Album Review: Running through Runtown’s Ghetto University

                                                                                                             Ghetto University

Artiste: Runtown Album: Ghetto University Record Label: Eric Many Entertainment

Year: 2015

For some reasons, I would include Gallardo, a hit single by Runtown which features Davido on the list of successful hit singles in 2014. The song which passes no further than an exhilarating track for club darlings not only gained a place on the MTV base countdown, but also succeeded in winning an award and shooting Runtown to stardom. Before then, Runtown had released a few singles which earned nothing more than airplays from a few radio stations, a music video for his single Forever, and had been featured by some acts in the industry. However, between 2013 and 2015, he spent enormous time working on what is now his debut single—Ghetto University. The album which has a track listing of 17 songs features other artistes in 10 songs. The whole songs are produced by about 9 different producers, giving each song a taste of its own. There are bound to be mixtures of influences. From featured artistes to production techniques and beats from different producers, the album claims its right of variedness. How does this variety affect the album? In the midst of this mix, can we still identify Runtown’s voice? Is his voice strengthened or subdued? Why should we listen to Ghetto University? The first two songs, Money Bag & Let Me Love You are love songs in praise of women. Both songs make a good introduction to the oeuvre. They are immediately followed by Gallardo and Banger which have both exhausted their lifespan on airplay as hit singles. There is an imminent danger in enlisting such hit singles in a debut album. It comes along with a critical question: what new taste(s) do they add to the mix? From another perspective, while Gallardo has been played over and over again and seems too ordinary to add anything new to the oeuvre, could it, at best, serve as a signature tune for artistic identity in the sense that an audience can always trace the work back to the artiste? Could it be, perhaps, to assert its success as a single in the midst of a collection? There should be a purpose for this tradition of enlisting well-known hit singles in an album. A debut album. Banger which features Uhuru has its effectiveness in being a club hit. The song would make more sense when dancers are too dead drunk to bother about lyrics, but beats alone. The next song, Kilofoshi successfully subdues the ecstatic vibe from the aforementioned club hits and draws the lineup to an anti-climax. Could this be part of the album’s variedness? Maybe.

The choice of Phyno as a featured artiste in the next song Ima Ndi Anyi Bu is apt. Here, Runtown’s vocal dexterity is asserted and Phyno’s rap presence seals it as a plus. This is one of the tracks that could draw enthusiasts back to the album. The track’s title literally translates to “Do You Know Who We Are?” The answer can be found in the same song. Listen again.

                                                                                            Runtown’s Ghetto University In the next track Omalicha Nwa, Runtown runs to highlife with a beautiful Igbo love song. This ends with a sonorous response from a female singer, supposedly the subject of the song. In Tuwo Shinkafa, the act brings Barbapappa whose goje and sinuous melodies create a convenient convergence of hip-hop and an Arabic pop-musical idiom with the likeness of indigenous pop-music from Northern Nigeria. The blend, in a sense, defines diversity and dynamism which the album tends to portray. Next, Runtown takes his audience to his Ghetto University where full-horn sections welcome the very beat that probably defines his ghetto. Unfortunately, we are not served anything new in terms of theme and lyrical content. Ghetto University’s theme could be a bane to the album’s shine considering its ordinariness, especially on the Nigerian pop-music space. Why was the album named after this song?

Runtown follows the song with Bend Down Pause. Here, the act is still in the Ghetto with its beats as symbol of his dedication. Most exceptional amongst the rest of the songs is My Guyz, another Igbo rap song in which the rapper rhymes fairly. Here, they repeat the same question asked in track seven.

On the whole, the strength of Runtown’s Ghetto University lies in its diversity of musical idioms. If there are doubts, Omalicha Nwa and Tuwo Shinkafa should sufficiently clear all doubts. With 10 tracks to him alone and his performance in other collaborations, Runtown’s voice is not lost. The album’s weakness could be the pendulum that swings back and forth at the album’s title, striving to ascertain its appropriateness. In his next outing, Runtown may need to pay attention to songwriting, coherence and interconnection in his track-listing.

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