The Shuffle: Dice Ailes impacted Nigerian pop culture with smash hit, “Otedola”

Ahead of his imminent return, we revisit the singer's momentous single; a creative high point in his career

It might interest you to know that Dice Ailes started out as a Rap artist. Within the context of Nigerian Pop music, many artists – from Davido to Santi – start out slinging bars, before widening their skill-set to include singing, or switching it up entirely, somewhere down the line. In Dice’s case, it didn’t take too much time to begin honing his versatility. “Yemisi”, his first single upon relocation to Nigeria, featured some rapped verses but it was his singing that took centre stage, a move largely inspired by the upward trajectory of Afropop in the global music space.

In 2014, he signed a recording deal with Chocolate City, keeping his rap alliances intact, but early singles like “Fantasy” and “Machinery” showed he was very keen on sharpening his instincts as a hit-maker and Pop star. After dropping a couple of singles, hinting at his preferred direction, Dice Ailes finally scored his first big single with the Lil Kesh-assisted “Miracle”, a catchy bop that was perhaps a little too engineered; it was heavily reliant on the mid-tempo pon-pon sound that had just become en vogue, at the time and it featured Lil Kesh at his commercial peak. He admitted as much in an interview with NATIVE last year, saying, ‘Miracle’ was a hit song that I didn’t necessarily love because it sounded like something that was already in the market and I generally like to sound different.”

For his next big single, “Otedola”, Dice figured out a way to balance his peculiar skill-set with his far sharpened Pop instincts for an instantly memorable banger. An undeniable smash hit, “Otedola” is a fine example of how to blend idiosyncratic artistic approach with the more recognisable elements that is typically expected of a hit record. On this particular song, multiple variations of Dice blend together into a distinct, singular element, acting as the magnetic essence that grabbed and held our collective ears back in 2017. Somewhere in there, you can hear Trap Dice and Afropop Dice in a conjoined, playful dance, blending into a unique melody years before “Afro-Trap” started getting thrown around constantly.

A simple and catchy drum pattern, airy piano strings, and squeaky whistle interpolations match the cadence of Dice’s delightfully oddball delivery, situating it as a dance-ready cut with its own unique bounce. A glaring reference to Nigerian oil magnate and billionaire, Femi Otedola, Dice marries Nigeria’s aspirational society with whimsical songwriting to catchy effect. For a song that matches a show of affluence with raunchy intentions, Dice also namedrops popular actors Ramsey Nouah and Jim Iyke, legendary footballer Jay Jay Okocha, soda beverage Coca-Cola, and food seasoning brand Maggi, cramming in enough familiarity to get Nigerian listeners instantly hooked.

For anyone who’s come in contact with the song, it’s nearly impossible to think of the titular character without remembering “Otedola”, and if you consider just how obsessed Nigerians are with rich people, it’s evident that Dice Ailes greatly impacted pop culture with that song. Over three years later, Dice Ailes is still very much around, navigating the music terrain in his own way while constantly honing his versatility. Following the drop of last year’s stunning, ultra-sensual “Pim Pim”, it was expected that Dice would drop his long-awaited debut album – unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Now signed to Sony Music West Africa, and set to resume dropping new music, there’s every possibility that we’ll have Dice’s debut LP in our ears. For an artist clearly working on his craft constantly, the musical possibilities are endless, but the one thing we can be sure of is that he isn’t trying to recreate “Otedola” I never really try to imitate my previous releases because there’s a lot that the future has in store for me, so I just explore the stuff in me,he told us in the aforementioned interview. It’s an implied admission that “Otedola” is one of the highest creative points in his career – so far.

Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter