odunsi

One Year After: Revisiting M.I Abaga’s “Yxng Dxnzl”

M.I was on a mission. Alongside Loose Kaynon, A-Q and Blaqbonez, the self-ascribed rap messiah decided to take on a noble quest to force a re-awakening for Nigerian hip-hop; a once-celebrated genre now relegated to the background.

Probably taking a cue from the Kanye-led 5-album Wyoming releases, these rappers came together under the acronym L.A.M.B -coined out from the first letters from their names- to stage a series of album releases in August 2018. Tagged the LAMB August releases, albums “Crown“, “Yung Denzl” and “Bad Boy Blaq” were the projects with which these rappers sought to restore and ensure the survival of the culture. 

All three projects were executive produced by M.I himself.

Exactly a year ago today, we got our hands on the long-teased and highly anticipated fourth studio album by Mr Incredible, “Yung Denzl,” the second offering in the string of the LAMB August rollout. But that was not his only release last year. 

A few months earlier, the revered rapper had released a highly collaborative surprise ‘playlist’ titled “Rendezvous,” which boasted appearances from an all-star cast including  AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Wande Coal, Ghost(SDC), and also introduced us to talents like Chillz. This dual 2018 release was perhaps in celebration of the tenth anniversary of his 2008 classic, “Talk About It,” his debut and introductory release which many claim to have ‘democratized’ Nigerian hip-hop.

A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl” would be the first of a said three-album series that would include yet-to-be-released LPs, “A Study of Love” and “A Study of Society”. However, despite the anticipation for the project, the exhilaration surrounding it faded rather quickly for a project of such quality. This could have been as a result of the fact that unlike his last two albums, “Yung Denzl” did not rely on pop or radio-friendly formulas as he explored and experimented new sonic complexities on the album. Also, regardless of the laudable acclaim it got from critics, a huge number of listeners found it a bit too sombre, with some dismissing it as “TED Talk music“.  The promotion for the album was also rather deficient – perhaps in an effort not to eclipse “Crown” and “Bad Boy Blaq” given his huge star power- such that even a year later, we still haven’t gotten any visuals off the project despite rumours of its existence. 

This, however, takes nothing from the brilliance of the project. Well-timed, M.I lent his voice to the growing awareness about mental health and self-worth in the country. Over ten songs, he explored in several layers issues like self-doubt, low self-esteem and even more extremely, depression that many youths are battling in silence. A year later, this album is relevant as ever, spurring conversations in small corners. It might not seem like much, but the album is doing its bit.

He passed his messages not only through verses and hooks but also with fiery monologues and therapy sessions alongside the music to get his message across. Soundbites from his therapy sessions were prevalent throughout the album often coming at the end of a track, serving as a prelude to another. By putting his vulnerability out there, he shows fans and listeners that it’s okay to seek help when you need it.

For the most part, M.I works with a wealth of young talents on the album, shedding the spotlight on these acts and in turn tapping into their talents, sound and raw energy. A number of them like Odunsi, Lady Donli and Tay Iwar have gone on to drop their debut albums.

The album opens with a gruff whisper questioning our sense of identity, “do you know who you are?” it asks. Sticking to a simple rhyme scheme, M.I charges the black man to begin his journey to self-awareness and discovery.

On songs like ‘Last Night I Had A Dream’, ‘Stop Never Second Guess Yourself’ and ‘I Believe In You‘, M.I is concerned about our self-confidence, repeatedly nudging us to let go of our insecurities and self-doubt and find comfort in our skin.

Love Never Fails‘ reflects on missteps taken to check mental health in this part of the world largely as a result of culture and religion-induced ignorance.

Perhaps the most pop-leaning record on the album, ‘+/-‘ finds M.I alongside Odunsi and Lady Donli -new-gen frontliners- ridding themselves of all negativity vibes, focusing solely on the positives. 

In full elder statesman mode, M.I attempts to force a change with ‘You Rappers Should Fix Up’, fuming at the sorry state of the art. And say what you will about this record, it’s inarguable that it defibrillated a pulse back into the Nigerian hip-hop scene howbeit temporal.  

The penultimate track, ‘Self Evaluation Over Yxng Dxzl’ is the standout record off this project. Over a gloomy instrumental,  M.I drowns in darkness, picking up escapist vices to numb the pain. He does a good job taking a first-person narrative on the song putting himself in the shoes of a depressed creative, despite revealing that he actually hasn’t had a personal experience.

Picking up where he left off on ‘Everything’ off “Illegal Music 3“, M.I in ‘Do Not Be a Groupie‘ emphasises the importance of loyalty while decrying the deterioration of the virtue in today’s world, an issue he still touched on in his verse on SDC‘s ‘Respect, Loyalty and Honour‘.

It’s been one year since the “Yung Denzl” dropped and it’s still as relevant as ever. The LAMB August releases might not have saved Nigerian hip-hop but with this album, the legacy-focused veteran did something much more remarkable. In his mature and most refined self, he contributed to the growing awareness about our psychological well-being, a theme that rappers have come to be more open about this past year.  It is therefore needless to say that while Yung Denzl might not be his best or most popular album, it is by far the most important.

Odunsi (The Engine) Releases Cameo-Packed Video For ‘Star Signs’

Odunsi(The Engine) has finally released the official music video for ‘star signs’, one of the highlights off his debut album “rare.” This record which features a guest verse from Runtown finds both singers croon about their preferences and how they love their women.

Odunsi had earlier released a lyric video for the song a few months back, but now the amazing record has eventually gotten the accompanying visuals it truly deserves. This release makes it the third official video off “rare.”, having earlier released the video for ‘falling’ and ‘alte cruise‘, a bonus track on the album.

The Candles-directed video finds Odunsi in a white shiny attire giving a mock live performance with a guitar in hand at a Zodiac-themed owambe party. The video is no doubt a celebration of fashion, expression, music and of course star signs.

Although the featured act, Runtown was a no-show, the video features cameo appearances from Santi, Tomi Thomas, Teezee, GMK and others.

Enjoy the video above.

The Nigerian Music Landscape: Survival or Immortality?

“Only real music is gonna last, all the other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow” – Jimmy Smith (Drake’s ‘Pound Cake’ Intro)

 

Today, we have a defiant breed of young creatives in Nigeria and across Africa challenging the status quo. Despite industry pressures, these acts seem focused on crafting their stories, ideas, feelings and experiences into melodies that a lot of their peers can relate with.  Not the extravagant wealth splashes and materialist bluster that characterises the majority of our pop records today, but baring their soul, fears, aspirations, concerns, insecurities on records. Even when they make ‘feel-good’ or dance music, it is creatively packaged and executed that it sounds so lively and fresh. When they sing about love, they view the banal theme from varying lenses, expressing it in such a way that it doesn’t feel bland and bloated.

It’s quite amazing that most of these guys are unsigned and independent yet they still put out so much music. Labels understandably care more about the financial returns than the purity of the art because these labels are businesses, with aims to make profits. And many have not found viable ways to market and monetize these sounds so they simply focus on the pop cash-cows.

In comparison to their colleagues and counterparts in the pop world, many view this breed of artistes as fools. Why make good or healthy music when you can just give the people what they want. People want to escape their present realities and just have a good time.

Some might even say, “Why spend so much time and energy creating songs that might not even sell in this market, when you can easily hop on the latest dance trend, get a banging beat and just spill out whatever comes to your mind. It’s not like these people listen anyway. They just want to dance and have a good time, that’s all.”

A sad truth about this set of artists is that they might not record mainstream commercial success throughout their careers. They might remain opening acts for the bigger pop stars and scramble for the feeds that fall off the table of these stars.

The quest for survival has made some dabble into pop music for relevance; seeking ways to create pop records that people can easily dance to all while still staying through to their art. Another survival tactic for some is to collaborate with the pop stars and meet them halfway sonically so they can tap into each other’s audiences. However, some want to make pop records but they just can’t. They are simply not just wired that way.

A number have also managed to successfully shuffle between day jobs and their music careers, thereby making enough to survive and fund their passion while doing what they love on the side.

But one thing is certain: good music never truly dies. They are often re-lived even generations after through samples, interpolations, and mixes. Sometimes, young artists turn to the sounds of the past for inspiration. For instance, Odunsi‘s beautiful “rare.” was hugely inspired by 80’s music. Falz‘s critically acclaimed “Moral Instruction” was also heavily influenced by Fela‘s music. Many other Nigerians from Wizkid to Burna Boy have constantly talked about how much Fela helped to shape their music.

Even the African pop sound is named after Fela’s Afrobeat. News and videos have also surfaced of American artists such as Diddy, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Common, Joe Budden vibing to Fela’s music. His music has also been sampled by  Kendrick Lamar and J Cole, two of the biggest rappers in the game at the moment.

But Fela wasn’t always seen as the hero he is today. While he was alive, many brushed his music asides as grating and unmelodious with his lyrics poor in poetry. Others felt he was too preachy and saw him as a noisemaker with utopian ideals. Some were also displeased with the length of his songs and their extended solos. Many just couldn’t comprehend what Fela was building.

This was a new sound with radical energy powering it and maybe the people just weren’t ready for such. Regardless, Fela stayed true to his art, continued to experiment and explore new musical complexities. With his music, he fearlessly stood as the voice of the people against the military governments at the time. He also used his art to teach the people of his Afrocentric ideals.

No, Fela was not perfect in any way but his energy, as well as his music, was raw and genuine. And lifetimes after, we are still feeding on Fela’s music. Occasionally going back to it for inspiration and references.

These young guys today are trying to create something different. They are steady pushing the limits and experimenting with new sounds. In fact, and are now redefining what we refer to as Nigerian or African music. These guys have been persecuted and mocked because they are aesthetically different. But we can’t deny their genuine energy and efforts.

These artists need support. And the least we can do as listeners and consumers of the art is to consume their music through appropriate channels, purchase their projects, attend their shows, engage with them, provide positive feedback, and let them do what artists do best – create.

 

Odunsi finally Shares Visuals for Tipsy’

Odunsi has released the visual for his first post-“rare.” single, Tipsy featuring raving UK act, Raye.

Push Good Music Radio Show With Ill Bliss & TeckZilla

Ill Bliss and Teckzilla team up to create an amazing hip-hop Ep titled ‘IllzZilla’ and they stopped by on the Push GoodMusic Radio Show to discuss the inspiration behind the development process

ODUNSI RELEASES NEW TRACK ‘TIPSY’ – FEATURING RAYE

Already a chart sensation in Nigeria, as well as Ghana, the fast-rising alté scene star Odunsi (The Engine), is set to introduce himself to his biggest international audience so far by sharing his new single ‘Tipsy’. ‘Tipsy’ is his first release for Parlophone and features RAYE, the artist behind ‘Decline’ and a collaborator with the likes of Stefflon Don, Mabel and Kojo Funds.

DRB LasGidi x Odunsi Linkup – ‘Necessary’

2018 makes ten years of DRB LasGidi, the original Alté kids. The group – rappers Teezee, FreshL and singer BOJ – have given us solid gbedu over the years.

DRB recently came out with a compilation project of songs they’ve put out to celebrate a decade on the music scene – DRB10. They also hosted the DRB10 rave for fans to enjoy their favourite DRB LasGidi bops.

In ten years, DRB has faced some harsh criticism, especially from those who would rather see BOJ on the path to a successful solo career.

Their latest single Necessary, produced by GMK and featuring Odunsi proves though that these guys are strong as ever. Teezee and FreshL bring fire with heavy-hitting bars and BOJ never fails with his husky vocals.

Watch Necessary here.

Linksters – La Même Gang

Another wing of the New Age movement; La Même Gang is a creative collective from Ghana doing their part to redefine what it means to create music in 21st Century Africa.

The collective is a group of six creatives: Darkovibes, Kiddblack, Nxwrth, RJZ, $pacely and Kwaku BS; all individually full of epic talent. They released their debut mixtape La Même Tape in 2017. The ten-track chart-topper solidified the strong organic following they’d already garnered.

La Même Gang has just released their second project Linksters. The compilation is an effortless blend of genres from Hip-Hop to Trap to Afro-Pop. Stone Island, the lead single gave their audience an insight into the bond they share as friends.

Linksters has production from Nova, Kuvie, Zodiac, Killmatic, Eargasm and of course Nxwrth—who is leading Ghana’s burgeoning Trap scene at the moment. The album also features more great talent from Sarkodie, King Promise, Medikal, Kobla Jnr, Pappy Kojo, Odartie and Nigeria’s Odunsi the Engine.
Linksters shows off the growth and versatility of each individual member of La Même Gang and is a delightful listen for both old and new fans.

Rapid Fire – Santi ft Shane Eagle, Amaarae

Santi’s 2018 hasn’t had just good music, the man has shown skill as a filmmaker too. He directed and produced the video for Freaky and directed the video for Odunsi’s falling.

The streak of videos continues with the release of the visual for Rapid Fire. Santi’s found-footage, 90s Nollywood horror video style continues with this montage. The tagline at the end ‘Sorry, we don’t have any candles’ makes the video even more interesting.

Mixed reactions have come for this video (as usual). While some of us think this video is dope, there are others who (interestingly) are now sure that Alte is a cult.

If you have not watched the video, you should.

You Can Now Sing Along To Funbi’s ‘Show Your Colour’

This writer is so happy to see artists taking lyrics more seriously because it can pain when you hear a fire track and you can’t find anything on the lyrics.

BarelyAnyHook gave a self-shot video diary type lyric video for the fan favourite Waves Freestylethe official video for Odunsi’s falling has the lyrics going along with the audio 80’s karaoke style and the artist recently released a lyric video for his song with Runtown star signs and now, we can sing along to Funbi’s Show Your Colour. 

Ahead of the release of his debut EP, Funbi released a trailer for the Serenade EP (the anticipation almost killed this writer),  and shortly after, the singer released his amazing debut and continuing the trail, Funbi has released the lyric video to Show Your Colour. The 88 Factor production stars the beautiful Amiola.

Enjoy the music and learn the lyrics.

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