A 1-Listen Review Of Wande Coal’s ‘Legend or No Legend’

A polarising demonstration of the singer's famous abilities

Ever so often, someone somewhere listens to a song that reminds them how much of a genius Wande Coal is. The message is taken to just about everywhere, worded in a phrase that’s been gracefully supplied by the artist himself: “Nobody be like Wande”. Other times, the skill and sojourn of Wande Coal is placed under rightful scrutiny, with detractors unconvinced he’s successfully parlayed his talents into a rock-solid superstar profile. 

One thing is clear however: over the past half decade, as more amorphous sounds open themselves within Nigerian Pop, the distinct evocative qualities of Wande has proven a core influence. Those dazzling vocal runs, the usage of ethereal-sounding gibberish, the Michael Jackson-influenced swagger—those are present still, even permeating underground indie terrain. It’s one of the most enviable legacies in all of Afropop, but it’s understandable why Wande Coal would want to extend that sonic respect into making genius in his own portfolio, and that’s the narrative coming into his latest ‘Legend Or No Legend’


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Being his first full-length work in eight years, ‘Legend Or No Legend’ undoubtedly arrives to a lot of expectations. It doesn’t take the mountain off Wande’s chest considering he’s offered different iterations of his sound across that sprawling expanse of time, and choosing which to include here (and the more essential vision of their pairing) would have been tasking. The recent conversations about his actual standing in the Hall of Fame would have been no more comforting, except more people have stood on his side. Let’s hear what he does with this elevated podium. 

In usual 1-listen review fashion, all reactions are in real time while the music plays. No pauses, rewinds, fast-forwards or skips. 


A Dunnie ‘Legend Oh’ tag to start off an album concerned with legends is a nice touch. The bounce in these drums is very visceral, I enjoy the colours they evoke. Quite Fela-esque but something indie about the production; heh, Wande is approaching this well. That ‘nobody holy’ idea is a bit overused in Nigerian music, but at least he’s riveting. Muscular flexing of his vocals; nothing too showy. On a topic-level, this opener doesn’t do much for me however. Memorable performances across board, though. What’s that closing drum sequence? Gives the song the kind of epic show-starting feeling you’d get from the opener of Little Simz’s ‘SIMBI’. Let’s see (hear) if the album follows the sonic trail. 


I liked this when it dropped, it’s quite original. Perhaps by not being on many amapiano records, Wande has maintained a freshness for that sound. The feel-good element here cannot be missed. I remember it was released close to December, and just sort of captured the victorious energy of that period. It’s prime-era reminiscent of how many directions he’s coming at this from; colouring a song with different-sounding vocalisations is a favourite trick, after all. When the drums strip away and he embarks on THAT melodic solo, this song comes alive. I like its early placement on the album; it makes you excited for what comes next. 


Some trap-esque guitars starting off this one, and Wande doing his best southern American impression. The tone here is sombre; quite disjointed from the previous record. I hear what he’s trying to do, but it’s not working well enough. The production sounds empty while the vocals could have done with more dynamism. Somehow, the laid-back R&B approach on a beat like this doesn’t give sufficient vibes. An easy skip imo. 


These keys are giving “Spaceship Jocelyn” Rema and Victony. He starts with that emo rap-influenced crooning, but rather than demons, it’s the movement of a woman he’s battling with. What’s this rap zest? Wande Coal has launched into full MC mode, these bars are really magnetic, even if I’ll need a revisit to properly gauge what he’s saying. The cadence has no flaws, though. Wande has always been like that singing guy you knew could rap but never had the patience to sit and write rhymes. This is the song “3 Square Meals” wished it were; the cross-cultural pairing works so effortlessly here. 


Another mellow number. Don’t know if it’s just me but the transitions on here have been underwhelming. Perhaps, I’d appreciate “E Choke” better on subsequent listens but this current one isn’t working. Can’t seem to wrap my head around what he really wants to say, the songwriting isn’t the most coherent. And it doesn’t help that the production has a lot of space for writing. Meanwhile, the lyrics sound freestyled. You can guess already: I don’t like this song very much. 


This production sounds a bit familiar. Yes, that first song; I think they have similar tones. But the production is more bouncy, something Wizkid would float over with two eyes closed. It’s meant to be a feel good song, but the energy is a little overstretched to be effortless. Then the beat could have lost some of its verve, and also, at the risk of sounding too high art-demanding, this would have benefited from an abstract approach to the writing. A little less directness, a lot more focus. Wande’s a good freestyler but an album shouldn’t have such obviously unstructured songs. 


When the snippet of this collaboration went online, it wasn’t exactly what a lot of people thought a song with T-Pain and Wande Coal would sound like. Myself included, to be honest. For many years, these two artists have been considered as musical twins, operating in similar folds by moving seamlessly between R&B and pop, boasting smash hits which were yet close in context. Love songs were something they also did well, whereas this “Streets” seems to come up from nowhere. The T-Pain verse was purposeful but not evocative, Wande’s contribution tried to be evocative but lacked its prerequisite of specificity. This is one of those few songs where popular expectation would have been been the ideal execution. 


In my opinion, this is one of the best pop songs released this year. Everything’s on check, from the haunting bass of the production to the vocal deliveries. Definitely one of Olamide’s most affecting features in recent times. “That booty look like a place they told me not to go,” is such a captivating lyric. Wande’s first verse has such great measure, too. The crowd vocals are in good taste, amplifying the (sensual) tension the song embodies. Both voices are well-synced; I think Wande Coal is one of the most seamless pairings for Olamide’s vocals. The aforementioned MJ swag is everywhere in this second verse; Wande is to be moonwalking on afropop galaxy. 


We’re here now. The bromance between these acts is one of the most wholesome things in all of African music and this is a chance to capture that energy in song. That’s after all, the topmost unifying factor whenever they’re in a room together. Drums are mellow, spiritual, sparse. Wande’s adlibs works great in such opening sections; here, it particularly reveals its influence in the style of Kizz Daniel. Wiz has come in; the pace is great for him and he’s coasting over it, quite well too. His presence is heavy. Wande’s switched in; that street fighter bar came in sweet. I like what the production is doing; very subtle tweaks and progressions happening in the background. I will definitely be revisiting this one. 


This song just started off with an energy of its own. An arrangement of the synths brings out the flows, zesty by the way. “And I been setting a legacy, don’t care about positive or negative” is one of the most revealing lyrics all album long; it’s the first to directly reference its title. These Indian-inflected melodies bring the Rema argument to light, and while I think they’re both distinct and accomplished vocalists, it’s fair to consider WC an early blazer in that path. I remember when he used to drop those Mandarin-sounding gibberish, and would make them very important sections of the songs. He does that here, although they call up much attention to what they’re doing, and that contradicts the subtle ambitions of performance. 


Another of the more anticipated collaborations on the album. Fireboy has always been about the Wande Coal influence in his craft and this being the second time they’re officially collaborating, a semblance should have been struck by now. This is Fireboy singing what is obviously the hook; it’s uncanny how much of Wande Coal seeps into his vocals. He rides on the space to deliver the first verse, does a neat job of that too. I’m just picking that the drums on this album have had a cohesive base, but it’s the pace and structure where they fall short. Wande Coal’s impact on this song is not quite moving, these runs don’t move as they’re meant to. He could have gone verse for verse with Fire, but he chose the vocal route. That comes more naturally to him, obviously. 


The tension is palpable on this one. Definitely a late-album banger. I’m feeling the drums and Wande’s carefree singing. The Odogwu mention is heartwarming lol; he would have made a fine feature here. Beyond the energy, and the timely reminder of his greatness, there’s not much happening here. It’s almost a filler, but the pace repurposes the album’s direction, and that’s a good set-up for the last record. 


Last song on the album. Vocals right off the drop, there’s no hiding that the intent here is to sing. Kel-P has featured very prominently in this album, and I don’t know if that is good or bad. Anyways, the singingit  is quite moving even though it’s polarising what love Wande sings of. The initial sections had suggested a wider spectrum of the emotion being taken account of, but it’s revealing itself to be a romantically-inclined. Heh, I’m not feeling these adlibs; the album has too many of them, and without much distinction. This hook is lukewarm, doesn’t excite past the innate melody of Wande’s voice. Down to the end, the sound grasps on those highs the artist has mastered over the course of his career, but the effect is audible less poignant. 


While it scarcely references its title, ‘Legend or No Legend’ would definitely be a polarising album. To be truthful, the breadth of Wande Coal’s influence in Nigerian pop would always make him a legend, while his cache of hits transcend mere cult hero status, but looking beyond those achievements this album doesn’t summarily capture his genius. Most of the records are approached from a place of comfort rather than pushing himself, and that manifests in the overt reliance on melodies to build song structure. 

More than a one-trick phony, Wande Coal demonstrated during his peak years that he can approach music from variant angles, but that versatility isn’t found here. What is rather obvious is the banking on a headline-worthy title to spur listenership, but sadly, there isn’t enough to keep them present or want subsequent listens. Most of all, Wande’s songwriting craves purposeful indulgence, the toil of being in rooms where his legacy means nothing and the creation of new lore becomes the domineering motivation. This would set this legend back on course, utilising better the pristine qualities of those gifts that once held us spellbound.