1-Listen Review: Show Dem Camp’s ‘Clone Wars V: The Algorhythm’
The latest wonderful entry into one of the best project series in all of Hip-Hop
The latest wonderful entry into one of the best project series in all of Hip-Hop
On the very first day of 2019, Show Dem Camp reported for duty with the fourth instalment of their ‘Clone Wars’ project series. Armed with the same lyrical showboating that animated their first two entries, and the urgent self-awareness of its third, ‘Clone Wars 4: These Buhari Times’ was a return to their proverbial roots as skilled lyricists, but this time around, with higher stakes attached. The duo, consisting of Tec and Ghost displayed an even more pronounced and acute awareness of their immediate surroundings in their home country.
Ahead of Nigeria’s general elections, SDC relayed timely, insightful opinions on a range of issues affecting the country, using their own worldview and personal experiences to ground topics bigger than them. The genuineness of their approach and CW4’s splendid execution resulted in critical acclaim. A lot has happened, and continues to happen, in the two-and-a-half years since that project, and a lot of fans have been clamouring for a similarly-minded follow-up. It’s a selfish ask, but one that the duo have obliged after months of speculation and anticipation.
Eighteen months since their last project, Tec and Ghost finally seem to have a few things to rap about. Let’s get into Clone Wars V: The Algorhythm.
In the usual 1-listen review fashion, all reactions are in real-time while the music plays. No pauses, rewinds, fast-forwards or skips.
This is that classic hip-hop shit, majestic horns and boom-bap drums. I’d like to know where this vocal clip is from. “They deserve to be heard” but I don’t think a certain minister—or even the entire administration—believes this.
Oooooohhhh! My real hip-hop fan antennae just stood up and started waving. This patois-inflected cadence Ghost is using isn’t doing it for me, but I’m rocking with the raps. Referring to weed as Elon Musk is wild to me. This beat is like a slightly avant-garde take of what you’d hear on Big L’s ‘Lifestylez ov Da Poor & Dangerous’, absolute classic by the way. Tec just said something about bombing on records and a 2Pac hologram flashed in front of my eye. Those eerie vocal samples are a nice touch. Bro, this reminds me of those freestyle videos they used to post on YouTube years ago, high-quality bars shot in grainy film. This person is a character from Clone Wars 2, or wait, is that a parody of the richest Black man.
Man, I’m so hyped. Been a minute since I expected Nigerian rappers to just go, and Tec is delivering. I liked that as an opening verse, but it feels like an alley-oop for Ladipoe to dunk. Yeah, he’s going, lifelines, not punchlines. This verse gives me flashes of “More to Life,” one of the best songs from this trio. We hail Ghost a lot for technical prowess, but we don’t talk about how much more potent he is when he’s in lived-in mode. I really like this, those horns are a cheat code. Three rap talents that are always aligned delivering once again, that’s consistency at its purest.
In my opinion, this was a great choice for a lead single. It’s not as dark as the nominal predecessor from CW3, but you can see why it makes sense as a good sequel from a progression standpoint. It’s also groovy enough for Palmwine fans but real ones know it’s a Clone Wars mindset. Tec’s verse just flew by, real-life shit. If I was half as good at anything as Tomi Thomas is at singing, y’all wouldn’t be at rest. Semi-aggressive Ghost always raps like he’s doing target practice, and he barely ever misses with the bars. This Tomi Thomas hook is really good, and TUC laced this one proper.
I need to know who produced this now—if I was streaming via Tidal I won’t have this problem. This semi-staggered, semi-snappy bounce is a vibe, Tec has found a nice pocket and he’s gone straight to his introspective bag. “Always knew the system won’t fight fair” is a trademark Tec bar, he’s more of a realist these days than the dreamer he was a decade ago. Shalom entered with so much swag, even Soulja Boy would ask for a crumb. “Real life like the world wrecking crew/I’ve been wrecking records since I was youth/and I ain’t ever going back.” SO. MANY. BARS. This is a verse! She’s singing with so much soul now. Ghost! Those intro bars are phenomenal. Haha, this man heard Shalom’s verse and he’s going Super Saiyan. The honesty bleeding out of these lines makes the verse easy to fall into. LMFAO! Yeah, that Dangote bar on “All the Above” makes even more sense now. This is an absolute keeper.
This is such a cleansing musical intro. Ghost has a phenomenal ability to enter a song with a loud presence without disrupting it, this is a nice introductory flow. Yeah, there goes the 808 bass, and Ghost is playing tag with the beat. “This life no balance, this shit don’t be adding up,” or as the young people will say, “The math isn’t mathing.” Tec just said Nigerian government is on demon time, tell me why IK Ogbonna popped into my head. When Tec raps about Nigeria, he does it with a sense of calm annoyance, you can sense the disgust but he can’t be too bothered to be animated by it.
Bring back skits on Rap album! This is so funny! Man, I miss Ablamovich from CW2. “Just lie, anything that they ask you, lie!” I’m actually dying.
This is giving me “Don’t Dull” vibes. Ooooh, those lustrous guitars changed up the texture of this song and it absolutely slaps. If you diss Tec, you’d most likely not get a response, the man is supremely confident and secure in what he’s accomplished. Dieziani gets a bar, what a villain that woman is. SDC not being part of the fuckery in Nigerian rap is one of my favourite narratives in Nigerian music. Reminisce’s opening bar is hilarious and disrespectful, LOL. Being on “King of Boys” is a flex that will never fade, this entire verse is filled with eternal flexes, word to Veen. MOJO is eating! Jesus Christ! It’s ironic I’m blaspheming with Christianity when this man calls himself an Orisa. This is a god-level verse ffs. Man, I wish there was a hook. Ghost referencing Revelations is very on-brand, and this flow is bonkers. “Magas don’t morph into moguls.” Hahaha, over to you Kelly Handsome. Slapper. Keeper.
This is the guy that was chatting with Big Liko earlier. Ha! Apt representation of Nigerian leaders. Such dream killers.
These keys are so shiny, better hide them from a magpie. “As long as we dey this Naija, they say every die na die” cut through me. I’d like to count the number of references on this verse, they all seem so disparate but they tie together perfectly. Ghost makes really good rap hooks, they won’t always be as anthemic as “TDV” but they’ll always make perfect sense in terms of song structure. Tec is bragging unabashedly, which is apt for all the moves he made in lockdown. Yeah, this is an absolute monster of a verse. This beat has an infectious languid knock that’s perfect to accompany these raps. Keeper.
My ears are trying to adjust to the bounce of this beat, it’s slightly unorthodox but that piano chord progression is keeping me on track. I like Tomi Thomas’ last EP, but I wouldn’t have minded a few fiery performances like this on there. Tec raps like that guy in an argument who won’t raise his voice to embellish his point, which can be aggravating if you’re on the other end because the confidence can be annoyingly smug. That guillotine line caught my ear. Tomi always gives SDC that A-level hook pack, this isn’t anthemic but it’s really good. Jesse Jagz’s lyrical gimmicks haven’t translated for me in years, and I can’t hear anything really profound. Hehh, I shrugged just now. Ghost referenced ‘The Truman Show’ and it’s a reminder of what separates SDC from so many lyrical miracle apostles. Rest in peace, Majek Fashek. I will revisit this, I like it generally.
This seems like the customary ‘Clone Wars’ track with just Ghost on it, and they’re usually standouts for me. I just heard hieroglyphics and larynx in a scheme, and I can hear the ghost of Big L clapping. “Feeding off negative energy makes you a parasite” is an interesting thought, even though I don’t really agree with it. Yeah, this is a rant, the only filtering here is in the rhyme schemes. It still baffles me that the Nigerian government is denying what the thousands saw live and direct. Rest in peace and fuck the general.
Sombre introductory music and a socially conscious vocal clip. Ogranya has the type of voice that can either be gorgeous or devastating, and right now he’s channelling the latter emotion. “Praises due to the politicians and the priests” is one of my favourite lines on this album so far. You can tell Ghost, like so many of us, is maddened about the way the October protests ended. Get you PVCs, guys, 2023 isn’t that far. SDC offers solidarity, not radical instructions, it’s why their message will resonate with their listeners. Moss! Been a minute, I wish his verse was mixed better. His cadence is still clear, though. That was a short verse. Ojini raps with natural clarity, and it helps that he’s loosened up his flow in the last few years. This is an intricately crafted verse, every line makes perfect sense, and fuck those cowardly soldiers. Great album cut, will revisit.
I wish this was just Tomi Owo singing, but maybe this represents a dance between heavy clouds and lights. I’m always thinking about deep angles to Rap songs, sorry. That’s a bounce, first time hearing Spax’s tag, which is quite odd. This picture Ghost just painted is extremely heart-breaking. Yeah, hold men—well, rapists and abusers, to be more specific—accountable for sexual assault and gender-based violence. Tomi’s voice is familiarly sonorous but there’s also defiance in there as well. Been two songs since a Tec verse, he’s bringing the thoughtfulness. “I feel with all the evil on display, the world is trying to turn another page.” That’s some cautious optimism I can buy into. Really good verse, but that last line has some dissonance to it for me. By the way, I’d like to hear more music from Tomi soon.
Final song. That sounds like Tomi Thomas, his voice is too distinct to miss even when technologically muffled. Spax is a genius at crafting Afrobeat-influenced beats that don’t sound tired, this is groovy but solemn enough to absorb Tec’s honest bars. That ‘Last Dance’ reference is a dub, the whole verse is in fact. Ghost said he’s a vessel, and with that voice, I fully accept the sentiment. That flow switch was subtle but it changed the intensity significantly. I can tell I’m about to rinse this song, Spax just has that synergy with these guys. Ghost is giving guys outro monologue, this man has clearly missed performing live.
This project perfectly encapsulates the saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–simply update it. ‘Clone Wars V: The Algorhythm’ is the latest wonderful entry into one of the best project series in all of Hip-Hop—feel free to quote (or @) me on that. Very often, long-running series in Rap can veer towards painfully rote territory over time, and even though Show Dem Camp have established a pattern of prioritising high-skilled, traditional lyricism over the course of this series, this fifth installment is far from a tired, water-treading exercise.
The topics may have not changed much, but Tec and Ghost still have a whole lot to say, and they still bring out each other’s best while doing so. As a timestamp of interior perspectives and exterior happenings, they exchange bars on their maturation and wins over the years, broach the effect of the pandemic, and stand in solidarity with a generation of young Nigerians fighting at fatal costs to live their best lives. Within the context of its series, Clone Wars V is a culmination of traits from previous instalments: the dead-eyed lyricism established on the first entry, skits that made CW2 a fuller listen, CW3’s self-dissecting and reassuring focus, and the broader social purpose of CW4.
Musically, CW5 is a little glossier than its predecessors, with shiny piano chords, guitar riffs, and gleaming strings rooted in a clear Hip-Hop bounce. Helmed by several producers, and featuring A-grade features, the album is simultaneously cohesive and dynamic, tying into the larger picture of SDC as curators of great rap albums.
Listen to ‘Clone Wars V: The Algorhythm’ here.
@dennisadepeter is a staff writer at the NATIVE.