Legend or No Legend: Does Wande Coal’s Forthcoming Album Affect his Legacy?
Legend or No Legend, Wande Coal remains the talented singer who sang his way into our hearts and he looks set on doing that once again.
●10th February 2023
It was puzzling and agonizing, for many years, that what many regarded as the premier pop album of the 2000s, a resplendent classic that remains a staple in the country’s rich musical history was largely inaccessible. Mushin 2 Mohits, Wande Coal’s epochal debut was unavailable for years — only floating around on ramshackle blogs, DJ mixes and Youtube pages — up until late last year when it suddenly appeared on digital streaming platforms. The news of the re-release was well received. Fans, both old and new, were finally able to either reacquaint themselves with a body of work that defined the zeitgeist of their young years — hitting play must have felt like stepping into a time machine that transported you to presumably simpler times — while much newer fans were finally able to enjoy the famed Mushin 2 Mohits, an album that birthed a generation of acts that remain relevant till this day. But while the news of the re-release evoked mostly euphoric responses, it also placed Wande Coal’s illustrious career in center focus.
Before he became the Black Diamond, Coal simply went as Wande Ojosipe, an unassuming dancer who was brimming with potential. In his own words, he was only a “a slumdog somewhere trying to hustle.” This was until Don Jazzy and D’banj took a chance on him, signing him to their Mo’hits imprint. It didn’t take long before he repaid their trust, announcing himself and also leaving an indelible mark on their collaborative project Curriculum Vitae. His sonorous vocals and dynamic flows lit up records like Booty Call, Pere and Ten Ten, holding his own and sometimes besting some of the most accomplished acts in the country at the time. Perhaps the biggest indicator that Wande Coal was a star in the making was “Ololufe”, an incredibly moving solo cut that showcased his greatest and most distinct quality as an artist: his golden voice.
This golden voice paired with Don Jazzy’s magic ears and fingers served as the bedrock of Mushin 2 Mo’Hits. The synergy between the two birthed arguably the most important Nigerian pop album of the last couple of decades. Before M2M, numerous acts had tinkered with different fusions, attempting to merge foreign musical influences of the noughties with a distinct, local style. But no one had managed to hack the alchemy quite like Wande Coal who created a discernible template that many follow till this day. M2M confirmed what many knew: Don Jazzy was the best and most important producer of his time and Wande Coal was a gem whose talent level suggested he was about to be catapulted into a musical stratosphere quite like no other. His career would, however, not pan out like many might have envisaged.
A controversial nude photo leak and a nasty split between Don Jazzy and D’banj were some of the spanners thrown in the works. The latter was hugely significant as it changed the course of Wande Coal’s career. After the split, the singer was faced with what I’ll imagine was a painful and difficult decision — choosing between two of his benefactors. He chose Don Jazzy, signing to his new Mavins label. That was, however, equally short lived as both artistes would part ways due to Wande Coal wanting control of his creative direction and growth along with other rumored issues. This fracas was even more heightened when placed against the backdrop of a long-awaited sophomore that looked like it was never going to surface.
When Wanted, Wande Coal’s sophomore album finally arrived in October of 2015, it felt like a lifetime away from his debut. It was the first time the singer was creating without the help of the steady and experienced ears and hands of Don Jazzy and it reflected in the music. Unsurprisingly, the album was met with mixed reactions. While there were pretty solid records like “Superwoman”, “Baby Hello” and “Ashimapeyin” that once again showcased Coal’s elite craftsmanship, uninspired or generic records like “Jelly”, “African Lady” and even the Wizkid-assisted “Kpono” added to a bloated album that could have done with some experienced hands.
The years that will follow were also pretty so-so. He went on short runs that spurned records like “Iskaba” and “Ballerz”, but extended periods of inactivity or dud releases hampered any momentum he tried to build. 2020’s “Again” signaled the promise of a new era, one that many secretly hoped would culminate into something worthwhile. However, what would follow was quite disastrous. After securing a deal with EMPIRE, an American distribution company and record label, he released an EP titled Realms. The biggest blot on his career so far, Realms was simply a collection of songs that should have all been left on the cutting room floor. He was undoubtedly still a talent but he’d become a mercurial one that only delivered on occasions.
The 37-year-old recently teased a new album titled Legend or No Legend. The title which was obviously inspired by his response to claims that he’s the latter is pretty interesting. While you could present some points that his status as a legend is questionable, the claim in itself is quite simply ludicrous. Aside from managing to stay relevant for over a decade — releasing countless records that have stood the test of time along the way — his influence and impact is perhaps what gives his legend status the most credibility. He’s fathered a generation of Nigerian pop acts that continue to thrive. Acts like Wizkid (his groundbreaking debut Superstar stood on the shoulders on M2M), Fireboy DML, YKB, and so many others have weaved into their artistry styles that were birthed by Wande Coal. He’s got nothing left to prove, even if THAT follow-up to M2M still seems elusive. Legend or No Legend, he remains the extremely talented Black Diamond who sang his way into our hearts and he looks set on doing that once again.
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