Uax Completes Artistic Metamorphosis On ‘Love & Hustle’

The singer's debut album is a tribute to his creative growth

If there’s one thing to be learned from the creative renaissance ushered in by the rise in popularity of West Africa’s Alte community, it’s that art manifests – and evolves – across multiple diverse formats. And the artistic journey of Seyi Akinlade provides what is perhaps some of the most  unmistakable  proof of that idea. Applying his talents across multiple different facets of the creative scene, Akinlade’s work continues to defy categorization. And this most recent phase of his evolution as a storyteller sees him taking on the challenge through soulful melodies and deeply resonant lyrics.  

Best known as Ua.x, the work that first propelled him to mainstream attention was largely done out of the public’s view. Starting as a photographer, Ua.x evolved into a video director and helped curate visual treatments for acts like Prettyboy D-O, Tems, Lojay, and Rema. The next frontier of Ua.x’s artistic evolution is as a music-maker and he’s approaching it with the same level of rigor and sophistication that made him a go-to for artsy music videos that still carry a visible Nigerian identity. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Oluwaseyi Akinlade (@ua.x)

There’s ample proof of Ua.x’s sonic vision from the get-go on “Safe,” his debut track that explores the warmth of romance. The Illkeyz-featuring single is teeming with influences from neo-R&B and alt-pop as Ua.x vocals float weightlessly over the languid instrumental. There’s also a methodical precision to Ua.x’s songwriting style that emphasizes every action and promise, making it sound genuinely lived-in and considered. All these factors hand his debut album, ‘Love & Hustle,’ a dreamy quality that feels almost deliberately movie-like. In one interview with Album Talks, he confirms as much. Love & Hustle’ feels like the score from a film,” he says. “It’s a soundtrack to a part of life we can all relate to and I hope people find themselves in the music when they listen to it.”

Opening track, “Sweet Time,is an earnest plea for love’s arrival that acknowledges the waiting process and the beauty that can come of persevering for the right person. Much of the opening stretch of ‘Love & Hustle’ is, similarly, an extensive study on the mechanics of waiting: for the right moment, the right person, the right experiences. The stakes are dramatically upped on “Nothing Compares” where Ua.x softly croons, “I need you here for my sanity,” atop rolling drums and plucky guitar strings while “Evergreen” feels like a belated glimpse at peace and stability that sets the pace for tracks like “Commas” and “Koselomi.

There’s a number of songs on ‘Love & Hustle’ like “Everseen” and “Too Proud To Beg” that are tethered to everyday life and raw emotions but few cut to the heart of a specific feeling in the way that “Lagos 2 Crazy” expertly captures a generation’s wish for escapism and hedonism. We are living in unprecedented times as a global recession, rising inflation levels in Nigeria, and a general dissatisfaction with national leadership is leading to widespread apathy that is localized in Lagos as Nigeria’s cultural and commercial capital. 

In many ways, people are looking for ways to escape Lagos and the opening lyrics of “Lagos 2 Crazy” – “Lagos too crazy so I dipped to the Buj”–brings that sentiment to life with a sense of clarity that  feels both honest and whimsical. In an interview with Deeds Mag, he explained that he envisioned the song while hiking in Abuja. “I like walking/running to clear my head,” he says. “Abuja is good for that, plus you can hike. The idea for the song came on one of those hikes, in the evening too. It was one of those periods when life was moving mad. When Lagos gets too hot, this song is a good daydream.”

Far from being just a daydream, “Lagos 2 Crazy” also loops in elements of what young people everywhere in Nigeria and Lagos especially are looking for: a good time, romance, and a jet-set lifestyle. It is a mark of the specificity that informs Ua.x’s writing style that he’s able to bring all three motifs together without appearing scatterbrained. By the time that he brings in a reference to Lagos’ inbuilt chaos with the line, “the streets too crazy men don’t play by the rules,” it’s clear that “Lagos 2 Crazy” belongs to the canon of great songs about Nigeria’s most compelling city. 

Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE