Album Review: Shaydee’s Rhythm and Life makes for pleasantly safe listening

by Will Fred

Rhythm and Life, the debut album by Shaydee, perhaps the most underrated artiste of his generation arrived like Shaydee himself, quietly and without the kind of hype that his label Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) would have reserved for former flagbearer Wizkid, or even CEO Banky W.

Understandably too, for while the Starboy and Mr W have proven to be certified hitmakers, even by any kinds of standards applied, Shaydee has been a bit of an anomaly. He plays well as part of a hit churning team (EME All Stars Baddest Boy, Seyi Shay’s Murder) but on his own prefers the kind of understated, uncluttered sound that is antithetical to what the radio stations and the clubs so desperately need.

Thus, while Shaydee may score significant victories at the Headies, he remains largely (un)known as that addition to the EME family not named Wizkid, or Skales. This, even after both acts have long left the label fronted by Banky W and Tunde Demuren. Not an ideal space for an artiste to exist in but Shaydee continues to make do with what is available to him.

Shaydee’s biggest selling point is his voice and he wisely gives it a starring role in Rhythm and Life. It isn’t the type of voice to grab attention at first listen but it creeps up on you, sticky in its sweetness and mild in its pleasantness. It burrows deep, and rarely falters, leaving audiences sweaty for more.

Banky W may be king of R&B but Shaydee has studied assiduously at his feet and Rhythm and Life is his thesis. Both mentor and mentee even find room to show just how well they work together on the familiar lusty thrills of Bad for Me.

With a running time of over an hour, Rhythm and Life is a tad overlong but no one can label the disc under-stuffed. The teething problems of first albums, especially in these parts are recognised here. The record could have been arranged better, the extraneous tracks should have been left out altogether, fidelity to a particular genre may have paid off better and maybe there isn’t a dire need for so many producers (eleven for the album’s 20 tracks.)

The record opens with a Spax-produced intro titled The One that is as pleasant as it is up to date, instantly delineating Shaydee’s R&B roots but by way of a modern, crunchy sound. Shaydee wastes no time inviting famous friends Phyno and Ice Prince to back him up on the look-how-far-I’ve-come number, Everyday. Both rappers have sounded better elsewhere but they have also sounded worse too. Reminisce may own the streets but he softens his edge a bit even as Shaydee attempts to harden his for the effacing Divine. They both meet in the middle and Legendary Beatz is the catalyst that helps the equation not self-combust.

Not one to turn down an invitation such as this, the almighty 2baba shows up to lend Shaydee some Caribbean credibility for the Reggae influenced Sweet Rihanna. Not one to be taken seriously, the track plays like a freestyle session that went better than both acts expected, hence the decision to record a full-length version.

Shaydee also does quite well on his own, maybe even better than when he is assisted by the parade of contemporary artistes that people his record. Pon Da Floor is largely successful at starting the party and Satisfy You sustains the energy levels credibly. The luminous Smile slows things down a notch, setting the mood for some baby making music. High is almost addictive easy listening goodness and the unfortunately titled Missing & Loving pilots the entire affair to a smooth ending.

For those wondering what Urban Contemporary R&B made by a Nigerian for a local audience, look no further than Rhythm & Life. The record and the singer aren’t terribly innovative, but plenty heart and soul can be found within the safe spaces.

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