Asake signed a recording deal with Olamide's YBNL shortly after the release of “Omo Ope”. Before then, he'd been in the YBNL leader's DMs, sending messages that went unanswered for about two years. On the day Olamide invited the singer to his home, Asake changed his outfit multiple times, out of nervousness and excitement. “I got to the house and he asked me if I wanted to join the YBNL family,” he recounted at a radio interview back in February. On the spot, the singer was ready to sign any document placed in front of him, even though Olamide demanded he take the contract to a lawyer to look over.
“People don't know who Baddo is,” he says, his voice radiating ultimate respect. “I don't want to talk about that man. That's just the message, people don't know who Baddo is.” As far as Asake is concerned, the reverence the Nigerian music community has for Olamide is not even enough – that's even with the unanimous respect he's been greeted with as a modern great. It's fitting that a protégé would proclaim such admiration for his mentor, but you can't deem it hyperbolic. Olamide is one of Nigeria's greatest Rap artists, arguably the most prolific hit-maker in Afropop, and the record label he named after his sophomore album has housed and developed several superstars, including Adekunle Gold, Lil Kesh and Asake's fellow OAU alum, Fireboy DML.
Asake is the latest YBNL graduate, albeit on a somewhat fast tracked course. What's even more astounding is the fit between artist and label: Asake, an artist from the streets of Lagos, signed to Olamide, an artistic trailblazer from the streets of Lagos. These are kindred spirits, and the adulation clearly goes both ways. At the end of “Trabaye”, Olamide eulogises his protégé: “It's time for you to go show the world what you're really all about/go get them, dawg/YBNL got you for life /Baddo Sneh got you for life, my brother.”
Just one of several direct contributions Olamide has made towards Asake's music, on that same song, the label head plays the song's bassline. He's credited as a co-writer on “Palazzo” and “PBUY”, his stylistic influence peeking out in the molten flow of the former and in the rhyme schemes of the latter. Interestingly, their only full-fledged collaboration, “Omo Ope”, is one of the very few times Olamide hasn't had to exert himself on a feature, adding a relaxed verse to the song's proceedings. That seamless synergy is a testament to the evolution of Asake's artistic prowess prior to landing at YBNL, going from hit-seeking creator to self-assured song-maker.
“Inspiration works with time,” Asake says as he prepares to walk out of the changing room for the final time. He's explaining the serendipitous element behind the choral arrangement on the hook of “Omo Ope,” a trick he's repeated several times, which has gone on to become a mainstay in Nigerian Pop these days. “There might be sometimes that you'll just be in the right state of mind and everything will work for you, it's just left for you to be ready.”
By this time, he's running through his words. He's been at the shoot for about four hours, but he's looking forward to wrapping things up here so he can catch some rest before going to a show he's been booked for tonight. “The main reason I involve the choir part is so all of us can sing together,” he continues. “I don't even care if you learn all the lyrics or not, my own is you have to get the message I want to pass to you ‘cause I like to talk a lot in my music.”
Infusing aphorisms, streetwise knowledge and slang, Asake's music demands listeners' full attention to properly understand and appreciate its nuances, but he's not expecting everyone to have the patience for that. “The way I make my music, I go just dey talk everything wey dey my mouth. Learn the one you can learn and leave the one you cannot learn,” he says instructively. That's the hallmark of a purposeful popstar: one that makes the music the way they want it but also smart enough to put a communal spin on it, whether it's through a choral hook or easily memorable catchphrases.