Out with their new EP titled “Palm Wine Music Vol. 1,” Show Dem Camp have made their own kind of tastefully inventive music. In a sense, “Palm Wine Music Vol. 1” feels mildly experimental and languorous and aspirationally simple, a firm anti-pop equivalent to all the usual, hackneyed noise-caked radio hits. There’s a distinctive quality about Show Dem Camp and how they do rap; it has always been there, unfiltered, and thoroughly embedded in their artistic matrix. They are arguably the only Nigerian rap group of immense relevance today (Rooftop MCs have floated into the ether), and catering to a faithfully abiding cult niche.
When their long-awaited debut album “The Dreamer Project” was released in 2011, it demystified rap to its bones, flinging out conventions but flexibly staying true to the culture. The album, gradually, ushered in a new wave, out-of-the-box treatment of hip hop: it glowed with the MI-assisted “Dreamer” and the Benny P-featured “I’m Getting You.” The latter was close to becoming anthemic that it was welcomed as a massive club fodder. Preceding “The Dreamer Project” album, a year before that to be exact, Show Dem Camp were out with their Clone Wars mixtape, an industrious project that spawned The Clone Wars Vol. 2: The Subsidy and The Clone Wars Vol. 3: The Recession. Have you listened to D.I.L.L.I.G.A?—one of my favourites on Vol.3. Or the R&B-flavoured BMW, which perfectly evokes moods and emotions, and throws a nod to the old-time, archetypal R&B swing.
Let me reveal a small confession to you: when, in 2012, Show Dem Camp released the Tillaman-featured Ogidiga (Go Hard), I listened to that song on a loop for hours. It was gaudy and pulsing, a rollicking, peak testosterone mammoth of a single. The chorus was a triumphant roar, the beat a booming thunderclap. Ghost and Tec, constituting Show Dem Camp, are proof that you can glamorously sing about anything, even if it’s about a local drink that enhances male sexual performance. And that’s why they are good. But they are underrated as well, so much so that it was briefly talked about on the second episode of Accelerate TV’s new web series “The Wrap Up.”
With “Palm Wine Music Vol. 1,” Show Dem Camp are in a territory of their own, where they make their own rules and break them. The 7-track EP drips with a sleek, beach-suitable coolness and the assembly-line arrangement gives off a dull gloss. It opens with the Sparx-produced “Up 2 You,” a laidback invitation for last-call debauchery.
“It’s Friday night, what do you say?” Ghost raps with his signature deep baritone. “Up 2 You” is aware of its minimalism, cushioned on faux-high life beat rhythms. The solo guitar riffs at the end is the track’s climactic moment, coupled with Funbi’s heartswell, syrupy vocals. There are more artist features, like the BOJ-assisted “Compose,” which takes a plunge into afrobeats and luxuriates in it. The chorus reels with BOJ’s smoky, breathy rasp: “I go turn you to believer” he sings, addressing a woman. “Compose” is partly another example of the sleek arrogance and moxie of straight male sexuality. Palm Wine Music Vol. 1, lets BOJ resurface on Popping Again, an ode to elegantly wasted youth-centric lotus-eating.
“What You Want” is carousing and breezy and froths with selflessly glinting promises: “Give you what you want / Give you what you need. Let me take you far away / Let me set you free.” Tomi Thomas croons on percussive drum loops. “I think she wants to entice me when she came down in nothing but skin-tight jeans,” Ladipoe raps on “She Wants More,” on which Ghost’s verse feels like luminous poetry.
Palm Wine Music Vol. 1 is a soothing production that wallows in its simply crafted world. It may not propel to go into a fit of reckless dancing, nor will it make you swing from a pole. And that’s the point—it’s the perfect accompaniment to listen to, outdoors, even as you savour that fresh frothy glass of palm wine.