A 1-Listen Review: Ladipoe’s new EP, ‘Providence’
A well-earned victory lap for the leader of the revival
A well-earned victory lap for the leader of the revival
Nothing about the rise of Ladipoe into a dominant rap star was rushed. Over a decade ago, the Nigerian rap artist born Ladipo Eso emerged as a frontrunner in potential rap messiah debates. It’s understandable, his introduction via Show Dem Camp’s “Victoria Island of Broken Dreams” is still one of the most entrancing rap verses committed to wax by a Nigerian lyricist.
What followed was a far more elongated route filled with more great feature verses, sporadic solo drops, including his long-awaited 2018 debut album, and, in the present, a handful of huge singles helping to fully realise those potentials. The path Ladipoe walked not only tested the patience of day one fans but also tested the wits and resilience of the man himself.
Even when things were not going great, he seemingly took them in stride, using that time as a crucible to intentionally forge the sort of revered, dynamic rap artist he currently is: One that can effortlessly bar it up on one song, and remain engaging while curating charming smash hits. Without a doubt, Ladipoe is in a groove and it’s what makes the possibilities of his newly released EP, ‘Providence’, enticing. It’s his first proper project in over three years and, for a rap artist working on a much higher artistic plane these days, my expectations are up and stuck.
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In Usual 1-Listen Review Fashion, All Reactions Are In Real-Time While The Music Plays. No Pauses, Rewinds, Fast-Forwards, Or Skip.
This is an exquisite opening, very jazzy. I know some bars are about to be slung! Let’s go! Okay, the scheme on that second line has my senses all heightened. “The secret to longevity is, always you write the narrative.” Lifelines! Fuck, I’m not listening on Tidal. I need to know who produced this, such a premier the ‘90s bounce. That’s a double entendre, go figure. Sometimes, Ladipoe raps like he’s delivering the most interesting Ted Talk ever. “The signature is just an autograph that says pay me first.” Boy! Fam! So. Many. Quotables. I don’t like that trap line, but this entire song is way too good for me to be nit-picking. This is how you start an album, man. This should be an album!
Ozedikus tag, my man never misses. BTW, the OG version of “Moslado” is a classic, could care less for what they did to the song for its video. This is an Afro-Dancehall knock, heads will bob. Rema! Feels like it’s been a long while we heard from him—even though I still saw him the other with the rest of the NATIVE team. Man, I remember when we were making distinctions between Afropop Rema and Trap Rema. Good times. Ladipoe’s delivery is Teflon, he’s skating with ease on this one. Can’t hear any line to make my ears stand, but this is just a feel-good song. I 1000% believe women are throwing themselves at Rema, I’ve seen the difference in his physical frame from “Dumebi” to “Soundgasm” up close. London worked on this as well? Yeah, this is a cheat code record. Poe has mastered how to construct pop-rap songs, this is just another flex to prove that. Will revisit.
Again, this should be an album! Oh Dear God, I know where this man is going with this bedroom voice cadence. He even mentioned Meghan and Jhene! This is unfair. How can you be a killer lyricist and a rap artist making songs for women? This man has the infinity stones, FFS. Who’s the woman harmonising? (Editor’s Note: She’s UK-based singer Dolapo.) The only way I can describe this beat is seductive Afropop, something you catch a private whine to. “I think I know what girls like,” you don’t say, Fam. This song is going to go, maybe not super-mainstream but women are going to absolutely love it, which is pretty much the same. I remember when people found out that Ladipoe is married, the jokes were funny. The lady singing here is going absolutely crazy, the sensuousness is leaking from her voice effortlessly. This is a keeper.
Eish. Thinking about what this song is about, this is a slightly jarring, thematic transition. Anyways, this is a solid record. Let me confess: This is the second Fireboy feature I like, I’ll keep the first one to myself. Poe is one of the most coherent rappers you’ll ever here, this first verse is him threading multiple things into a contemplative and confident whole. This hook is simple but it resonates, and Fireboy’s self-aggrandising part on this second verse is really good. I don’t know about loverboy Fireboy, but when he shows a persona, he’s riveting. See: “Peru.” From a scientific point, this is a well-constructed pop-rap record. Man, we’re all running on vibes. Well, December is here sha. Keeper, this one.
Ladipoe and Amaarae was bound to happen, and it’s on a song titled “Love Essential.” Rappers saying mushy stuff before a song starts is not my thing, but Poe gets this pass. I have a really raunchy quip on how Amaarae sounds right now, but I’m keeping it to myself—or I might just tweet it. Everything here is tingling, the keys, Amaa’s voice, the choral tracking, the cloudy atmosphere, everything. This shouldn’t be a heart-break song. Okay, this sounds way more remorseful, and I’m not mad at it. This verse is engrossing AF! “Showed me love essential, you’re my only lifeline.” This song is officially the reason I want to get heart-broken soon, I’d like to relate deeply. Maybe that’s taking it too far, will definitely revisit.
Who’s talking? I deeply relate to this annoyance. London and 44DB tag? Oh God! “More life when your circle is pure” is a valid, but social media has ruined yarns like this for me. I like this knock, slightly off-kilter but familiar enough to keep you zoned in on Poe’s buttery flow. I heard that line about a Don Jazzy and Dr Dre beat, don’t know why I’m not too enamoured by the possibility of that if it ever happens. Wait, this is a song from the “Revival Sunday” series. I mean, it’s been slightly reworked but it’s recognisable when you deep it. Wait, wasn’t that song also titled “Providence”? (Editor’s note: Yes, it was) Right, I get the reason for this title even more now. An angelic beat just switched, and this man is rapping with the dead-eyed vim of game 6 Klay Thompson. I can hear the Drake comparisons from listeners already, and it’s not like he’s denied the Canadian superstar’s influence. “It’s why I pray to God even if I’ve never seen him/faith never needs a reason.” I’m going to google providence right now. This is a monster closer. Love it.
Ladipoe’s 10,000 hours are complete. If there’s anything ‘Providence’ proves, it’s that Ladipoe has reached a level of mastery through constant effort and consistent experimentation. In 20-plus minutes, there’s no moment he doesn’t sound in complete control of his instincts as a rapper and intuition as a music-maker.
This EP isn’t necessarily meant to be career-defining, neither is it a low-stakes inflection point. It’s somewhere in the middle of those poles, a confident exhibition of where Ladipoe has gotten to in his career, and a competent declaration of his boundless creativity as a rap artist. It’s a set of rap songs ranging from good to really good, with each song optimised for their themes and musical approach. Poe’s ear for beats has only gotten better with time, and his inclination toward a varied soundscape is tied together by his ever-absorbing flow and quip-laden lyricism.
I did google the meaning of Providence, and one of its definitions—“timely preparation for future eventualities”—frames this EP perfectly. Ladipoe has been preparing for the successes he’s currently enjoying, and Providence is his well-earned victory lap. The thing about victory laps, though, is that the marathon continues. Ladipo Eso still has more impact to make on Nigerian rap and pop music, where he goes next will be a function of what he wants to achieve next. For now, the celebrations are deserved, so let’s join Ladipoe to bask in the gratifying glow of ‘Providence’.
Listen to ‘Providence’ here.