’d broken out through lacing rap songs with instantly memorable bridges and hooks, the singer had a mixtape out, ‘#BOTM’, at the time as well. It would take a while for listeners to warm up to his distinct style, but when they did, it paid off. His entry into the mainstream came accompanied with a win at the Headies award for Best Alternative Song in 2014. This was emblematic of BOJ’s unique appeal.
“BOTM” translated to ‘Bolaji on the microphone’, a syrupy and sunny record about pursuing one’s dreams. Usually musicians are verbose when dealing with such infinite material, staking their entire philosophies as bet for their incredible odds. BOJ is rather cool. His delivery is the equivalent to an image of the class genius playing around minutes before the exam. In the opening lines, he’s assured as he sings “Time is coming, I know that it is nearer/ The future is bright o, I know cos it is clearer” and later on making humble brags such as “got my dark shades on/ so I don’t see no later” and “moving forward, so I guess I’ll see ya later”. There aren’t many lines on the record, helping give an elusive sheen to its luscious keys.
The project had other great records like the Lola Rae-assisted “Ginger”, a cinematic offering full of the groovy synths that chracterised Nigerian Pop in the 2010s. “Blow” was a posse cut featuring Poe, Tec and Teezee. The verses are laced with the seamless bragaddocio you’d expect from such a line-up, all of them centering BOJ’s desire to blow. In 2017 BOJ’s debut album ‘Magic’ was released, helmed by a long list of collaborators who’ve either been present since the journey’s start or got on along the way.
This Friday, the much anticipated sophomore ‘Gbagada Express’ will be released, and it’s telling how closely BOJ has been flying towards home. From the obvious nod in its title to the pan-African leanings of his chosen collaborators, the artist is again presenting himself as one of ours, just as he did all those years ago when he first grabbed the microphone.
(Re-)watch the video for “BOTM” here.