GOODBYE, STYL PLUS?
I first met Tunde Akinsanmi on a quiet, uneventful evening in Lagos around 2003. His childhood friend Bayo Omisore who was one of my closest friends had arranged for us to meet because in his (Bayo’s) words, Tunde needed to know one or two things about the haphazard music industry; having been trying desperately to break-in, without luck.
So we met very briefly at Ayo Animashaun’s house, exchanged ideas, contacts, and a lil’ info.
That was the last I heard of the ambitious young man. Almost a year later, I started hearing about STYL Plus. After wondering why there was so much ado about the group, I heard their first offering: Olufunmi, and immediately became a fan. The R&B group brought a new, even exciting dimension to the genre in Nigeria, making them thrive where many had fallen, and instantly making them the darlings of fans and critics.
Like many Christians who had found Christ; who were already converted and consumed with the passion to win more souls, I preached the gospel of STYL Plus like I was paid to. I listened to their music like it was going out of fashion, and I told who ever cared to listen that music now had a new name: STYL Plus. Fortunately for me and many others, music isn’t like religion where you have to worship one god and discard the other. So I still rocked Plantashun Boiz while trying to make up my mind whether or not the trio of Faze, 2face and Blackface would have a future after STYL Plus.
One day, I placed a called to Bayo Omisore and after talking about girls, work, mode 9, girls and more girls, he told me of how Tunde had gone on to hug fame and fortune, as one of the three singers that make up STYL Plus. As someone who had seen artistes transform from nonentities to superstars, I was glad for the singer and his friends. I was reminded again, of the power of dreams and I told myself I must dream harder.
But I was also scared. Every success comes with some level of responsibility, and I wondered if the trio would be ready to take the bull by its horn. But as a fan, it is usually difficult to see your star’s imperfections. I was in love with STYL Plus. Nothing else mattered. As far as I was concerned, the boys had become the R in R&B, anyone who didn’t like that could go and eat ‘spaghetti’.
My little niece Temitayo was with me in the evangelism. A young, impressionable girl, she not only liked STYL Plus’ music, she was in ‘love’ with Tunde and the more she tried to hide it, the more obvious it became.
But now, almost five years after, I doubt if she still feels the same way. Just like me, she has found a new ‘crush’, a new obsession; she has fallen in love with a new ‘sound’. The reasons are obvious. A lot has happened to us, the fans. our tastes have changed. We are more aware, we have more choices to pick from now, and we have grown. But my darling trio, have they grown with us or ahead of us? I’m afraid no.
Staying put in Abuja, where they operate with their managers TJazz and Joey, the boys have failed to capitalise on earlier opportunities, they’ve failed to renew pact with fans. They are no longer hungry! At a time when they should have moved over to Lagos, in order to be closer to promoters, corporate bodies, mainstream media and music industry professionals, STYL Plus remained in Abuja. It didn’t matter to them that D’banj left London to slug it out in Lagos; Psquare left Jos to make home in Lagos and Mode 9 abandoned Abuja when he realised Lagos was where it was all happening. Since STYL Plus first made their first hit, over 20 artistes have left different world cities to make homes in Lagos. Many of them, including Weird MC, Kween, D’Banj, Psquare and Mode 9 have gone one to establish successful careers while staying in the city regarded by many as the headquarters of music in Nigeria.
The boys not only remained stubbornly in Abuja, the headquarters of politics; they started churning out badly conceptualised, badly directed videos that did little to enhance their status. Fans and friends were worried; and many tried to step in. but nothing changed. Two albums after, and a couple of lack-lustre videos too, STYL Plus remained unreachable, unavailable and high- up- there. With near-zero media mentions, total absence on the social circuit, and no banging new music to speak for them, the once-upon-a-time R&B saviours soon went into relegation, taking the reserve seat while the likes of Psquare, Faze, 2face, and 9ice reigned supreme.
Now, just like Eedris Abdulkareem, the boys appear to be realising their folly, and are making efforts to return to the centre stage. Unfortunately, a new album- their third- has come out nothing but a woeful attempt, and a painful embarrassment to the reputation they have struggled hard to build. Is this the end for STYL Plus, or the beginning of the end? Or will fans forgive their past mistakes and embrace their new body of work despite it being absolutely mediocre? At a time when everyone is bouncing to near-excellent music coming from Asa, 9ice, Sound Sultan and others, why would anyone want to stop and give STYL Plus a second listen? And in an era where young R&B cats like Wande Coal, GT The Guitarman, W4, Terry G, and Sho’Boi are warming up to grab fans’ attention, how will STYL Plus win the battle to remain in contention?
I wish I had the answers. I wish I had the solution to the problems of a group I once idolised. But beyond answering these questions, STYL Plus needs to do more than record a couple of half-baked songs to win our patronage again. We’ve given them the chance before, they squandered it. If we must give them again, they must tighten their loins, dust their pants and get ready to play the game by the rules. For starters I think they should call an estate agent, get a home in Lagos, and move over with the speed of light.
Oh, they may consider sacking their managers too!