So it’s Super Sunday. Liverpool had just lost their only opportunity of silverware in the 2016 Capital One Cup final, Arsenal experienced a shocking defeat and a dent in their title challenge at the hands of a junior Manchester United team, and one of the most anticipated events of the year; Darey’s Love Like a Movie #LIAM was just about to begin. But here I was, on my way to Surulere for a private album listening session. I had gotten information that some MCs were about to release a Hip-hop album. You know I am a huge fan of good music, irrespective of its genre and where it’s coming from. So, I made some calls, got my crew ready and we found our way to Surulere; the land of aspiring Olujumoke’s and good food according to a buddy of mine.
As we ascended the stairs of this very modest apartment where the studio was located, I had no idea what to expect. You see Hip-hop or Rap is still in its infancy stages in Nigeria. With all its influences, popularity, and successes, recorded in the Americas, most Nigerians still regard Hip-hop/Rap genre as not being a very profitable genre of music. Although, we do need to acknowledge and give credit to the likes of M.I, Olamide & Phyno, Illbliss and others, who have successfully made a career in rap.
I obviously can’t speak for you, but to me, hip-hop is not just a sub-cultural movement formed during the early 1970s composed of four distinct elements; Rap music, Turntabilism (Disc jockey), B-boying (Physical dance moves e.g. breakdancing) and Graffiti art (Visual). Hip-hop is a medium of self-expression, an articulation of words in rhythm and poetry. “Hip-hop is a way of life.”
Now enough of the academic banter, lets get back to the main story.
After all the pleasantries were exchanged, we immediately got down to business. Boogey led us into the studio, which was actually a bedroom that had been converted into a recording studio. We were immediately greeted by the mask; Charlie X. This almost skinny looking dude looks nothing like the musical genius we were about to find out he is. He completely embodied the saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.
Charlie X took us through the behind the scenes of every single track, explaining the twists and turns in the album. According to Charlie X, “Face Off is a concept album between two insane MCs – Paybac and Boogey – exploring different aspects of storytelling in music.”
To get a clearer picture of the kind of creative minds that worked this album, I have broken down their characters below.
Charlie X is an alter ego; he is a white faceless mask who introduces himself as JR or some other name when he is not in work mode. He could be right next to you and you would have no idea. He is a Veteran producer who started production some fifteen years ago, back in High School. Growing up in the city of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, he got his name from a long time buddy of his; Jesse Jags A.K.A Emperor Jags. He refuses to be boxed in as a hip-hop producer, and works across different genres. When asked to describe his production he says,
I am not one of those producers who needs inspiration to produce, I produce with ideas.
A quick google search will do no justice to the incredible talent that is Paybac. Born and raised in Jos, Paybac is a prolific rapper and storyteller who graced the Hennessy Cypher 2015. On the album, his storytelling skills are clearly evident in the song ‘Lucid’ where he created imaginary worlds with lakes and talking dolphins. On another track ‘Ready to blow’ he does a word play on the title ‘Ready to blow’ and tells the story of an artist on stage ready to become known or to blow up to bits.
If you have followed hip-hop music in Nigeria in the last decade or so, the rapper Boogey needs no introduction. He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria before moving to Morocco, where he obtained a degree in Biology. This wordsmith also speaks French. Read his full profile on his website: https://boogeythat.wordpress.com/profile/. On this album he delivers more of his fast paced, free flowing lines that have drawn comparisons to US rapper and Aftermath prodigy Kendrick Lamar.
Face Off – The Album
The story telling on Face Off is pretty impressive, I can say with some level of confidence that it’s been a while that so much detail and depth has been paid to a body of work. Face Off is like a long 90s movie, complete with the bad guy element, the party scenes, a little bit of love, fantasies and climatic sounds that show the intensity of a producer who works across genres. On ‘BBQ and Shayo’, they call on the vocal prowess of Rexx, (an artist and radio presenter with Metro FM Lagos) who delivers a soothing performance that sets the stage for Paybac and Boogey to drop some playful, but hard hitting lines. On another track; ’Tales by Moonlight’ they decided to go outside the box and recruited the services of Plumbline; a Yoruba spoken word artist. On ‘Grateful’, my personal favorite off the album, they took the music to another level. After having locally sought for a female vocalist to sing the hook, to no avail, I must add, they finally got an unknown lady from the Philippines to drop the heartwarming chorus. Now when I say; I tried to get more information about her, I really did, but they refused to tell us whom she was. Charlie X explained that the lady in question didn’t want any credit. All I got from him was that she was based in the Philippines.
The Face Off project took about three months to complete. It may not be mainstream or the typical Jollof music Nigerians are accustomed to, but I have no doubt that the strong lyrical content and refreshing production sounds in Face Off, will find a spot in the hearts of true Hip hop/Rap fans and good music lovers. I am so grateful to have had the making of the album explained to me by the curators.
And just for you we got all their Social Media: