Omah Lay is the talented, sex-mad artist you Must Hear

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Maybe I made a mistake listening to ‘Ye, Ye, Ye’ first when someone online suggested I listen to the new artist Omah Lay. I haven’t heard as filthy a song from a contemporary Nigerian artist singing in English. I have also not heard a talent as immediately obvious as his in a long, long time.

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On ‘Ye, Ye, Ye’, the male genitals, the female genitals, the actions during sex…the man leaves nothing to the imagination. If you were plugged in around the 2010s, Omah Lay should recall the unvarnished carnality of The Weeknd’s first three mixtapes and Frank Ocean’s ‘Novacane’. You might feel you need to go dip yourself in 30 litres of holy water after listening.

But it is so hard to stop listening. The song is immaculately produced and if the lyrics weren’t so filthy, I’d say the beat was divinely inspired. That title — ’Ye, Ye, Ye’ — is not the same agitated but innocent exclamation from Burna Boy. In Omah Lay’s mouth, it’s the sound of a coital moan.

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Why so loud, you ask? You should know better than to ask such a private question. But don’t worry, the answer is delivered directly in the song. The song’s one concession to discretion is couched in a great metaphor:

“Omo, she be SARS and she carry full van.”

That’s a clever, effective metaphor. You immediately get an idea of what Omah Lay is describing.

It is this effectiveness that suggests that beyond the shock of his lyrics, this is an artist that has a real chance at pop success. His voice appears pleasant enough even as it appears to have been autotuned. On song after song, he demonstrates a delightful technique for layering his lyrics, one line over another, amplifying the pressure on his end-of-line rhyme. I think of that technique as his signature:

Doctor said I burnt my liver
I’ve been drinking, smoking cigar
Used to sing and play my guitar
Now, I’m lost in this Sambisa

Perhaps the one problem here is that Get Layd sounds better than a debut EP should be, even if, at five tracks, it is the right length. It is very common for Nigerian acts to throw on as many tracks as possible, hoping one sticks.

With Omah Lay, you can see how with a few more songs of similar calibre, Get Layd really could have been one of a handful of great debut albums released by a Nigerian. ‘Ye, Ye, Ye’ might be the project’s true highlight but a track like, say, ‘Lo Lo’ is also pleasant and has been released as a single. The song even comes with a guitar solo, a trick deployed to amazing results by Reekado Banks on his hit ‘Rora’.

Two other songs on this 5-tracker with radio potential are ‘You’ and ‘Bad Influence’. Unfortunately for his core fans, ‘You’ and its video predates the release of the EP. For newcomers, the song is impressive, its percussive strokes buried under the artist’s voice and a near polyphonic beat. ‘Bad Influence’ is cooler and will fit for lazy evenings.

Despite being the EP’s main radio-friendly song, even as I wonder how it would get played anytime before midnight, ‘Ye, Ye, Ye’ doesn’t quite give a complete picture of Omah Lay. He might be as sex-crazed as the song makes him out to be — ”Let me show you something that will take away your sorrow,” he says suggestively on ‘Lo Lo’ — but he is also more.

For instance, on the EP’s opener, ‘Damn’, he is a regular lover boy. The song follows the well established trope of a girl who is in love with a ne’er-do-well who is also the narrator. It might be a popular trope in pop culture but the song itself avoids macho bad boy cliches and focuses instead on the girl’s troubles:

I know you wan help us, make we try turn
We dey form lover, but we dey fear God
I know father don talk, say make she just drop
But she love me die, she no go hear word

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Those words roll off Omah Lay’s lips, soft, smooth, like butter. It is the sound of youth, easy to fall in love with, versatile enough to fit with the highlife production on ‘Lo Lo’ as well as the trap of ‘Ye Ye Ye’. Omah Lay can sound ecstatic as he does on ‘You’; he is just as convincing singing a heartbreak downer like ‘Bad Influence’. Paired with the right producers, he will do remarkable things. Already, I have heard his music in high and low places, a sure indication of broad appeal.

He’s off to a great start: Get Layd is a worthy introduction. Hopefully, his record label has the right marketing strategy and muscle for a talent with the potential Omah Lay possesses. For now, allow me pass on the advice given to me on Twitter: listen to Omah Lay. Just don’t listen to the last track on Get Layd when your mum or your pastor or your imam is with you. It’s a delicious song — but you will get into trouble.

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Nigeria’s most acclaimed writer-reviewer. Business: www.criticsandbylines.com.

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