Alpha P is seventeen — a former band mate of Rema, the artiste has joined the long line of millenials bringing a fresh contemporary twist to Afropop. In recent times, the genre has come under experimentation, with its practitioners tweaking its properties to fit into the current fast-paced preferences of the Nigerian audience. However, spaces farther beyond Africa are targeted; thus, the need for fusion.
Universal Music Group, announcing their new signee (Alpha P) described him as an artiste bringing “genre-blending flavor” to the table. Born Princewill Emmanuel, the Benin-bred artiste will from the start, be considered Rema 2.0. His narrative will be linked to the Mavin wonder kid. His music however, offers the opportunity to swerve left, be a man of his own.
It is on this premise his debut project is released. Titled “King of the Wolves,” the five track EP is a familial affair, as Alpha P sells himself as a leader of his pack. On this: he leans into the trope of introducing one’s self as part of a larger group and yet, reclaiming individuality within that group. It is the story of the millenial, and Alpha P plays to this.
“Fayah,” the opener, is a mid tempo jam delivered on drums, and deceptively-minimal percussion. While its production makes for a good listen, Alpha P’s songwriting makes for a tiring second half of the song. London-produced “Paloma” still hinges on the bars of lust, with Alpha singing more assuredly of love, hurt, and the likes. “Amaka do me so / my baby do me so” he sings over the well-chopped production – surely, a beat which is as dominant on this song as Alpha’s singing itself.
London’s fine production extends into “Radar,” a song which, yet again, plays into the subtle nuances of affection. “You’re on my radar,” Alpha P sings over a percussion-heavy song which borrows from Native American chants and Folk music. “More” is a Trap offering, with its stripped production reminiscent of Soul properties. The song flits between two different sounds, emerging at the middle. Think Rema’s “Why,” but with less boisterous vocals, and more controlled production. This, it should be said, for now presents the key difference between Alpha P and his former band mate. While the latter boasts a talent with vocal manipulation (therefore maximising the effect of his every word), Alpha’s voice is just about normal: there’s little auto-tune, little Bollywood-esque crooning.
The EP closes with “Tonight,” a funk-rock esque bassline dominant in its production. Of companionship, Alpha P sings in the most ambiguous ways. On the pre-chorus, he sings “I don’t need you.” Then, on the chorus, he seeks, over the thumping beat, a brother. In other words, follower-ship. While conceptualism is yet to be fully realized in many Nigerian projects, the final song off KOTW plays to the emo-rap sensibilities of Alpha P’s fan base. Had the rest of the songs featured more nobody-gets-me and I-don’t-even-get-myself tracks, perhaps the pack would recognize Alpha P as a leader. Yet “King of the Wolves” is an introduction tape, and the artiste is – understandably – not well versed in the nuances of the genre he’s chosen to dabble in.
There’s also that nagging Rema name, hovering above every beat, every inflection. That the “Dumebi” star is one of the continent’s hottest properties makes it a particularly daunting task to sell Alpha P, who UMG have erroneously and inextricably linked his music and image to, as Rema-esque. Understandably, Rema has emerged as the face and voice of teenagers everywhere, and it is a market Alpha P hopes to sell to. There could however, be more ingenious ways to go about developing his brand and artistry, so as to evade the copycat tag.
Is “King of the Wolves” a good tape? I think yes. A seven out of ten, it shows the immense potential of Alpha P. He just needs to allow himself grow into the music – for now, he would do well to not succumb to contractual pressure or grandiose attempts at branding.