“My life dey make more sense as I get older//if life na war, then I be soldier…” are the proclamations Fireboy uses to crack open his third studio project on the song, Change. The screams of “hoo” immediately after the first chorus is resonant of Billion Naira Dream off Brymo’s 2016 Klîtôrîs album. By the way, Fireboy’s Change is the story of a man who has seen the light at the end of the tunnel while Brymo’s Billion Naira Dream reeks of discontent, hopelessness and depression. Both songs are similar again in a way; the pursuit of dreams are the headache of both men as represented on each song.
Change, a song sung on minimal piano riffs, is artistically but realistically a proven way to open a beautiful project. Fireboy’s first verse on this song is the reality of an artiste, amidst a morning Yoga session, suddenly waking up and taking cognizance of his own fame, realizing how pleasurable it is such as “going global” and then promising never to fall off “until it’s over”.
The reality hits deeper on the chorus when questions are thrown at the singer to ascertain whether or not he is ready for the change that is about to come. One truth is established here; the same way a gold has to endure the heat of the fire to become a gemstone; any pursuant of change must realize, and be ready to endure, the “pain” that comes with change. But, is Fireboy ready?
“Stepping in thе room I gat everybody smiling/Don’t know if they like me for my person or my talent…” This is a worry that comes with fame. The struggle to identify genuine love and the cause of one’s attraction to the people around. Closely related to this struggle is the “suffering” and “silent” Fireboy complains of. Fame is not the end of wants. This part of Fireboy’s Change is an entire topic for Brymo on Strippers and White Line, off the 2020 Yellow album.
One difficult thing that continues to elude us upon the understanding of this song is if Fireboy is foreshadowing a change that will come after the release of Playboy, his third studio project, or he is simply referring to his life encounters in the pursuit of this same fame he now possesses. If it’s the latter, then, Fireboy may be referring to how fame, in spite of the price of “pain” that comes with it, has changed his life. This is visually explained with the mention of the people around him and the life he lives on both verses.
Fireboy was so passionate about rhymes that he catastrophically forgets his dislike for smoking when he sings “sex and cannabis/tryna find my peace”. This is the same Fireboy that will later tell us on the songs Bandana, Playboy and Peru that he detests smoking. But for now, he smokes “cannabis” to find “peace”. His pursuit of rhyme here is an obvious error that soils what he has always stood for.
The essence of this album, in spite of the notable err from Fireboy, is however foregrounded on Change. “Different women in my DMs, it’s a challenge/e no go cost me anything to reply them/but blame it on the game my guy, it made me savage/kinda made my feelings fly away”. This is a playboy who is not ready to settle for love and the responsibilities that it places on its buyer. This is the “game”. This game is more pronounced on the eponym of the album, the song Playboy, where Fireboy boasts of his abilities, his possessions not without a reminder that he is in for flirting and not loving.
Peru remix with Ed Sheeran might have popularized Fireboy in the United Kingdom, regardless, that does not change his love for the United States. Right from 2020 when he sang New York City Girl, his obsession with the United States has been very much noticeable. Fireboy was in New York City on the song New York City Girl in 2020, jammed in San Francisco on Peru in 2021 and now in Los Angeles, Houston and back to New York City as seen on Playboy released on 24th March, 2022.
One wonders whether this is to break into the US market or it is just a natural affection. On Playboy, Fireboy ties his hustling and being on the road to moving from “LA to Houston to NYC”, three different landscapes in the United States. It is evident Fireboy is in search of commercial success in the US market.
Several lines of Fireboy’s Playboy both on the first and second verses leave several fingers pointing to the singer as being hedonistic and even extravagant. Fireboy’s love for pleasure occasions his metaphoric comparisons of his keeping of many women to being a farmer on the song prechorus; “so many hoes, demma think imma farmer,” Fireboy boasts of his philogyny. His philogyny even takes him to Cuba on the second verse where he mentions “Guantanamera” (the woman from Guatanamo, a landmark in Cuba).
Another pointer to Fireboy’s pursuit of enjoyment is seen in his wordings about clubbing and nightlife on the first verse, he sings “pull up in the club with all my Gs/when we outside, it’s an all night thing”. Aside pleasure-seeking, Fireboy scents of extravagance especially in the second verse. The singer glees about fashionable automobiles like “Maybach” and Bentley “Bentayga”.
More importantly, the whole of Playboy is one long epithet carved by Fireboy for himself. For a boy who is known to have always brought the fire in matters relating to Afrobeats and sounds that transcend the regions of Africa, re-introducing himself as a “playboy” as opposed to the commitments expected of many male/female love affairs is even more complimentary than a keep-off warning.
The later part of verse two is so pervaded with more epithets that may sound boastful to a lot of people. Whether or not this is necessary is out of the question. Fireboy describes himself as “don dada, godfather, none badder, nonchalant, unbordered…” And the point where he says “all of that” in the next line shows how infinitesimal qualifying or quantifying him can be. This is too much a eulogy, hence, the result is more boastful than appraising.
Fireboy’s contempt for smoking is shoved in smokers’ faces. His personal preference for alcohol, especially “Hennessy” or “wine” is reiterated. Those who may ask Fireboy about commitment or marriage got their answers on the second verse of this song, “girl imma see you later,” the singer states with so much carelessness for your emotions as the girl. However, Fireboy’s “make nobody follow my shadow” draws the line for whoever may try to compete with him on or even off the music scene.
Identifying Fireboy as a playboy he pleads to be noted as will help us overlook his excesses on the song Ashawo. Ashawo, named after an offensive Yoruba word (Aséwó) used to guilt-trip prostitutes or especially ladies acting like one, is the claim that every human has the tendency to cheat — note that this tendency is not gender specific. Because of Fireboy’s chorus, the song is a very controversial idea.
“If I cheat on you, I’m sorry/and if you cheat on me, don’t worry…” Fireboy must be in an open relationship where loyalty does not matter. This is a kind of relationship that suits a playboy. You first wonder if these two lovers truly love each other. Then, you begin to consider the logic behind Fireboy’s aforementioned lines.
Even after doing so much to convince his listeners that everyone is a potential cheater, Fireboy blames his own ability to cheat on drunkiness or inebriety and goes on to play the devil’s advocate for cheaters. The fact that Fireboy blames cheating on drunkiness points out the fact that humans hardly take responsibility for the errors they commit. Instead, it is more comfortable for them to blame it on fellow humans or even things that do not have life.
Fireboy will later resolve this controversy on the second verse, stating that his lover has everything these other women possess, hence, the pointlessness of cheating. Though, his fame continues to toss different women at his direction, but he will always walk away from cheating because he does not want to “cast for Lagos”.
It is interesting to find out that the self-appraised playboy known as Fireboy who is so proud of his status was actually a victim of heartbreak. On the song Adore, Fireboy and Euro embody a man abandoned by a woman, a man pretending not to be hurt by her absence but reluctantly confesses that he still needs his woman back. It is shocking how Fireboy’s lines are delivered in rap here. There is nothing one will not do for love, you guess.
It is so funny when Moelogo sings “I’m not in love with you/I just want to je nbè” on Rexxie’s Birthday alongside BNXN in 2020. Moelogo’s pick-up lines is a brutal honesty for a guy who is only sexually attracted to a woman. Moelogo’s utterance is a contrast to the deceptive practice of professing love to a woman just to have one’s way into her panties. We hear a similar scenario on Fireboy’s Sofri.
Fireboy, who starts off on a good start, contradicts himself on the second verse of Sofri when he sings of love. He has earlier made it clear to the woman that he does not want to “waste your time”, laying bare his plans to engage her sexually and nothing more. He however deviates from his plans for Sofri when he begins to talk of his love for her on verse 2. That’s self-contradictory! A part of Sofri however samples the 2004 club banger titled Wetin Dey by Ruff Rugged and Raw.
“I’m falling again,” the helpless playboy cries out on Diana. The singer who completely deviates from the Playboy he wants to be identified as employs Chris Brown and Shensea to beg Diana not to leave. Diana sure will be abused by lovers because it will be excessively used to make apologies to an erred partner. This, alongside Davido’s Blow My Mind, is one of the best collaborations from Nigeria Chris Brown has ever been on. Both Chris and Shensea combine well for the appeal of the song.
Slowly, a Fireboy who has no time for love rues the loss of a runaway lover, apologizes to her not to leave, then drags Rema by the sleeve to make the song, Compromise. It is a symbiotic relationship for Rema who understands that a love affair is a sacrifice and also requires a lot of compromise. For Fireboy, it is more of going against one’s identity. It is a reality that love hits one unaware and one completely becomes vulnerable to the point of compromising one’s plans.
Compromise is even more significant because of the rivalry the fans of both singers involved have often driven at in online conversations revolving around new school Afrobeats. This song which is supposed to be a unifier of both fanbases may ironically turn out to be an instrument of bants between the two fanbases. Olamide, in late July, 2022, addressed this issue, stating that the love between Fireboy and Rema is genuine. Unfortunately, the fans do not care. The rivalry must stand like that between Davido and Wizkid and Burna Boy.
Ed Sheeran continues Fireboy’s new found life on Peru Remix. While the original Peru is an abashment of nothing worthwhile than a mere groove to be vibed to, the remix with Ed Sheeran is a bag of promises made to a lover via the British singer’s verse.
Timoti, merely reading this title out, sound like the Yoruba spelling of the biblical name, Timothy. However, listening to the song, one completely realizes that the song is a totally different idea. Tí mo ti is a Yoruba phrase for “that I have”. It’s just another song like Peru that has no specific preoccupation. The song is playful lyrically, though Fireboy pokes fun at his “enemies” while Kel P samples a part of his own bass guitar note on Burna Boy’s Dangote.
Bandana, as simple as it sounds, is a magnet around which a series of topics unveiled with allusions clamber. Allusion simply means reference to popular people, things, events, books, songs, movies and any other thing that have been existing before. Judging by the use of allusions to lay emphases on this song, Asake plays a massive role in the execution of this song.
There are several references made to 2Pac, Usain Bolt, Karashika and Shitta, all on the hook of Bandana. Asake, obviously a living example of Nigerian street life, ties his being ‘street’ to wearing a particular big handkerchief popularly regarded as ‘bandana’ on the streets of Nigeria.
Bandana was released several days before the album and the cover art of the song in itself is a pictorial representation of the handkerchief known as bandana. The cover art, in the absence of the two singers’ images, pictures one of the famous fabric patterns used to make the bandana, called Damask, specifically.
While wearing bandana is not specific to Nigeria alone, Asake, knowledgeable of this, relates the usage of bandana to one of its greatest users ever, whom is the now deceased 2Pac Amaru Shakur, an American rapper shot five times on 7th September, 1996; and dying few days later.
Asake’s reference to Tupac is very accurate; the deceased was also ‘street’ in his days. This is Asake’s manner of saying he is tough as opposed to the soft life lived by his counterparts on the other side of the streets.
Asake’s consciousness of his rapid growth and height in the industry also comes into play when he references Usain Bolt on the song. Asake stresses that he is as fast as Usain Bolt, hence, his mates cannot catch up with him, even if they try to; in terms of achievements and fame, maybe. This is valid, for now, considering the fact that Asake has only spent seven months in the industry since his breakthrough with the release of Omo Ope, yet he has been able to pull so much achievements in such a very short moment.
Asake paints his emulation of nightlife with the mention of Karashika. Karashika is a word linked to a 1996 Nigerian movie of the same title. A character in the movie, named Karashika, is a female demon who caused a lot of spiritual atrocities amongst humans in the movie. It’s a shock, a big one at that, that Asake’s references to 2Pac and Karashika are both traceable to 1996.
One of the most recent musical references made to the movie Karashika is Falz’s Karashika featuring Phyno, released in 2015, where both rappers sarcastically forbid certain types of Nigerian women because they have certain ‘demonic traits’. Demons are believed to move in the night, thus, Asake linking of his “nightlife” to that of Karashika.
Asake also references Shitta, a landmark around Ojuelegba, Lagos State; the same place Wizkid began the pursuit of his music career. Asake’s reference to Shitta is a shout-out to his friends inhabiting the area, however.
Although Asake only cares about appealing to the street, his usual buyers, Fireboy makes Bandana sound more ‘personal’. It’s a moment of the singer’s life where assessment needs to be made on ‘this story’ he started writing since 2006.
Achieving ‘this story’ and this goal deserves praises — though the world may perceive it as pride or boasts. In a bid to attract conviction from the listeners, Fireboy subconsciously reiterates the same “I’m not joking” mentioned on the song Peru. He goes on to shove smoking or blowing “trees” aside, straining it is not a source of inspiration for him; something he already mentioned on the Playboy single weeks ago.
Fireboy specifically states that he is not “street” or “OG”, Asake, contrariwise, states otherwise. Hence, Bandana is a juncture where the ‘soft’ meets the ‘tough’. Few shots are fired with curses too; assured Fireboy projects into eternity; he will last forever. He is definitely right! Art idolizes artistes; as long as Fireboy’s music lives, he too lives, whether or not he is physically dead.
“Love is courageous” — 2022 marks the second year since Brymo made this statement on the song, Heartbreak Songs Are Better in English, off his Yellow album. 2022 and we are reliving Brymo’s reality through a colloquial line of Asake’s lyrics on Bandana. “Na the love I dey see na him dey gimme liver,” Asake declares.
Like Brymo, Asake joins the school of thoughts that subscribe to the sentiment that love builds courage. Although, Brymo and Asake are two different personalities in many aspects of life, they share the same idea about love. This line is also a testimony to Omah Lay’s Damn; a testimony that even a hard man or a street man or a bad man or any kind of man, needs to be loved, regardless of his personality.
Fireboy’s exploration of Dancehall does not end with Bandana and the inclusion of Asake, his label mate, on the Playboy album. The singer, born Adedamola Adefolahan, who used to be a poet and an editor at Lunaris Review, explores Caribbean and Latin American sounds on Havin’ Fun.
The song can be used to run TV commercials for brands, it can be adopted by FIFA for the World Cup, something like Wavin’ Flag. The song can also be adopted in a cartoon. It is a song to be enjoyed while suntanning at the beach in Brazil, Argentina and other related countries.
Afro Highlife is simply Afrobeat, the particular one Fela Anikulapo Kuti pioneered in his days alive. Fireboy naming this song Afro Highlife goes to say he mixes Highlife with Fela’s Afrobeat. This is complex and confusing and cannot be technically considered possible because Fela’s Afrobeat was originally a mixture of Highlife, Fuji and some other popular sounds of the time. Afro Highlife is a very appealing song and it is a repetition of Shina Peter’s pioneering sound, Afro Juju, amongst many other pioneers of African sounds.
Glory marks the end of the Playboy album. After the fame acquired on Change, the opening track, recalling the suffering that foreran the fame is a child of necessity. Art lives forever if properly documented, thus, Fireboy is not bluffing when he notes that he is going to “live forever”, especially through his music.
One thing Fireboy is able to execute well on the Playboy album is balance. The youngster excellently creates balance between African sounds and foreign ones. While songs like Ashawo, Timoti, Peru and its remix, Bandana, Compromise and Afro Highlife appeal to Nigerians, and Africans by extension, songs like Diana, Havin’ Fun, Playboy, Change and Glory easily appeal to the Americas and the UK.
Fireboy’s Playboy album is arguably the most properly executed album released in 2022. There is literally no moments of boredom on the project. It is the artiste’s third studio project and as a result, is significant. Unlike many of his mates, the singer would rather release an album instead of an extended playlist. He has no Amapiano songs of his own too. He would not patronize the sound to sell his album.
Fireboy who is an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, was signed by Olamide to YBNL in 2018. He clinched different awards at the Headies in 2021 with two different albums (Tears, Laughter and Goosebumps and Apollo), making him the first artiste to achieve that in the same year in the history of the Headies Awards.
The 26 years old Ogun State citizen was first encouraged, in 2015, to sing a poem he published on Facebook. The user who made this comment told him prophetically that Ed Sheeran would be thrilled to hear the poem. 6 years down the line, Fireboy was linked with Ed Sheeran by Jamal Edwards, a UK based talent discoverer who later died few weeks after the release of Peru Remix, the song the link-up between Fireboy and Ed Sheeran produced.
The song was later certified Gold in the UK. A grateful Fireboy dedicated this to Jamal Edwards who just lost his life few weeks before that time. Peru Remix also bagged a Gold cert in the US, a Platinum in the UK and another Gold in France.
Fireboy who once described his own sound as Afro-life also cited Wande Coal, Jon Bellion and Passenger as his musical influences. His debut album has been rated as one of the best debut projects in the history Nigerian music.
The singer’s affiliation with YBNL and the label executive Olamide has earned him a deal with the foreign label known as Empire. There is more to his relationship with Olamide; the rapper was recorded in an interview saying Fireboy is more than a subordinate to him. Olamide claimed he usually seeks advice from Fireboy. No wonder Olamide personally took charge of the A&R works of the Playboy album.
Fireboy’s Playboy album was jointly produced by Kel P, P Prime, Zaki Amujei, Type A, Bizzouch, Phantom, Telz, Shizzi and Kolten. Pheelz, the household producer for the YBNL label, is totally absent on this album. This may be due to his flagging of his own career as a singer.
Playboy cover presents a relaxed but focused Fireboy sat before a coiffeuse. Africa is well represented with the patterns garnishing Fireboy’s apparel and the very dark complexion of his faceless hairdresser.