Album Review: On Oritsefemi and ‘Living in [sic] Fortunate Environment’
For the third consecutive year, veteran musician Oritsefemi hits us with an album. Astounding work ethic notwithstanding, this is not only a nod to his proficiency as a singer with a bag full of songs, it also speaks to prolificacy and consistency. There is also something about observing patterns, Oritsefemi’s method of titling his album deserves a second look.
Since his return from oblivion (read onehitwonderness) after he re-issued himself into the scene with Double Wahala, his biggest hit since Mercies of the Lord, Oritsefemi has named his album titles after declarative phrases. So, Double Wahala, which enjoyed a life as a single, was eventually housed in an album called Money Stops Nonsense, M.S.N for short. The next album released after this coincidentally when he had his Quilox affray drama was rightfully called Corporate Miscreant. His latest album is called Living in Fortunate Environment, L.I.F.E for short.
It is always exciting when a musician revamps the mundane. Spinning life into a rich metaphorical acronym would have been exciting in Oritsefemi’s case if it was an original idea. Remember Burna Boy’s first LP album?
It was called L.I.F.E, short for Living an Impact for Eternity. To return to Oritsefemi’s title, it is tragic that this album title from conception to fruition did not get its editorial due. I mean, how difficult is it to add an article to an unoriginal title to make at least a meaningful and grammatical correct clause?
If Corporate Miscreant fell into the misfortune of bad publicity (or bad belle), then is it allowed to let L.I.F.E also fall into the cracks of bad grammar? Oritsefemi’s ailment is that he lacks an efficient team around him: from A and R to security personnel. This, notwithstanding, L.I.F.E is a meaningful corpus, a body of work, that adds to his tenacity as a musician, a rose sprouting out of the concrete.
At 18 tracks, L.I.F.E is 4 to 5 tracks short of his usual albums, but it remains full-bodied, exerting itself as perhaps his most political and socially aware album till date. It is easy to see how this album finds a lot of Fela’s phrasings as scaffolding. A lot of times, Oritsefemi’s lyrical exploration (in songs like Wonder, Yeye Rowling and Our Government I beg) borrows from Fela’s robust biography and discography. Fela is not only his hero and guardian angel; Fela also helped jump-start his music career in the past.
Songs like Obone Tara Bote stand out for being sample pieces of evergreen tunes like Rex Lawson’s Bere Bote. Of course, it is nowhere near the terrain of the original, but it charges nostalgia in meaningful and positive ways.
The featured artistes on this project belabour the broth, with the exception of Ladyluck whose performance on Cardiac required more than just sheer luck. Small Doctor wasted his verse pursuing tired tropes and trite phonemes in Aletile, while Oritsefemi was ebullient in his channelling of popular old Yoruba love songs. Kelele featuring Olamide sounds like an inferior remake of Ongbalarami. Lil Kesh could hardly stitch bars together in Ireti, and let us say that Yomi on My Girl (which borrows the beat of Gyptian’s Hold Yuh) isn’t ready yet for our critical attention.
Elsewhere Oritsefemi sounds political, fiery and playful all at once. Using improvisation — perhaps the most important skill in his tool box, besides his distinctive voice — L.I.F.E, like an acquired taste, similar to life itself, grows on any listener who listens beyond the first two encounters. Soon enough you may find yourself singing along and repeating some tracks because Oritsefemi is able to point you in the direction of familiar melodies.
Of course, there are still too many songs on the album, but they do not spoil this broth.