Album review: Sound Sultan’s latest isn’t quite Out of the Box

by Wilfred Okiche

Pop music’s longest serving General, not named 2face Idibia returned late 2016 with album number seven, a mash up of sounds and styles that does not quite live up to its ambitious title.

In the course of his over 15 year old career,-a century by music’s here-today-gone-tomorrow standards,- the man who was born Lanre Fasasi has adapted pretty much every musical genre that draws his attention. Nothing is alien to him. He has done rap, soul, pop, funk, highlife and made fusions of all or some of these genres that could very well bear his own trademark.

Like most of the albums in his discography, Out of the Box immediately suffers from Sound Sultan’s misbegotten insistence of doing too much at once. Like a jack of all trades and master of none, Sound Sultan lets his excesses get in the way of what could have been an excellent showing. As his own boss and co-founder of Naija Ninjas, (with his brother, Dare aka Baba Dee,) Sound Sultan answers to no A&R department that might be inclined to ensure he has a more disciplined and commercially sensible showing.

Sound Sultan shows his age on Kuku, taking credit for the longevity and versatility of his career plus the influence of his work on younger generations of music makers. He spares a nod for 2baba, Shout out to my friend Innocent I know after him I’m the best and prescribes some unassailable directions for scoring in the industry. Turn left on mumu chorus/Turn right on dumb lyrics/Immediately after bum shaking go straight you can’t miss it.

Sound Sultan may dish such tried and true advice but that doesn’t mean he has followed this particular playbook, accounting for his perpetual under the radar status. Even at his bellyaching worst, he has more often than not, always managed to rise above the din to present music that has been worth the while.

A gifted and hardworking songwriter, Sound Sultan reworks one of his classics, Motherland, a stirring account of migration that may as well have been written today considering the country’s economic situation and invites singer Ada to spice it up with a modern dancehall swift. With a female voice added to the narrative, the mix works in its own way but there is a reason the original is such a classic.

It seems like a lot of fun was had with Tee Y Mix, Flavour and Phyno on the disc opener, African Lady, a companion jolly piece to his earlier hit Orobo, also with Flavour. Ayo Odenu is another one of Sound Sultan’s unique expressions. Hard to pin down but thoroughly enjoyable, Sound Sultan delivers a fine vocal outing that lingers with its effectiveness.

Sound Sultan makes sweet music with the funk swoop of Everything is Everything, then enters later day Wizkid territory with the strangely satisfying Nu Wave. The first third of the disc is easily the strongest as Sound Sultan seizes attention from the start and retains it with a wide array of gems such as 80 90 and Finally. Even the usually banal Harrysongz is tolerable on Nonstop.

The energy begins to flag with fillers such as My Business, Nuffin Special which is exactly what it promises to be and Talaka. By the time Sound Sultan begins to bring out heavyweights like Olamide (Monsura), Sarkodie (Ise) and Timaya, it matters less, as he’s already muddled up the waters irrevocably.

A little more precision or big picture resolve and Out of the Box may have been a more rewarding experience for everyone concerned.

Fair attempt still

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