Known for the versatility and laid-back sonic style evidenced across confident-yet-chill singles like “Miracle”, “Alaokora” and “Pim Pim”, Nigerian singer-songwriter Dice Ailes takes a more confessional, intimate tone on his debut EP, 2022’s Ladies First.
“I felt that it was important to take my fans through some of my more personal experiences, as far as certain encounters with certain women in my life,” Dice tells Apple Music. “These experiences have shaped me into who I am today—from love to betrayal, to sex. I felt that it was an important part of my life that I needed to share with the fans and sort of just bring them closer.”
Crafted in and around lockdown, the EP stands as a six-track detour on the way towards the release of his debut LP, Waterman. “When I decided to touch up on some of these experiences with some of these ladies in my life, I felt that the best title for that project would be 'Ladies First’, before the album,” Dice explains. “So it's kind of like a play on words. It's not exactly like ‘ladies first’, as gentleman would say—it's basically 'Ladies First’, before the Waterman album.”
Fusing together Dice’s kaleidoscope of influences, from fuji, highlife, R&B, gospel, and hip-hop—gained during his multicultural upbringing spanning Nigeria, Benin and Canada—the EP also marks the first release from Dice’s label imprint, The Money Mob. “I had a lot of time on my hands [during lockdown] and I had just left my previous label,” he explains, “and I felt that it was the right time to create a platform that allows me and my music to grow, and also just give back. There's a lot of young talents in Africa, that don't necessarily get the opportunities that they deserve. I'm trying to create a structure that allows for talents that don't necessarily have the finances to be able to grow. And we just want to do a lot of development for emerging African artists. On the EP, I'm working with a lot of emerging creators, and also trying to build the guys from the label. We're just trying to put people on and show people that you can make beautiful music regardless of how ‘big’ you are.” Here, Dice Ailes (Shasha Damilola Alesh) breaks down Ladies First, track by track.
“Everything on the EP is a true-life story. It's just drawn from true experiences and 'Left Side' is just drawn from a sexual experience with a certain female in my life in Toronto. I think definitely moving around, reflects on my music and the different sounds that I like to experiment with. ‘Leftside’ has a very Caribbean, Toronto sound in there. I worked with [producer] Clonez from the UK.”
“Rosalia” [Dice Ailes & Kaydy Cain]
“I had done a trip to Spain in 2019, and I was just really fascinated by the music. I'm a big fan of Bachata, and I just wanted to make music that could be relatable to that audience, to the Latin American audience or anyone that speaks Spanish—and 'Rosalia' was sort of drawn from that. It's a story about just being confused about being in love, and not being able to decide. I'm just having mixed emotions about a particular girl that I was dealing with in my life. I've heard a couple of Afrobeats and Spanish music [blends] that are pretty interesting. And I feel like a lot of people aren't really tapping into it yet—but I think 'Rosalia' is going to be one of the pioneers for that type of sound.”
“'Monica' is a love story. Just confessing my love and expressing how I feel about a particular individual. 'Monica' is two songs in one. I just felt like I needed to really express it over a lot of sounds, and a lot of different forms of expressions and we created two songs in one, just telling how I truly feel about this person.”
“I recorded this in Nigeria. I think that was one of the first songs that I did on the tape during COVID, and 'Zombie' is basically speaking about being a fool for love and doing a lot of things that are draining, but still being in love with that person. Going through a lot of moments that knock you off, but you still want to be there and just stand up for that person. It’s a zombie type of love; you’re basically a fool for love—you just keep following. It's very typical Nigerian and Afrobeats. I'm even sampling the legendary Fela Kuti here.”
“Pray As You Go”
“'Pray As You Go' touches on betrayal. Falling in love with someone and then being betrayed by that person that you're doing a lot for. I'm basically shedding light on a true-life experience with an individual that I was with for about three years; just being there for them and fighting their battles. We ended in ways that I never [could have] envisioned. Yeah. And I feel that's relatable to a lot of people, actually. I haven't sung about stuff this personal before, and I thought that it would be interesting for the fans to get a scope into my personal life like that.”
“Hold Me” (feat. Tiwa Savage)
“I was in Atlanta in 2021, recording for my album. I went to this party, and it was just such a fun experience. It was so crazy that I went to the studio the following day and I went to sing about that experience and about this particular girl that I met, who was really inspiring to me. But I felt like I needed a female perspective to it. So when I came back to Nigeria, I felt like Tiwa Savage was the best fit. And, we hit up the studio and it was an amazing experience working with her. I had an idea exactly how I wanted the story to be told and how I wanted us to compliment each other with the harmonies and everything, and she really came through.”