Album Review: 2Baba’s ‘Warriors’, a case of diminishing returns?

2Baba ‘Warriors’ cover art [Official2baba]

2Baba is a legend. No matter how many times I repeat those words during this piece, two things are certain, it will never be overstated and I would also not be wrong.

And he is a legend not just because he has spent a little over 20years in the game, but since the pop evolution of the late 90s till its present form, he is the one constant name who was there at the very beginning, central to the success and acceptance, and has maintained relevance.

He has had to reinvent himself over and again. In an industry so ruthless in how it spits out the old for the new, 2Baba has somehow stayed prolific for such a long time, an act that is incredible and should never be understated.

His debut solo album, ‘Face2Face’ released in 2004 and its followup, ‘Grass 2 Grace’ are considered as classics by pop lovers and critics. The two-body of works witnessed not just a dynamic shift in the sonic soundscape but some of the best writing from Mr. Idibia’s pen backed by production from the late OJB Jezreel.

His third album ‘The Unstoppable’ was filled with several missteps and failed to live up to the success of the early projects, but he provided a quick fix with the ‘International Edition’ which had the smash singles, ‘Implication’ and ‘Only Me.’

There have been two albums after that, the last ‘The Ascension’ released in 2014. Understanding the way music works in the internet era is knowing that there is no days off. Singles have become the order of the day and even when a body of work is not forthcoming, the audience is not patient to hang around long and 2Baba has constantly provided content by releasing new singles, collaborations, concerts, and campaigns.

Warriors Tracklist [Official2Baba]

In 2019, he rolled out activities to celebrate his 20th anniversary with the release of a new album, his first in six years top of the list, to the excitement of his loyal fans. The result is ‘Warriors,’ a 13-track tape that runs for close to an hour.

With 2Baba, there are constants to his personality and depth is one of them. Packing a message in his lyrics is a trait that stands him out from the crowd and it is befitting that he kicks off ‘Warriors’ on a philosophical note. On the album’s titled track, he sings about his years in the game, having to survive despite the many young ones who have invaded the space and a word for those waiting for him to fail.

Something is reassuring when you place his vocals on a reggae leaning production, it plays to his core strengths and reveals his most vibrant character. ‘Important’ is another brilliant record that fits this mold and proves that his writing has not totally lost its edge.

But there is more than just consciousness in 2Baba’s cache, as he also understands how to evoke good spirits and on ‘We Must Groove,’ a feel-good song that features Burna Boy, who leads the list of the big four recruited on the album, the duo score a baggage-free-sing-along chant.

The command here is simple; find your happiness irrespective of events around you. This is another moment of true gravity on the album as they both sound like they were in their elements reflecting a true synergy.

Guest lists don’t come heavier than having Wizkid, Olamide and Tiwa Savage on your album. ‘Opo’ will probably become huge especially with Wizkid’s sweet-tea hook and constant plays in the clubs but while this collaboration should evoke an arena-worthy madness, it almost sounds predictable and ordinary.

The songs blend into an exciting mix of Reggae, Afrobeat and Afropop in patches on its way down. Previously released singles like the Peruzzi assisted ‘Amaka’ and ‘Oyi’ which features his brother H.I remain, standout anchors, upon which the album is built. Then there is a song like ‘Kitty Kat,’ an ode to his amorous affectations where he inexplicably sings, ‘‘If your body be the virus, let me be the fun guy [Fungi].’’

Nothing is flattering about ‘Ginger’, it lacks the required spark to transform it into a single, while ‘I Dey Hear Everything’ with YBNL boss delivers another highlight as it plays with addictive joy and a purely triumphant vibe, bringing with it some rush of the old Olamide.

2Baba has also proven to be quite the lover boy and songs like ‘Target You’ ft. Syemca, brother to singer Chike, and ‘Love Me Love Me’ relays this theme. The album closes on a note of gratitude with ‘If No Be You’ featuring AJ, a former member of Da Natives.

The problem with this album is not that the songs are bad or you won’t find songs you will like, it is not even that 2Baba strayed away from his regular forte subject-wise, it is just that even after several plays, there are very little ‘wow/hair-raising’ moments.

The songs sounded created to fit a formula, lacking replay value echoed by songs like ‘Carry Dey Go’ that promised something more but ended up being forgettable. An argument can be made for the number of collaborators on board and the failure to fit the diverse styles into a coherency.

While working with J Sleek was a masterstroke in 2008, it looked and sounded liked a risky decision to do so 12years later. Beatmakers like Spellz and Speroach should perhaps have handled more songs as production sounded restrained and unadventurous, especially when you consider that this is an artist that has the ability to adapt to the sounds of the time.

2Baba is a legend and there is nothing he does now or in the future that would dilute his influence or legacy. ‘Warriors’ is a modestly exciting album delivered by an artist that sounded like he was past his best form but still able to do enough to be part of the squad. In moments, he sparkles, in totality, it lacks the bold strokes that shaped his consistency, perhaps a case of diminishing returns and to be fair this is probably what we should expect after 20 years of giving everything.