The new Olamide video opens with some terrible acting, goes through some rather awful costume and overwrought choreography choices and ends with a decent version of the popular shaku shaku dance.
But these are surplus features. Once ‘Science Student’ got banned, its video was mostly expected to answer a single question: How will Olamide respond to the accusation by the Nigerian authorities that his song promotes drug abuse?
He answered on social media: “Don’t abuse alcohol. Stop mixing what you don’t know about. Live responsibly and drink responsibly”. But if that was telling, the video shows.
After their vehicle stops moving at night, Olamide and friends head towards a blinking light. A sudden burst of bad CG bats scares his friends away, leaving the artist to go alone. He ends up at a decrepit building housing a lab. There a group of the dancing undead do some chemistry. We can accept that the undead are some of the planet’s best dancers — at least since Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ — but why exactly do they need stoichiometry?
The idea is perhaps metaphor: the undead represent drug addicts: this, Olamide seems to say, is what happens when you mix substances for the purpose of intoxication. If the point is unclear, some of the dancers are aroused from sickbeds as Olamide walks through the building.
To hammer the point home, one guy has his head aflame and several walls are inscribed with anti-drug-use messages. A cup containing some substance handed to the rapper is discarded at the same spot where “Say no to Drugs” is inscribed. Apparently, the message on the wall should be: Say No to Subtlety. The over seven-minute video then ends with Olamide bursting into daytime, followed by a garishly dressed troupe dancing to a mix of the music.
If the Nigerian authorities have overdone their zealousness, Olamide is overplaying his clearly hypocritical holiness. Fans will remember that the last time he flung a cup in public, at a recent edition of the Headies, he was already inebriated. And he has sang way too many songs in praise of vice for anyone to believe in his rehabilitation.
Indeed, you get the idea that Olamide is trying hard to prevent any misinterpretation of a message he almost certainly never had when he began recording the song. Does anyone really think Olamide was seeking to tell his fans not to use intoxicants? At best, the plan was to capture a reality that, according to This Day, has seen “500 000 bottles of codeine…consumed by young Nigerians across the country, same with the intake of tramadol, rohypnol, marijuana, and other opioids”. But from song to video, respect for the NBC ban has transformed Olamide as messenger to Olamide the messiah.
It has worked well for him. The song, spurred by the ambiguity of its lyrics and its shaku shaku compliant production, quickly became a hit. It also earned him a ban, which made some curious enough to seek the song. Now its video has appeased the authorities with its over-flogged anti-drug message. The video also continues Olamide’s use of gothic elements and his flirtation with horror aesthetics — as seen in videos ranging from 2012’s ‘Ilefo illuminati’ to 2013’s ‘Voice of the Street’ to ‘The Intro’ from his 2016 album The Glory.
Thus without too much of a deviation from what he has always done, Olamide has turned controversy to conquest. Not bad for a song that, unless something else happens, will never again be heard on Nigerian radio. It makes it all the more unfortunate that someone didn’t think to cut out a chunk of the time spent doing that ludicrous dance routine in clownish costume.
First published by Music in Africa