Deep Cuts: How “What You Want” portended Show Dem Camp’s growth

A significant highlight from the first instalment of the 'Palmwine Music' series

Growth doesn’t always require reinvention. In the Nigerian music context, there’s the running narrative that some level of conformity towards current sonic trends is required to break the commercial glass ceiling, and that occasionally requires reinvention, especially in the case of rap artists. It’s probably the conundrum Show Dem Camp were facing in the aftermath of their successful single, “Feel Alright”, featuring BOJ and Ladipoe.

Hit songs can be fickle things, mostly because they come with the pressure of repeating and surpassing the feat of delivering a widely loved song. Somewhere along the line of furthering their commercial appeal, Tec and Ghost enlisted renowned producer Pheelz and singer Ms Iye for the fast-paced “Ewele”, an obvious play for mainstream attention that ended up being a misstep. As a reset, they ended 2016 with the third instalment of the hard-nosed rap mixtape series, ‘Clone Wars’, easing themselves of any hit-making pressures and any overt need to conform to the mainstream.

The first instalment of the ‘Palmwine Music’ series, released in the summer of 2017, was clearly born out of pressure-free clarity. They’d found a unique formula with their biggest single till then, which bore the same neo-highlife influences that would play a huge role in slowing down the temp of pop music in West Africa, and all Show Dem Camp really needed was some subtle reinvention that proved to be greatly impactful. On its first entry, the duo, alongside primary sound architect Spax, quickly set the framework for the series, which included body roll-inducing grooves, robust percussion, the festive twang of the highlife guitars, and a bevy of guests delivering melodic hooks.

Of the 6 songs on ‘Palmwine Music’, penultimate track “What You Want” is the only song that doesn’t strictly adhere to the musical outline that has become the series’ trademark. Where the other tracks are gleaming highlife-pop gems, the Tomi Thomas-assisted song is a boisterous deep house slapper. In many cases, songs like these stick out negatively within the context of a cohesive project, but the charm of “What You Want” is precisely because it breaks form without disrupting the breezy ambience Show Dem Camp curate on the tape.

Swapping out folk-indented percussion for rubbery bass and tribal drums, the rhythmic uniqueness of “What You Want” is instantly striking, but it’s the guitar use that firmly plants it in ‘Palmwine Music’ territory. (It’s a little reminiscent of South African producer Prince Kaybee’s supreme ability to nestle guitar riffs within thumping drums.) Like a good portion of the project series it’s a part of, the song is romance-themed, a devotional love song with gooey declarations and blissful vibes.


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On the hook and his beautiful verse, Tomi Thomas is as impassioned as ever, belting out his words with a warm intensity. It’s the perfect complement to Tec’s heartfelt but chill disposition on his verse, as well as Ghost’s standout ad-lib contribution. “Your love is so divine, it’s timeless/patient, coming back for you,” Tomi cries out on his verse. Over its subsequent instalments, Show Dem Camp has brought in an extensive amount of collaborators to grace the ‘Palmwine Music’ community, but it’s a testament to the quality of Tomi Thomas’s initial appearance—he returned on ‘Palmwine Express’—that SDC have yet to repeat the same distinct sonic trick with any other guest artist.

“What You Want” is a deep cut in the ‘Palmwine Music’ canon that stands out by being markedly different. In a way, it’s the spiritual predecessor to a song like “Alariwo”, which dabbled into Trap music aesthetics, and a couple of songs off ‘Palmwine Express’ that don’t expressly lean into the organic neo-highlife grooves Show Dem Camp and Spax tend to favour in the project series. Even without a lead single just yet, familiar SDC listeners have a good idea of what to expect with the impending arrival of ‘Palmwine Music 3’, but if there’s any experimental deviations to the sound, the origins of such boldness will always be traceable.

Watch the colourful video for “What You Want” here.