Album:- Ghetto University
Record Label:- Eric Many Entertainment
Distributed By:- I-Tunes
Guest Appearances:- Davido, Uhuru, Phyno, DJ Khaled, Walshy Fire, Wizkid, M.I Abaga, Hafeez Anatii and Barbapappa
Producers:- DJ Maphorisa, Maleek Berry, Runtown, T.Spize, El Puto, Killbeatz, Shizzi, Pheelz, Del B, J Stunt & Badr Makhlouki
Release Date:- November 23rd 2015
Until January 2014 when he dropped his smash hit Gallardo, not much was known about recording artiste Runtown who was born Douglas Agu at Enugu State in 1989. Determined to make it in the music business, he moved to Lagos in 2007 to pursue his dream and subsequently started an independent outfit known as Penthauze Records with his friend Phyno who made the cross-state move with him. Together they made music, but we all know who blew up first, leaving Runtown to his whims and caprices as well as building a stronger determination to make it in him. However it was the Davido featured Gallardo and the Freestyle Successful which would put him on the national map and get him a mouth watering multi-million dollar deal with Eric Manny Entertainment in 2014. As soon as Runtown got signed, he announced that he will drop his debut album in about a year and went ahead to collaborate with a slew of Artistes in and outside Nigeria a process that went on while he dropped different impressive follow up singles which affirmed him as a bonafide superstar and a member in the new school of next generation acts set to take over the game.Perhaps to end the year on a high note, Runtown announced and delivered his debut album Ghetto University on the 23rd of November.
The album begins with an Intro by American Disc Jockey DJ Khaled which sounded more like a Radio drop than a proper introduction and set the tone for the first song on the project Money Bag, a dancehall song which is not in any way outstanding, but might help boost his West Indian/Caribbean audiences. The next song Let Me Love You is a romantic Afro-pop song which was driven by a contemporary highlife instrumentation by producer Maleek Berry who is having a great year ( having worked on projects by Wizkid, Davido, Wande Coal, Runtown and Boj) ; The song was made even more appealing by the sprinkle of Igbo language that was used to embellish the track, thus giving it a more authentic feel. The Davido assisted Gallardo still sounds fresh as ever and comes in next, continuing to the next song The Banger Featuring South African Band Uhuru, who are basically the go-to guys for Nigerian artistes looking for that Afro-house sound that is prevalent in South Africa, while I feel like the “Uhuru sound” is totally monotonous and almost exhausted, Banger is one of the rare moments where they actually display chemistry with a Nigerian artiste, thereby making is one of the best “Nigeria-Uhuru collaborations“.
The 5th song on the album is Kilofoshi on which he chronicled his grass to grace story over a Punjabi Indian backdrop which fit the song just well, however there is nothing special on this song for me, and by all indications it’s an album filler. The sub-par performances continue on the next track Talk For Me, which was produced by and featured Maleek Berry, It’s another “when I been dey broke nobody send me” story which Is more or less a staple on Nigerian urban albums, it’s a song that had me reaching for my “Skip button”. He links up with his former labelmate Phyno on Ima Ndi Anyi Bu over production by Shizzi to celebrate affluence over a copycat Snap/Trap instrumental which is totally not Shizzis sound, but it worked well for Run and Phyno -who gave the song the street rap appeal- with a characteristic impressive Igbo verse. It’s not everyday a South African producer makes an alternative Igbo love song, but DJ Maphorisa pulled it off impressively on Omalicha Nwa another romantic song which has an appealing Igbo chorus and also has Runtown giving off one of the best performances on the album. Next he goes for the Northern fanbase on Tuwo Shinkafa, a track that was named after one of the most popular delicacies in Northern Nigeria and has a very Arabic leaning. There is something hypnotic about the song which was produced by YBNL in-house beat-smith Pheelz and features Barbapappa, an artiste I am not familiar with but was responsible for the Arabic part which I am sure will appeal to not only Northern Nigerians but people of Arab origin. The title track Ghetto University is a contemporary Afrobeat song that follows the blueprint laid down by the late great Fela Kuti(production wise only), while I expected him to articulate the album theme in a stronger and concise fashion on the song, he did not, what you get is once again another celebration of “blowing up or making it big“, nonetheless, I give credit to Shizzi for the production on this one and the saxophone solo towards the end of the track. The retro Ajegunle ragga Galala sound is sampled on the Wizkid featured Bend Down Pause, a good collaboration between both acts which is a prelude to Walahi, a Maleek Berry produced single which was tailored for the clubs and I predict will be a stable at Night shows for the next few months.
The title of the next song Lagos To Kampala which also featured Wizkid would have been more apt with an artiste like Ugandan music Icon Navio, however it’s a good albeit generic song which was helped mainly by Wizkids performance and the top notch production by Maleek Berry ( the outro was pointless though ). The next song My Guyz sees the Trap/Snap sound return and is more or less a rap song, another Intra-continental collaboration that featured South African Rapper Anatii whose verse actually made the song more listenable to me. 2015 has been the best year for Hausa rap on the Nigerian urban scene, and Hafeez is one of the Rappers at the forefront of that movement. He makes an appearance on one of the better songs on the album Sarki Zaki which also featured M.I Abaga who dropped a few lines in Hausa, and he did it well too, This song is a good omen for Hausa rap especially because of the M.I cosign. The next song is a Morrocan remix of Tuwo Shinkafa, which had a refixed instrumental by Moroccan sound engineer and producer Badr Makhlouki giving it a much more North-African/Middle-eastern appeal. The lowest point on the album comes on the closing track Na So The Story Go which is another underwhelming trap song which I feel should have been left out the album altogether.
Nowadays it’s just the beats that matter in the urban music scene, get a banging production and just muster whatever lyrics you can over it and you have a hit.But the truth is the timeless albums of the genre like No Long Ting by D’Banj, Mushin To Mo Hits by Wande Coal and Superstar by Wizkid have all had one thing in common,they had SUBSTANCE, and that is exactly what is lacking on Runtowns debut album,The album is disjointed, lacks cohesion and is simply a collection of singles with a title. While he should have taken advantage of the fact he created a new style with Gallardo ( which spanned numerous generic copycat versions ) and made a statement with a well planned, arranged and compact album , he however chose to capitalize only on his popularity and buzz which his previously released singles have generated, which is not a bad idea but one that will affect the general impact which his album will have on the urban Afro-pop scene. Personally I feel like songs like Money Bag, Na So The Story Go, and Talk For Me could have been replaced with previously released singles like Baby Answer, Domot, The Latest and Even Successful which is one of his biggest song in the UK ( even if he had Sample Issues, there are ways to go around it with a solid A&R direction ).While I also commend his attempt to prove his versatility by rapping, I think it was a bad idea as he could have just followed and improved upon the sound that got him his big break and was already taking shape with the aforementioned songs which I already remarked should have been included in the playlist. The album is enjoyable,and pop friendly but highly exhaustible and might be at the bottom of your playlist by January, I will however give him credit for dropping it which is no mean feat in the music business nowadays, especially for new acts, now it’s on to the next one taking the lessons learnt from this outing and applying it to his next presentation will have to be the next step, but as far as his debut album goes, he gets a pass mark on his score-sheet, courtesy of his Alma Mater, The Ghetto University.
Best Verse:- M.I Abaga on Sarki Zaki
Standout Track:- Tuwo Shinkafa ,I give Pheelz a lot of credit for the production
Musical Moment:- The Moroccan remix of Tuwo Shinkafa is great too
Album Rating:- 6/10
Sidenote:- I still believe Runtown has the ability to make a proper album his second time out, I do not doubt his ability as a recording artiste.