A mere week ago, Odunsi [The Engine] released his fantastic debut album, rare., which we've had on loop for the entire week. The album is a very cohesive body of work, which saw Odunsi in his element, and showcased his many talents like we've never seen before.
Wearing many hats as producer, songwriter and artist, Odunsi presents a very near perfect body of work. Beyond the actual music, rare. is a brave and defining project in the Nigerian music industry, which could spark a renaissance of what we consider pop music in these parts.
A day before rare. was released, we at Konbini got to attend a special preview of the album, hosted by our friends at The Native, where Odunsi walked us through each track as we heard the project for the very first time. So to explain how his amazing debut came together, Odunsi has shared with us a track-by-track breakdown of rare., where he reveals the inspiration behind every song and how some of the features came about.
When you listen to the album for the first time, the intro gives you a very good feel of the rest of it, and that’s exactly what I wanted the album to represent . You feel the exact way I want you to feel throughout the album.
Basically, "falling" is a song about the kind of relationships I found myself in. It’s really about being in love with someone or people who may not feel the same way about you, which just makes you like them more. So the concept is just about an unrequited love that affects you more than it does the object of your affection. And I added "Ifunaya" because I just always end up liking igbo girls a lot... I don't know why it always happens like that.
"take me there"
I had the lyrics and subject matter of the song ready for Hamzaa. Once I explained what I wanted from her she immediately got it, and I just chopped up the parts that she sent back and fixed it into the song and that's how we arrived at "take me there".
"outcast" is the most outrightly personal song, in terms of how direct the information on it is. It really takes the listeners on the journeys I'm singing about, and it doesn't have any coded meaning like any of the other songs on the album.
Funnily enough, way before I even knew this was happening, I had written “featuring Davido” next to "divine" so it was really a positive confession. In 2016, I made the original record, then I met Davido this year, and he hopped on the song. He showed me a lot of love, and when I played him "divine", he wanted to be on the song immediately he heard it.
There's a lot more to "wanted you" than what it seems like in plain sight. It has a lot of detail about the conversation I wanted to have about how I feel and the things I struggle with.
If I were to break it down one by one, the foundation of the songs' meaning stem from insomnia, unrequited love, mental health, the anxiety I feel at night time when I’m filled with doubt and being terrified of wanting things I can’t have. But on the surface, it seems like a love song.
It’s one of the songs that you’ll understand the deeper meaning behind when all the hype of the album has died down. Right now it’s masked by how catchy and sonically pleasing the song is.
Well, "angel" was written just after "wanted you" and so it's like the aftermath of all the deep thoughts I had on "wanted you". I always think about the fact that I don’t have complete control over the things that happen to me, like we have no control over when we die, how we die, or where we're going when we die. It was just a way of giving myself closure.
When I made the beat for angel, I already had the hook, but I changed it cause I really wanted to address my morbid thoughts. It’s also one of those songs that are made for someone, not inspired by someone. So it’s really for anyone who I love, like if I have children, I want this song to resonate – it’s just a way of expressing deep emotion.
"take a break"
This song is just a result of me being energised by all of the pressure I'm under. I’m being pulled in many directions, with people wanting to get in touch when I just have lot of things to do. It’s not like a good or a bad thing; it’s just like a high you get from being put under that much pressure. Like if you took a drug, it doesn’t ask for permission, it just takes effect on you.
This one is like a pre-rocks kind of song. You see how in Nigeria they call highways the 'express'? I just wanted the song to embody that feeling of being on one. The whole vibe of going out at night, being with someone close to you... it could be a girl or a guy. That's why I said 'best friend' because you always expect trap songs to say ‘my girl’ or ‘my chick’. Also I just wanted to rhyme. *laughs*
This song is so hard.. Imagine if like “Soco” was made in the 80s... It’s such a jam. Just think of like a Nigerian wedding reception or tv show opening song – it’s literally just a catchy song to dance to. That’s why I named it dance floor, cause that's where it belongs. I don’t even say 'dance floor' once in the song.
So the lyrics say ‘I'm calling my lover’, so it could be interpreted many ways, but it's just like a one-on-one thing. A dance you have with someone, not even particularly with emotional ties, just like someone you want to vibe with and dance to the song with.
Runtown's recent releases have shown a different side to him. Most Nigerian pop artists are really talented and you never get to see it cause they're always making pop songs for commercial viability, and you never get to see another side. But Runtown still showed that other side on songs like "Energy", so I just thought he would be the perfect fit for this song.
I actively sought out girls to feature on the album as a whole, and "hectic" has three female artists on it. I had a conversation with my friend and she was telling me how hard it was for female musicians and how there are some things they have to consider that never even crosses male artists' minds. So I just decided that I was going to do whatever I could within my power, and use my privilege to contribute to some forward motion for women in the industry.
I didn’t want to use my own voice because it's not really my place, as I don't know a lot about their experiences, and it will end up being about me (a man) doing it rather than make the difference it needs to make for women. So I just wanted to support them and get people to take them seriously after hearing their work, and this was the easiest way for me to do that.
I literally just thought it would be a great way to end the album, because the song was a very defining moment this year for me as a person and in my career too.