Review: Ajebutter22’s ‘Soundtrack To The Good Life’

Butter lays out the breezy premise of his third album from the jump—for better and for worse.

Life rarely unfolds in linear form. It’s a situation that many young adults have to come to terms with as they figure out how to reach what we think is our ideal selves. Every once in a while, it’s not uncommon to come across a tweet that reads something like, “I’m 27 and this was supposed to be the year I buy my private jet but LMAO we move.” It’s reality check that’s more bracing than disheartening, particularly for many young Africans. On his excellent 2017 sophomore LP, ‘What Happens in Lagos’, Ajebutter22 reflects the twisting and sometimes exhausting nature of finding your own way.

“Why would I strive for 9 to 5/When singing some lines would bring me more profit,” he sang three years earlier on “Humble,” the opener on his debut album ‘Anytime Soon’. Butter was wide-eyed, and understandably so. The BOJ-assisted “Omo Pastor” had ushered him into budding stardom in the latter part of the early 2010’s and  became a club staple shortly after. “I celebrate the things I don’t have yet ‘cause I could get them anytime soon,” he remarkably quipped on “Celebrate in Advance” off that same debut. Ajebutter22 was clearly ready to reap the glossy rewards of music stardom.

By the cinematic intro of ‘What Happens in Lagos’, “Good Place to Start,” a wearied tone began forming in his delivery. Things haven’t exactly gone according to those ideal plans; instead, he’s waking up at 4AM to get ready for a 9 to 5, and he’s doing it in a city that pushes against the lives of many of its inhabitants. By the album’s end, Butter has figured out how to be a Lagos big boy, juggling a well-paying job with fanning the embers of healthy indie music career, but the formative experiences he puts on wax across his sophomore are deeply relatable. The ethos is as Nigerian as it can possibly get: You have to figure out how to live life adequately and enjoyably regardless of what’s happening around you.

On his new third solo album, ‘Soundtrack to the Good Life’, Ajebutter isn’t just living life adequately and enjoyable, he’s successful and relishing in it. The differences are immediately obvious, from its brightly-coloured cover art to Koromone’s spoken word intro packed with images of flamboyance—a far cry from the somewhat stark, evolution-based cover of ‘WHIL’ which revelled in the hardcore Lagos experience. This isn’t just Lagos big boy music, it’s flying first class to an exotic island as a lifestyle music. This is the album that best fits the rapper and singer’s moniker, local slang for people enjoying high class perks.

“All she wants to do is japa, all because of sapa/Get her visa and ghost,” Butter sing-raps on third track and pre-album single, “Enjoyment.” The reference to the widespread urge to exit the country to forge a better life away from Nigeria is quintessential Ajebutter22, but there’s an implied underlay that suggest the intention to japa is mostly leisure-based. Viewed within the song’s romantic framework, you can easily conjure the image of someone with the resources to up and leave with a significant other, just because. “Let me into your life, use enjoyment blind your eyes, baby,” Piego of Ajebo Hustlers gently belts on the hook, making that image even more vivid.

Because of how plain-stated it is, ‘Soundtrack to the Good Life’ is the least intriguing title of an Ajebutter22 album. The expectations are laid bare—for better and for worse. In Nigerian music, plush, breezy production choices and flowery romance being the primary thematic concern are signifiers within albums espousing the good—or soft—life, a recent high watermark being Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’. Butter adheres to those tenets on his new album, favouring a music selection that simmers for an overwhelming portion of its run time, from the buttery R&B-inflected Nigerian pop of the Ladipoe-assisted “Soft Life” to the gentle Afro-swing of closing track, “Hear My Sound.”

It’s all meant to be seamless in order to properly portray the ease of living the soft life, but there’s a gnawing lack of edge which has never been a Butter trademark. Even though he’s better known for his ability to make earworm bangers in wider Nigerian music conversations, Butter’s greatest strength has always been in depth that’s as sly as it is accessible. Mining the dynamic nature of his baritone voice, a tool that can adapt to sling breezy melodies or deliver ear-holding bars, he’s able to turn quotidian topics into stimulating slaps.


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The 2019 loosie single, “Lagos Love,” is easily one of the very best Ajebutter22 love songs because of how he makes the act of finding and falling someone new sound like an utter wonder. By comparison, several of the love-struck songs on ‘STTGL’ come across as cliché encounters. “You get sparks like 4th of July,” off “Unconditionally,” is the type of unassuming pun you’d expect from Butter but he immediately follows with “e be like shayo dirty my eye, that’s why I can speak my mind,” tapping into the kind of generic line you’d hear in a lot of Nigerian pop songs wooing women. It also doesn’t help that Oxlade’s hook comes across more synthetic than soulful, no thanks to auto-tune usage that fails to enhance his siren voice this time.

Across his first two albums, Ajebutter22 framed himself as an artist who says it as he experiences and sees it, always rapping in first-person perspective while using clever humour as a relatable gambit. It’s not that a lot has changed about his artistic approach, it’s that the music is not as compelling and is less ambitious than previous works. Songs like “What Are We” and “Okafor’s Law” from ‘Anytime Soon’ were on the more complex side of romance spectrum, while “Yoruba Boys Trilogy” off ‘WHIL’ is epic in scope. ‘STTL’ falls into the trap of comfort.

Men singing about what they can offer women in a relationship is as mainstream as it gets in Nigerian music. As much as leaning into that ethos as the core of this album suits its soft life representations, Butter blends into broader Nigerian pop rather than conversing with it on his own terms, as he’s done over time. Objectively, none of the songs here are technically bad, more than a handful are inert in feel. On “Fire,” there’s a lot of puns about the titular element, in relation to praising a romantic interest, but the song doesn’t particularly sizzle.

‘Soundtrack to the Good Life’ is meant to simmer on full listens, but it doesn’t offer much beyond chill vibes on deeper reading. It works to the effect of its creator’s intent, but there are moments that show that intrigue can be found within the confines of comfort. “I have some destiny I’m not using,” Butter cracks on highlight “Finish Me,” where a song by Nigerian dancehall great Daddy Showkey is briefly interpolated over a Reggaeton-inspired beat. The self-eulogising lead single, “King of Parole,” remains as delightful ever, brimming with easily memorable Butter quotes over throbbing log drums.

“My motto is chop life and live long/Alté hall of fame is where I belong,” he raps on “Floating,” a passage that encapsulates the easy conviction that powers ‘Soundtrack to the Good Life’. At that, the song itself is a little too languid, perhaps lending more credence to the idea that the destination is rarely as interesting as the journey.

Stream ‘Soundtrack To The Good Life’ below.