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B Side, Music

Essentials: Runtown Feels Free On “Signs”

Signs is good news for the Afrobeats space, and it is up to him to spread his gospel as wide as possible.

  • Clarence Mac Ebong
  • 6th January 2023

Runtown has turned into a bit of an enigma over the last few years. He is sparsely on the scene or caught by the camera’s wink, opting for a low profile away from the world’s chaos. We can draw parallels between Runtown’s music and apparent personality and realize there is a shared element of escapism. Our favorite cliché that music takes our minds to another place is completely factual, and the curation of these escapist experiences has been a feature of the Soundgod’s music throughout its evolutionary line.


His 2019 effort Tradition, which featured records like “Unleash”, “Emotions” and “International Badman Killa”, had tropical leanings. At the time, Runtown’s sound created a decent foil to otherwise mainstream records, and the depths to which he took the exploration of his sound aided the growth of Afrobeats and the development of its different shades. However, Tradition was just a period in the establishment of the robust palette that Runtown’s music possesses. Every time he dips into his bag, he pulls out something new, and his music is the gift that keeps on giving.


A Christmas season release is often frowned upon in these parts, especially when not accompanied by aggressive promotion. His latest effort, Signs had been teased for a few months with no real date in sight. But in the season of birth, Signs caught life and resurrected the belief in Runtown’s music. Transitioning from the days of “Bend Down Pause”, frequent releases, and a nasty label dispute with Eric Many Entertainment, it would seem that Runtown finally feels free — a freedom he craved as he revealed in 2019 to OkayAfrica. We notice this freedom as the crux of the emotions portrayed on Signs.


If a yacht cruise ever needed entertainment, Runtown would be a perfect candidate. Signs comes off as one long performance with different parts which inherently feel the same. Such is the cohesive nature of the project. For someone who has been at recording camps with Rihanna and does his own A&R (as of 2019), you wouldn’t expect any less attention to detail and commitment to the craft. “Signs” starts off the project and “Mic Check” ends it in a utopian full-circle moment that ties two different, but related, sounds together in one strong-ass knot.


However, Runtown had to change the ropes a few times. His attention to detail turned out to be the project’s major flaw. A few records had to undergo some changes, like an increased dub effect on the chorus of “Hella Sacrifice” as well as louder and more pronounced keys throughout the duration of “O Fe Pa Mi” (there’s a version floating round on SoundCloud which had a lesser emphasis on the keys and featured more background vocals from Jamopyper). While these little tweaks (and more) did increase the overall quality of what you hear, it only accentuates a feeling of incompleteness with the project as originally uploaded. We’re torn between the positive feeling of being carried along the creative process and actually knowing what was wrong with the project initially.


The polarizing element of the project extends to records like “Dangerous Hearts”, where the synergy with Mr. Hudson came and went. “Fences”, just like the title suggests, leaves you unsure of what to think when its done. There seems to be a disconnection between himself and some of the project’s influences. Signs is a valuable necklace that should be worn by Runtown and his fans alike with great pride, despite the very small cuts on its diamonds.


Signs could be his greatest work. In his career so far, it undoubtedly is. However, Runtown’s reclusiveness might do him some harm in terms of commercial success and closeness to his fans. One would imagine that he has plans in place to take this project to the heights it deserves. Signs is good news for the Afrobeats space, and it is up to him to spread his gospel as wide as possible.


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