Review: Things We Say: Shopé Is Still Searching for his Voice

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Mosope ‘Shopé’ Adeyemi is a man of many identities. He is Nigerian but has lived in Toronto, Canada, since he was eleven. He sings, but raps, too. One naturally associates him with Drake, who, like him, is a Canadian who sings and raps. In Shopé’s six-track EP, Things We Say, all his identities come to play, some more decidedly than others. He sings more than he raps, and he is Canadian more than he is Nigerian. And yet he doesn’t sufficiently sing and he isn’t sufficiently Canadian. He is a jack of many identities but a master of none.

That is no condemnation of his talent. He knows his stuff and is presumably in his career’s experimental phase, attempting to find his voice. He is yet to find it, and by voice I mean that essential and abstract quality that sets apart one musician from the other, a kind of music identity card. You know a musician has a distinct voice when, without a face accompanying the vocals, listeners can tell at once who the musician is. In fact, voice isn’t restricted to music; it’s a central component in writing. Dorothy Parker’s voice was witty; Hemmingway’s was imperial; Achebe’s was oracular. Shopé’s voice is a work in progress. 

He may not sound like a Nigerian, his pidgin English and Yoruba may be slightly accented, but his sensibilities are Nigerian, at least as it concerns mating strategy. The typical Nigerian male musician wastes no chance to advertise his garage-full of cars, his target market the female gaze. Olakira wants a babe to hop into his Maserati, and Chinko Ekun wants a Bentley in Able God, presumably to make himself more ‘datable’. In Hey Lova, the track opening the EP, Shopé wants to buy a Range Rover for a love interest.

But is this an EP about love? Not exactly. It reads more like an autopsy report: a once-vibrant romantic affair has died and Shopé is telling us why — it died because of poor word choices. One lover has said something out of turn, or said something they didn’t mean. One has to guess the overall theme, as Shopé deliberately obscures it. Things We Say? The EP could easily be titled, Things We Say With Innuendo

While his sensibilities may be Nigerian, he won’t endear a Nigerian listener with a song like Demand. The thumping HipHop beat and rap verses are not the problem. It’s the Americanised delivery that is alienating. Of course, this wouldn’t matter if Shopé isn’t also courting the Nigerian ear. Except that he is, as evidenced by his use of his native Yoruba, like in the song Break My Heart Again, where he features Zenesoul. 

Things We Say is a non-experimental project by an artiste in his experimental years. Production-wise, no risks are taken, the same muted RnB vibe pervading most of the tracks. In short, Shopé plays it safe. The result: an EP that’s neither bad nor spectacular. Neither Nigerian nor Canadian. When Shopé finds his voice, all should fall in place. But it shouldn’t stop you from listening to the EP, if only to hear him sing, “Hey lova / I just wanna put you in a Range Rover”.