2012 is the year So So Gay discovered Tunde Olaniran. We stumbled upon his unique work earlier this year, and introduced him to you as someone you should know about. We were then fortunate enough to interview the Michigan-based singer-songwriter. His individual eclectic style has earned him a whole load of attention over the past twelve months; so, it was with great excitement that we were offered the opportunity to get a sneak preview of his upcoming EP The Second Transgression, the second instalment of a five-part series.
Both Olanrian’s début album, Infinite Modulation, and his last EP, The First Transgression, were striking in their mix of musical styles and socially narrative lyrics. The Second Transgression sees the artist hone his signature sound even more flawlessly, with a coherent set of five tracks, each of which has its own flavour, while containing a binding thread which makes the tracks instantly recognisable as Tunde Olaniran’s work.
Opening track ’2.0′, which features Jonny 5, showcases Olaniran’s velvet vocals over a simple rhythm on the verses, before a more elaborate chorus made up of Knightrider-like synths and a punchy beat kicks in. It sets the scene for the brilliance to come.
‘Autonomous’ is essentially a break-up denial anthem – a hymn to trying to make oneself believe that you are ‘over’ the person you have recently left; ‘I don’t still love you / I don’t still care / I won’t admit it / But in my dreams you’re still there’. The lyrics may seem banal in their simplicity but it is precisely by not overworking the sentiment and instead combining it with a killer guitar-tinged riff that Olaniran scores a hit. His vocal delivery drips in emotional intensity and adds to the overall effect of the track.
Track 3, ‘Sun Goes Down’, begins with a Latin beat before the synth and bass is cranked up, layered with clapping and, again, electric guitar. Olaniran matches the ominous sound of the heavy instrumentation with lyrics that tell of multiple identities and paranoia; ‘Don’t point over there / It’s because you never like what you see in the mirror’. Although there are not many laughs to be had on the track, it’s exquisitely executed.
‘Kill Or Be Killed’ sees the darker production of the previous numbers stripped back a little, revealing a dance influence, the jubilant vibe of which collides deliciously with the stark warning behind the title (‘Love kills, love kills / You said you wouldn’t hurt me but you did’). This bittersweet contradiction makes ‘Kill Or Be Killed’ the most radio-friendly track on the EP and one certain to get your feet tapping along in agreement.
The EP comes to a close with ‘Brown Boy’ – perhaps the song which reflects most vividly the aforementioned social nous demonstrated on Olaniran’s previous oeuvres. Addressing some of the more sombre stereotypes and falsehoods associated with people of colour, he manages to blend a police chief’s retirement speech with samples of Chinese school children singing to create an extremely catchy number with a message; ‘I’m every single thing you think of me / I’m a sinner, killer, drug dealer, refugee’. The commentary is not lost on us.
Overall, this is the most coherent set of tracks Tunde Olaniran has put together in his fledgling career so far. This could so easily be the work of an established commercial act, such is the high quality of the EP’s production and composition. We’ve said it before and we will happily say it again: this ‘brown boy’ should be huge.
You can download ’Brown Boy’ for free here. The Second Transgression EP is released on 21 December.