Review: Runtown is in the realm of gangsterism on the Signs album
Runtown‘s hiatus from music, though never expected, is one of the longest in the history of Afrobeats. Even if one is tempted to trivialize his comeback, the reality of Nigerian Afrobeats stars and their frequent music releases strongly becomes a stumbling block to that bias. This, therefore, easily hands Runtown commendations for his boldness.
The fact is that only a few Afrobeats singers, probably a Wizkid, a Davido, a Burna Boy or an Olamide, can dare to leave the scene for more than two years without the fears of losing their listeners in the competitive Afrobeats market. Afrobeats artists will rather put out “mids,” as the fans call a piece of music short of perfection than take their time to work on something exhilarating and deserving of attention.
Runtown‘s comeback was hugely anticipated throughout 2021 when the singer released a tracklist for the Signs album. A year later, the singer released another tracklist different from the one released in 2021 for the Signs album again. Throughout his absence, he periodically trended on the internet because fans never stopped invoking his name in music conversations; hence the anticipation of his comeback grew wilder even when many could not certainly swear that he would genuinely return as he had claimed. Runtown was completely inactive on social media throughout his exile from music.
Runtown‘s return coincided with the birth of the Christian prophet Jesus Christ; the singer’s comeback album titled Signs is historic and symbolic consequently. The album title, Signs, is a religious allusion to the bright star used by the three wise men as “signs,” leading them to “baby Jesus” in the birth story of the prophet. This religious symbolism may be coincident with this project’s release date, released in December, a festive period used almost globally to mark the birth of Jesus.
The eponym which opens the album on track 1 buttresses the dollar sign in the first “S” in the album title. Although the rest of the populace is so religious to the point of looking for “signs” (probably miracles on the note of religion), Runtown‘s struggle is more mundane than it is faith-based, i.e., the singer is in search of the “dollar signs.”
Aside from instances where he must express love or lust on tracks like Things I Know, O Fe Pa Mi and All About You — Runtown spent the rest of the 13 tracks fuming violence, paranoia and gangsterism. This personality constantly comes into a serious clash with the very minimally reserved part of him that believes in religion and the existence of a god.
One must first show admiration for Runtown in this music piece is his songwriting skill and intelligence in deciding the right diction to communicate his person and ideas through the album. The highlight of Runtown‘s lyrics on this project is absolute “gangster” and suspicion. Talk of a human who has seen evil enough not to leave himself to be caught in an ambush — “greener pastures will come with snakes/I stay ready to fumigate…” He sings on High Spirit.
Threats also mostly become prevalent on tracks like Propaganda, where he threatens to break your jaw — “keleru wa gberu e/Keleru to folenu”; Signs where he embodies fright — “lurking in the dark/nothing but the same blood in my eyes”; Fences where he displays his hyper-alertness as a result of paranoia — “one hand in my bible/The other on my rifle”; Dangerous Hearts where he against trust with his guest reminding listeners that “these dangerous hearts will creep on you/be on the guard” and more threats on Kini Issue — “let bygone be bygone or I might just burst my gun.”
The persona is endangering: this is heard on Propaganda and High Spirit, two different instances on the album where he likens his return to a consuming “fire.” Despite the hardened self predominant in his behavior, the singer finds it difficult to bury his faith. He acknowledges he is a sinner on Sinnerman, Signs and High Spirit, but his guilty pleasure is justified with a popular biblical quote — “cast the first stone if you are not a sinner too.” The Holy Spirit, praying, Bible, rapture, God etc., are also personifications used to sell his religion to the listeners.
The cause of this total distrust and violence is not explained until track 12, Hella Sacrifice.
With the sampling of Nina Simone on Sinnerman and the sampling of Sade Adu‘s Sweetest Taboo on Dangerous Hearts, Signs transcends the ordinariness of some Afrobeats projects, which continue to masquerade as masterpieces under vain applause from social media influencers.
Runtown‘s Signs is unchallenged on the spot of the “most unique” project in the world of Afrobeats post the 20s.
Signs are completely devoid of Amapiano and the contemporary Afrobeats recycled instrumentals. On this note, Mystro, responsible for the production of the entire project, deserves celebration for the exploration of Reggae done by Runtown on the signs album. The production is simply what keeps the listeners coming back to the album.
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