The relaxed assuredness of Ajebutter22 & BOJ on ‘Make E No Cause Fight 3’

The alté hall of famers keep things chill and interesting

If an alté hall of fame is to be instituted, Ajebutter22 and BOJ are first ballot candidates for enshrinement. Butter declares as much on “Floating,” a song off his early year album, ‘Soundtrack to the Good Life’. BOJ doesn’t even need to say anything, he’s the guy widely credited for helping to crystallise the spirit of a renaissance movement into a now-seminal word. As well as championing being alternative to the norm, Butter and BOJ are defined by how they also interact with the mainstream—on their own terms, though.

It makes sense that they’re intertwined from the beginning. Well, not exactly the very beginning—Ajebutter22 had been making music for a couple of years prior, as was BOJ, as a member of DRB. When their paths crossed, it was the start of something career-elevating and culturally impactful. The 2013 hit song, “Omo Pastor,” signalled the arrival of two intriguing voices, one a fuzzy melody slinger and the other with a disarming baritone and malleable rap flow. In short order, their imprint began to grow; BOJ, a deadeye master of hooks, while Ajebutter22 became a respected cult figure for his alternative but ultra-accessible approach to making rap songs and albums.

A decade after their breakout collaboration and half-a-decade after acceding to fans’ request for a joint album, Butter and BOJ have returned with ‘Make E No Cause Fight 3’. The new EP, as with its previous two predecessors, is built on a shared zest for life between two kindred spirits. The perfect representation of Yin and Yang operating for culminative harmony. While motivations have shifted with each EP, there’s never any point where it feels like both artists are not on the same page, and it’s the same on this new 5-song set. This time, they are both driven by a relaxed sense of conviction, which makes sense considering the space each artist is in now.

When the debut edition of the series dropped in 2018, both BOJ and Ajebutter22 were a year removed from respective solo albums. No guest features were traded from the long-time collaborators, and it inspired the title of the joint project. At the time, Butter’s ‘What Happens in Lagos’ was a phenomenal feat in reality rap, but BOJ’s ‘Magic’ was clouded by an overt mainstream tilt and messy handling by his erstwhile label. ‘Make E No Cause Fight’ felt freeing, two bros basking in the confidence of being a formidable duo—all pressure side-stepped.

Five years and a whimsical second edition—with Falz—later, ‘MENCF3’ keeps things interesting even with the pair’s comfort zone. It’s evident right from the change in style of the album cover. Gone are the Manga-inspired representation of both artists duelling, now they’re seated Indian style surrounded by lush greenery. The music similarly leans into the serene, gently gurgling bass guitar riffs, highlife-inspired guitar chords, softly gleaming and groovy drum patterns that swing lightly rather than bounce. It’s chill but very far from lethargic

“42” opens the set on celebratory terms, with the guys basking in their growth from being broke, young lads in London to men chilling in villas and mansions. Instead of champagne, “We dey pop 42,” and it generally sounds like the soundtrack to toast to. Lead single “Sweet Life” is musically fuller, thanks to Spax’s typically plush production chops, as well as light-hearted verses from the Show Dem Camp duo of Tec and Ghost. Additionally, it contains one of the very best hooks BOJ has ever committed to wax, proof that there’s endless wonder in the familiar distinctness of his voice and abilities.

For the majority of this joint EP series, BOJ has functioned as the anchor, keeping songs centred with his knack for catchy melodies. He makes things pop. For the sizzle, that’s Ajebutter22, a wildcard who raps his every line in a mix of playful and poignant. With the very romance-driven direction of ‘MENCF3’, his quip-laden style represents the mischievous and boastful rizz generally associated with Nigerian men—Yoruba men to be specific. “Many fish in the sea but I’m eja nla,” he says on the silky neo-funk jam, “Rora,” while promising to pass the powerbank even if his phone on 1% on the closer, “DITR.”

‘Make E No Cause Fight 3’ is easy on the ears because Ajebutter22 and BOJ are noticeably light on their feet. It doesn’t have the playful urgency of its first instalment or the overt humour in its second, but there’s a cosiness that feels like the logical next step in this series. Hall of famers don’t really have much to prove, after all.