For a while, there has been a subdued debate on the prowess of Ice prince. It was not an argument that could be shouted from rooftops since its major proposition was that the man could rival fellow label mate MI, on the microphone. It was not an entirely outrageous position to take, after all the man had excelled in pretty much all of the cameos he has been in and the only thing in his way, it seemed, was the set hierarchy in Chocolate City: MI>Jesse Jags> Ice Prince> Brymo. An order spelt out by the head honcho himself on Represent.
That paragraph is composed in the past tense intentionally. For the man has put an end to the debate himself.
Is Ice Prince MI’s equal? The answer is a definite no. He is not remotely close. It was easy to be fooled that he might be able to compete were he in another crew with a less clear-cut order what with his swagger and decent flow. The brief bits on Samklef’s Molowo Noni, the Choc Boiz’ songs and his own Oleku created an anticipation that when he finally gets his chance on the Chocolate City roster he would give us a full regimen of what had previously been administered in minute doses.
Fate has other plans though for Ice Prince is a choker. There were signs- the most infamous being the freestyle session at Tim Westwood where he ‘freestyled from his phone’. The public mostly ignored this as not every emcee is gifted at freestyling. “He’d come good,” we thought when he has time to craft lines to the beats of one of Nigeria’s finest producers Jesse Jags.
Well, he has deflated those hopes with an album that refuses (or cannot) decide what it wants to be.
Ice had Chocolate City’s previous releases as template for ambition: the first MI album Talk About It was an obvious game changer with its sophisticated beats and weird skit titles, Jesse Jags’ Jags Of All Tradez was eclectic, designed to show his range with a slight advantage to his production ability, MI2 with all its shortcomings was a hyperactive effort with one eye on commercial viability.
These albums had an agenda and fulfilled them to a reasonable extent. Everyone Loves Ice Prince(ELI) is different: it is an amorphous entity unsure, uncertain of what it wants to be. Between the homage of awkward album opener I Remember to the boasts on Oleku; the weak rapping on the Kelly Handsome-like Juju to the singing on Find You (Drake’s Find Your Love, anyone?); the championing of his skills to the lines taken from Kanye (“You should be honoured and bow to greatness”)and Frank Ocean (“We made it sweet baby Jesus”); the African beat on Superstar to the quasi-reggae on Magician, a lot of the intended effect gets lost.
Even his normally reliable lines fall flat. Excerpts: “You like that movie magic cos you got much action,” “Your body too smooth like lotion,” “Life is going fast so I’m making my slo mo”, “You gat wings, Imma lend u my feathers” “Life is a picture, you better get your photo”, “You must be a producer, you make my heart beat”. Seriously, wtf.
Less than impressive production means these ridiculous lines are bare, out with no place to hide. Even Oleku reveals ridiculous lines after the high of its beats. How can anyone explain “Too many songs, but mine is latest”?
The album doesn’t work and might have benefited from A-list artistes but with the exception of Tuface, Wizkid and the rest of the Choc Boiz, the guests are almost entirely obscure which might have been a smaller mountain for a more vast artist- Jags Of All Tradez had unknown vocalists Eve and Lindsey both of whom produced rapturous choruses. For ELI, Ice gets Sean Tero whose career never did take off and some other less than familiar names. When either one of the interchangeable guests, Yung L and J-Milla say earnestly “You sing for me girl like Mozart”, it might take superhuman might not to push skip.
Still, this album is Ice Prince’s. He has been pegged back by this less than average debut. Considering how long it took him to get his record out in the first place, taking into account the schedule of Chocolate City, it might be another Olympiad before he gets a chance to redeem himself. Already, some are saying deliberate sabotage on the part of his Chocolate City superiors.
Unreasonably it seems but there are questions: how come MI2 had for Number 1, its highlife song the best of the new Ibo crooners, Flavour while ELI gets the less competent Wizboy for By This Time? Whose idea was it that Ice Prince anchors most of his own choruses? Why is Brymo not on another song based on the success of Oleku?
Indeed in an album where everyone involved must hang their head low, the real winner is MI who after the mismatch that was Kelly Handsome has just emerged unscathed out of a battle that had potential without even taking a shot. Hip hop heads would have to wait for a worthy opponent.
As for Ice Prince, hopefully the delightful cameos would continue and perhaps he just might think twice before proclaiming everyone loves him on his sophomore since, as his debut has proven, he is no Ray Romano.