Ahead of ‘Palmwine Music 3,’ Show Dem Camp continue to blaze the trail
With their tenth project in sight, Show Dem Camp’s evolution continues
With their tenth project in sight, Show Dem Camp’s evolution continues
After closing 2012 with the release of ‘Clone Wars II (The Subsidy),’ Rap duo Show Dem Camp, uncovered a new sonic direction for their music with the 2013 single “Feel Alright.” The track, which featured then rising artists, LADIPOE (f.k.a. as Poe) and BOJ, possessed a playful and feel-good nature that deviated from Show Dem Camp’s other releases which leaned heavily on hardcore Rap and socio-political commentary. Behind the boards, Ghanaian record producer Juls layered traditional African percussions over Hip-Hop drums and live instrumentals. “Feel Alright” was a hit record by every metric, and opened up a pathway to mainstream success for the seasoned two-man group.
Consisting of longtime friends and collaborators, Olumide “Ghost” Ayeni and Wale “Tec” Davies, Show Dem Camp have amassed over a decade-worth of experience in their bag. Back in the early 2000’s, they began their careers as solo Rap artists, and after meeting each other in the UK, the pair instantly allied. They moved back to Nigeria in the late 2000’s, starting out as independent acts before finding their footing. Show Dem Camp are still independent but their stock has inevitably risen over the years, which has garnered them a loyal following with nine projects (including six albums) and cemented their place in the Afropop canon as a phenomenal blueprint for indie rap music coming out of Nigeria.
It would take until 2017 for “Feel Alright” to confirm its place as a precursor for Show Dem Camp’s evolution. Before then, the group released ‘Clone Wars III (The Recession)’ in 2016, continuing the politics-themed thread of the ‘Clone Wars’ series. The following year, inspired in part by the burgeoning Alté scene with its variant of avant-garde artists, Show Dem Camp returned to the sounds of “Feel Alright” with ‘Palmwine Music.’ On the project, Nigerian music producer Spax took Juls’ sonic template of groovy, slow-paced Afropop beats and reproduced it with his iterations. Palmwine music, which earns its name from the alcoholic drink distilled from the African Palm tree, is also another name for Highlife music. It began in the early 1900s, in several parts of Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Early pioneers of the genre in Nigeria include Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Oriental Brothers, Victor Uwaifo and Cardinal Rex Lawson. Juls’ Highlife productions borrow influences from Ghanaian musicians Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas.
“‘Palmwine Music’ is the result of many sessions, trying different ideas and Spax was really that guy that believes in our music and gave us the opportunity to experiment,” Tec said in an interview. “I feel like we have found a perfect marriage of producer and artist and he is open to trying new things and that is what really helped us get the confidence.” ‘Palmwine Music’ gave Show Dem Camp another win, proving that their performance on “Feel Alright” was no fluke.
Over lush beats with Highlife influences, the duo expunged the rough exterior from the ‘Clone Wars’ series, settling for a more relaxed delivery style. They invited Funbi, Ajebutter22, BOJ, LADIPOE, Tomi Thomas and Odunsi (The Engine) to deliver catchy hooks and verses that bought into the aura of chill party vibes fuelled by booze and fine women, with songs like “Up To You” and “Popping Again” standing out. The success of ‘Palmwine Music’ inspired Show Dem Camp to round off the year with the inaugural edition of their Palmwine Music Fest, with the acts on the project gracing the stage alongside others artists in the alternative music scene such as Bez, Blackmagic, Santi (now Cruel Santino), Tay Iwar, Sir Dauda and Lady Donli, among others.
Two years later, Show Dem Camp and Spax returned in 2018 with ‘Palmwine Music 2,’ tapping LADIPOE, Ajebutter22 and BOJ from the previous project. There were also new faces as well, in Nonso Amadi, Flash, Moelogo, Lady Donli, Tomi Agape and Falana, and big-ticket names such as Burna Boy. ‘Palmwine Music 2’ also extended an invitation across the shores of Nigeria to Ghanaian artist Worlasi. The project followed the cheery-and-party ethos of ‘Palmwine Music’ but it differed a bit as the duo interspersed happy tunes with songs that carried deeper and poignant meanings beneath the gloss of making merry with friends and lovers.
On “For a Minute,” Lady Donli sang, “Sticks and stones/Will break your bones/My love will take you to the throne,” celebrating the power of love to heal and revitalise hurt souls. In his verse on the Falana-assisted “The Garden,” Tec spun the biblical reference of the song’s title, painting a picture of a place of comfort becoming a dangerous jungle. He rapped about the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and the inefficiency bedevilling the Nigerian state and the African continent as a whole. “Never meant to take it deep/Just expressing a point of view,” one particularly poignant lyric said. Ghost played into Tec’s energy, speaking about the difference between love and obsession and how the absence of the former has damaged many relationships.
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The other songs remained true to the party vibes, with Nonso Amadi providing emotional gravitas on “System Failure.” Burna Boy and Show Dem Camp thumped their chest on the Afrobeat-influenced “Legend” while acknowledging their OG status. The Moelogo-featuring “Ragabomi” continued the praise for independent women started on “Independent Ladies” from ‘Palmwine Music’ and the elusive Flash is a show-stealing star on “Tropicana.”
Months later, Show Dem Camp would start 2019 with ‘Clone Wars Vol. IV: These Buhari Times,’ a project that addressed issues ranging from depression to loss to the social absurdities in the tenure of Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari. It seems that Show Dem Camp closing ‘Palmwine Music 2’ with “The Garden” was a subtle nod to the subject matters they tackled on ‘Clone Wars Vol. IV: These Buhari Times.’ Producer Spax handled production there, too, dropping mellow chords for hard-hitting basslines. “Welcome to The Palmwine Express. Please fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride,” a female voice announced during the closing moments of “Damiloun,” a single off ‘Palmwine Music 2.’ In retrospect, perhaps, that was Show Dem Camp’s way of revealing their next move, but in December 2019, in a shocking turn of events, the duo and Spax opened a new chapter with ‘The Palmwine Express.’
The new project still aligned with the theme of merriment of the ‘Palmwine Music’ series but it featured less of the percussion-driven sounds of those projects. It was more a collection of modern Hip-Hop, Afrobeats and R&B. ‘The Palmwine Express’ also carried with it some politically-induced agitations from ‘Clone Wars Vol. IV: These Buhari Times.’ “Tales By Moonlight” with Tems, which referenced the 90s children’s TV show, lamented the dishonesty that runs through the Nigerian state from politics to romantic relationships. “Alariwo,” a track wherein Show Dem Camp boast about their success, which is a result of hard work and consistency, wouldn’t feel out of place on Clone Wars Vol. IV: These Buhari Times.’ Burna Boy leads the introspection on “True Story” as he and Show Dem Camp reminisce on their hustles and passion to succeed.
“Put these younger cats on is how it’s supposed to be/Lead them to the lake, everybody wears their beak,” Ghost rapped on “Alariwo,” admitting their willingness to work with newer acts like WANI, Fasina, BNXN, Tems, Nsikak David and Amaarae who join Funbi, Nonso Amadi, BOJ, Tomi Thomas and Burna Boy from the Palmwine Music projects. Elsewhere, on “True Story,” Tec, who is one-half of the management team responsible for Tems’ stellar rise, supported Ghost’s claims when he rapped, “Put the next wave in position now.” On “Popping” off ‘Palmwine Music’ Odunsi (The Engine) signposted the cultural importance of Show Dem Camp when he sang, “Remember turning on the radio/For an SDC record/Now I’m flexin’/On an SDC record.”
Now, we’re only hours away from the third instalment of the ‘Palmwine Music’ series which arrives on September 30. ‘Palmwine Music 3’ will house 17 tracks, with Spax reprising his role as producer, and feature acts such as Tems, Oxlade, Victony, Lojay, WurlD, Tay Iwar, BOJ and LADIPOE. According to Show Dem Camp, ‘Palmwine Music 3’ will also be the last project in the series. It is an interesting admission that stirs curiosity as to the duo’s next move because, just like their ‘Clone Wars’ series, the ‘Palmwine Music’ series has marked one of the most important moments in Show Dem Camp’s career.
One thing is certain, though, with ‘Palmwine Music 3,’ Show Dem Camp will carry on their penchant for collaborating with newer acts. Artists like Tems, Oxlade, Victony and Lojay are enjoying tremendous success with their unique brand of Afropop sounds. Show Dem Camp placing these acts on the project is an acknowledgement of their talent to define the sounds coming out from Nigeria and the African continent.
‘Palmwine Music 3’ might also return to the sounds of the previous Palmwine Music tapes or unite those sounds with that from ‘The Palmwine Express.’ With past releases, Show Dem Camp have proved that their ears are attuned to the modern times and, coupled with Spax’s versatility, it will be interesting to hear what they cook up. With their tenth project in sight, Show Dem Camp’s evolution continues. “Now they wonder which sound we go tap next,” Tec rapped on the BNXN-assisted “Do Me Nice.” Indeed, all eyes and ears are tuned to Show Dem Camp, waiting to receive their latest offering. When ‘Palmwine Music 3’ drops, the verdict will be out.
Pre-add ‘Palmwine Music 3’ below.
To our new fans, supporters and day 1 Palmwine tribe 🌴
— Show Dem Camp (@ShowDemCamp) September 12, 2022
Featured image credits/NATIVE