by Demola Rewaju
Listening to Inspiration FM this morning as they played an old jam by the musical pop group Styl-Plus. The song ‘Imagine That’ was probably one of their best hits because it moved them from their R and B signature tunes to more danceable songs – this one was a club banger but it’s not the song I celebrate them for the most. Many of those who were teenagers and just out of our teens would remember songs like ‘Runaway’, ‘Olufunmi’ and ‘Call My Name’. My best was Runaway; that song had so much lyrical depth that just listening to it made you want to go out and try the lyrics with any chic – certain she would fall.
Styl-Plus originally had four member – Shifi, Tunde, Lanre and Yemi (STYL acronym). Yemi left, Lanre died, and Zeal became the plus so the name became STYL-PLUS. Back when they were just upcoming artistes in FUTA in the early 2000s, they came to my alma mater – University of Ado-Ekiti to perform at the Mr. Campus show but for some reason, they never climbed the stage and they got so pissed about it that in 2005 when I was a part of the students’ union leadership and they were a big hit on the airwaves, we invited them to come and perform on campus and they turned us down – they hadn’t forgotten how UNAD had mistreated them before they became stars.
A major shift in Nigerian music came about as homegrown Reggae/Ragga/Dancehall artistes started to replace the sounds of foreign music in our ears. For Bob Marley we had Majek Fashek; for Lucky Dube we had Orits Williki; for Shabba Ranks we had Daddy Showkey who became the godfather of Ajegunle music as I documented in this blog post about the Ajegunle Music Movement. But some of us still preferred foreign music in genres like blues, R and B, rap etc. As Nigerian artiste found ways to replace them in our hearts by singing in pidgin and rapping in vernacular, we were still missing something that only Styl-Plus could bring – lyrical depth and that was exactly what they did (and Plantashun Boiz didn’t), replacing Westlife, Backstreet Boys, N Sync, East 17 and other boy bands that we loved.
And they had decent videos too, especially the recent ones where they used cartoon effects to make their music more appealing. Drive Me Crazy was one and Iya Basira was the song that brought to the fore the addiction some of us have to roadside canteens and bukaterias. Those two points I mentioned however became their undoing – switching to pop and the dearth of boy bands.Mot of those boy bands broke up and even though Styl-Plus sang ‘Four years don waka…’ and so on, they couldn’t carry on without problems because boys will always become men and men like to do their own thing sometimes. That’s what happened when Tunde left the group to pursue a solo career which isn’t kicking off as he may have expected it to.
The second problem as I see it was that they tried to shift from the R n B flavour which brought their first album much success to the commercial sounds that most Nigerians seemed to prefer…until Asa came and proved the pundits wrong. There was nothing wrong with your sound Styl-Plus! Yes it wouldn’t have been bad to give us one or two club-bangers and pop songs but you should have kept your R n B style instead of looking for another plus.
There’s still hope that they might rediscover themselves now that they are just two – Shifi and Zeal. I’m not so sure they’ve still got Joey and T-Jazz who produced some of their best hits. Like I said in this piece about P-Square, sometimes the most perfect number for a group is nothing more than two – anything more is a recipe for catastrophe.
Demola Rewaju blogs at www.DemolaRewajuDaily.com