Editors Pick

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 breed of young creatives in Nigeria and across Africa challenging the status quo and making beautifully crafted sonics. Despite industry pressures, these acts seem focused on making music that resonates. Such that they craft their stories 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 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 are singing about love, they view the banal theme from varying lenses, viewing and expressing it via various spectrums such that it doesn’t feel bland, bloated, or repetitive.

It’s 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 record 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.”

Sadly, a truth about this set of artists is that they might not record mainstream commercial success all through 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. They might not even be able to sell out their own medium-sized venues.

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 when it comes to music so they can tap into each other’s audiences. There are some, however, that want to make pop records but they just can’t. They aren’t wired that way.

Some 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.

However, good music never truly dies. They are often re-lived 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 noise maker 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 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.

 

Blaqbonez Takes It A Step Further On “Bad Boy Blaq – Re-Up”

Blaqbonez struck gold in 2018. The burgeoning rap sensation has been tirelessly putting in work ever since the release of his mixtape “HipHop In Blaq” in 2013. His admirable work ethic is exemplified in the fact that hardly has a year gone by without him releasing a body of work. However, despite the quality of these releases, they were not enough to shed him off the “underground rapper” tag for a while. But last year,  things turned around.

His debut album “Bad Boy Blaq“, backed by 100 Crowns and Chocolate City propelled him into mainstream attention. The final project of the game-changing 2018 LAMB August rollout is an experimental and deeply fascinating “Bad Boy Blaq” which gave Blaqbonez the mainstream acceptance and recognition that have seemed to elude him for years. With the album, he established a foothold in the industry as one of the most talented rap artist rising through the ranks.

Now, barely five months after the release of the breakout album, Blaqbonez has treated us to a follow-up project titled the “Bad Boy Blaq Re-UP.” And as the title implies, this project is built on the successes of its immediate predecessor.

It is not a Part II. It was just due to the fact that we did a lot with the original project, it almost got there but there was like a little bit extra we could do to get it over the line, which is why I worked on the re-up.” He explains in an interview with Pulse.

Ever since the release of the last album, Blaqbonez has continued to maintain a high level of fan-engagement on social media with tweets, hilarious video clips and hot takes on trending issues. As a result, Blaqbonez can boast of one of the most organic, dedicated, and ever-growing cult-following among the young acts today and perhaps the best for hip-hop at the moment.

Blaqbonez may not be popping as much on the streets, mans is pulling quite impressive numbers on the streaming platforms. And now, the release of the Re-Up seems to be Blaq’s latest strategy at maintaining and optimizing his audience retention especially given the short attention span albums are given these days.

The Re-up contains a hazy mix of fresh cuts and remixes of some of the Bad Boy Blaq‘s standout records. Blaqbonez enlists the efforts of an all-star cast of young gifted acts who help to provide several moments of brilliance on the project and also helping the remixed cuts to have a refreshing feel.

The project is arranged in such a way that the remixes off  “Bad Boy Blaq”, come right in between the new songs. This provides a sense of familiarity while listening to the project such that it’s new but doesn’t feel so new. However, the remixes maintain the order by which they appear on the album.

All but two tracks feature guest verses. On the opener and the final track of the project which also happen to be the most personal cuts on the project, Blaq is a lone ranger,  brings it all to bear on both tracks. Both are polar opposites reflecting two different sides of the now pink-haired rapper. On the achingly personal cut, ‘No Longer Stupid‘, Blaq is introspective, apologetic and appreciative all in the same breath. Through a reminiscent style of detailing, he recognises how far he has come in the industry and acknowledges the naive mistakes he made on the come up. Acknowledging his growth in several factors, Blaqbonez also appreciates some of those who helped set him straight and those who still showed him loved despite him doing them wrong.

However, on the flip side, ‘Bxtch’ finds a stone-faced Blaq coming all out at his prior detractors and doubters. On the second verse, he had some not-so-subtle jabs for who many have perceived to be Yung6ix. Although he does not name-drop the rapper, with lines like Somebody stole your lines, okay/Somebody stole your shine, I did it/ Guess Somebody stole your balls/Cos you ain had the guts to try be specific he might as well have as all fingers point to Yung6ix following his reaction to the LAMB Martell Cypher.

Another side of Blaqbonez, the comical and playful one that is hard to miss on his social media pages these days comes to bear on the track ‘Good Boy’. On the tongue-in-cheek anthem for the “nice” guys, Blaq makes up for his limited signing talents by recruiting the efforts of BOJ and CKay who didn’t fail to deliver intoxicating performances. Despite his voice sounding raspy, Blaq also delivers an infectious sing-along chorus that makes record one of the standouts of the project. The playful Blaqbonez also shows up in brief moments in tracks like Denied and Play Remix.

Blaqbonez has come a long way. It’s undeniable that Blaqbonez raw talents are fast being forged into shining diamonds.  He has proven himself time and again as one of the most talented and promising rap artists rising the ranks with a solid and enviable fanbase and this tape is a solid addition to his catalogue. In fact, he is just a hit single short of being a household name.

The “Re-up” might have been birthed from “Bad boy Blaq“, but it breathes a life of its own. The short and sweet project is a showcase of his level of talent and versatility and also a promise of better things to come.

Abstraktt Bares His Mind On ‘Allow Me To Rap’  (Review)

Abstraktt Utterly Bares His Mind On ‘Allow Me To Rap’.

Given the current political climate of Nigeria, many musicians have taken it upon themselves to remind the people of our realities as we take to the polls to determine our leaders for the next four years. Just a few hours into the year, legendary hip-hop duo, Show Dem Camp released the well-received “These Buhari Times”, the fourth installment in their Clone Wars series and a couple of weeks after, Falz also released his critically acclaimed album “Moral Instruction” which got everyone talking.

Review Of D-Truce’s Debut Album “2 Birds 1 Stone”

A review on Dusten Truce’s debut album “2 Birds 1 Stone” which is a personal project in the sense that these songs were created based on the direct experiences he has been through, working a day job while still creating music in the city of Lagos.

The Painter and the Music (Art X Review)

Music and art are forever entwined from album covers to the execution of music videos, set designs, and stage performances etc. Altogether creating a bigger picture through inspiration.

BOJ FT SKEPTA AND TEEZEE – LIKE TO PARTY REVIEW

Boj has had a solid run in 2018, from his collaborative EP with Ajebutter Make e no cause fight to being a Jameson brand ambassador.

He recently announced via Twitter that he’ll be dropping his new record with Skepta and fellow DRB mate Teezee.

Fever – Wizkid

On Independence Day, Wizkid dropped two hit songs Master Groove and Fever amid all the recent drama.  They were the Pop star’s first official releases this year as teasers off his upcoming album Made In Lagos.

 The singer has been in the headlines a lot this final quarter of the year for both good and bad reasons, most recently defending his Best Male West Africa title and winning the Video of The Year (for Soco) award at the recently concluded AFRIMMA. The singer had also recently been called out on social media by the mother of his first child for being a “social media dad” and the just-released Meji Alabi-directed video for his single Fever is sure to stir up more controversy. The video for the up-tempo Afro-Pop track is colorful and stars Tiwa Savage as Star Boy’s love interest (sparking up more interest in their relationship: a PR stunt, a statement or both?) creating a very sexy vibe. Since its release this morning, the video has received a myriad of reactions with most fans trolling Wizkid (with his less-than-stellar fatherhood) and Tiwa’s ex-husband Teebillz (for his relationships with Wiz and Tiwa) and others comparing the video to Davido’s Assurance

Tiwa’s appearance in this particular video at this time was definitely intentional; Wizkid and Tiwa have been attacked a lot on social media this year for an alleged love affair (particularly since Wiz posted pictures of Tiwa on his Instagram page on her birthday in February). Her appearance may just be a publicity stunt – which fans will find hard to believe because the pheromones literally jump at you as you watch the video – but it definitely makes a bold statement akin to throwing the middle finger. The video is very sexy and in this writer’s opinion is in no way a ripoff of Assurance (with or without the controversy surrounding it), as it is a less stiff interpretation of when money enter, love is sweeter.

With Fever, Wizkid and Meji Alabi masterfully pulled a Kardashian and created a hit video with just enough controversy to keep tongues wagging. You should see it.

(Review) – MO’ Believe – Ariwo Eko

Ariwo Eko tells MO’s version of events in Lagos. His ideas and production are strong and aligned in an interesting manner, for someone in his early 20s MO takes on a big role on this project and delivers…

#PGM: GRL PWR – Wavy the Creator

Wavy the Creator first came to limelight in 2016 with her androgynous style. An accomplished fashion designer, producer, filmmaker, photographer and now a musician, Wavy is one artist that defies the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none logic; owning two fashion brands (AZIF and Very Rare Vibes) and a production house (Wavy Films), this young woman has continually demolished boundaries.

Wavy was invited to Nigeria in 2016 after a meeting with rapper Olamide and she has not looked back since: ‘I lived in Houston and I met Olamide when he was on tour, was filming for a friend who was touring. He liked my work and wanted to fly me to Nigeria to work, from there I met other people in the industry’  as she told More Branches.

 

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Wavy the Creator has demolished the notion of a “norm” with her unique style

Wavy shook the creative scene in 2016 with her androgyny and unique style, putting her imprint on every art form from modeling to film, photography and visual art. The artist had everybody guessing ‘is Wavy a boy or a girl?’. She tells Pulse NGI think it is the one thing that is intriguing about me when you see me or see me walk by. I like it because I don’t like to be figured out all the way. So I think it adds to whatever brand I am trying to create“. In a society where many expectations are set by virtue of one’s gender, Wavy the Creator has done a lot to kill gender constructs just by being. Her gender neutrality is one that proves to young women and girls that they can be anything. Her controversial editorial BFFs for magazine A Nasty Boy (which was also featured internationally in Dazed) did its part in destroying the constructs of what masculinity should look like.

 

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Wavy is destroying gender constructs just by being

Coming to Nigeria in 2016, Wavy was supposed to spend just a month, but the richness of the Nigerian creative scene holds her back as she told Pulse NG “When I came, the vibe and everything was just like lovely so I just decided like why not and stay a little bit longer. For the longest time, I didn’t want to come back. Just because of that fear of ‘I don’t want to come and it’s just like one way’ and people just trying to follow all of these rules…I felt like me being here is the right moment, it is the right time. For anyone doing stuff in the creative world, it is the right time to be here. There is so much happening right now“.

After stimulating visual senses in 2016, Wavy poured all her mastery of the arts releasing her debut single H.I.G.H (Her In Greater Heights). That wasn’t the first time in the booth though; In 2015, the artist recorded a song called Purple Dank, though we don’t know if it was released, we do know that that encounter gave Jennifer Ejoke the name ‘Wavy’. The release of H.I.G.H in 2016 declared crowned Wavy Nigeria’s new House sensation. The H.O.D-produced track samples no prior music and the incredible sound of the 90s feel-good song was created from scratch and the visual for the song was no less impressive, with its psychedelic vibes; we were introduced to the alien enigma that is Wavy the Creator.

 

BellaNaija - New Music: Wavy (The Creator) - H.I.G.H.

Wavy’s official debut single samples no prior music. This young woman’s creativity is beastly.

Wavy is a creative with a bank of age-old inspiration. The singer cites Michael Jackson as her one celebrity inspiration for the love of the Pop King’s expressiveness and artistic genius and the rest of her inspiration she says is gotten from friends. Wavy didn’t sing in the church choir either; of her sojourn into music, the artist tells MTV BaseWhen I was ready for music, it found me and I followed“. Wavy the Creator is a rule breaker with a cool that is genuine. Her perspective on art and her refreshingly shameless expression of self has seen her earn a quite a reputation in such a short time: “All of my art is an extension of myself. If I was filming, recording or making an artwork it’s all influenced by anything I’m experiencing at that moment“. The artist is big on vibes and has repeatedly said she doesn’t ‘write’ her music as she lets the vibe lead her to create.

 

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Wavy the Creator continually proves that unbridled self-expression is the purest art form

Since releasing H.I.G.H, Wavy has performed at the 90s Baby Soundoff, The Basement Gig, The Lemon Curd 2.0, OLIC and a bunch of other note-worthy shows in Nigeria and Ghana and was featured on rapper AQ’s Lekki Expressway. She released her second single Stay late last year, introducing her audience to her more vulnerable side and this year, she’s featured on Fresh L’s EP See You Next Summer (on the song Sweet Talk), given her own unique vibe to the shaku-shaku movement with the Le Mav-produced track Shaku and recently released the self-directed and edited Stay visuals.

Wavy the Creator’s short stint so far on the Nigerian creative scene has seen the opening to many conversations concerning self-expression and as this artist continues to break rules and destroy boundaries, we will continue to enjoy her deliciously diverse creativity.

Illusions by Leriq & Tomi Thomas (Review)

Love is a beautiful thing, with the right partner love conquers all, so they say.

Every generation of artists usually take on the topic of Love & Heartbreak, Love is the theme in RnB, there’s a song to help prepare you for your first dates, for the serenading nights, for the memories to be made.

A wise man once said ‘All good things must come to an end’

If love is fuel that takes a couple to cloud nine and beyond then Heartbreak is the failed engine causing the plane to crash.

Love coexists with heartbreak, as long as there are people in love, there will always be heartbreak lurking in the shadows waiting to come to light and in turn creating a place for artists to pour their hearts out and an audience waiting to connect with the artists to help them feel better. Most times the audience carry their heartbreaks on their sleeves while some choose to play it cool.

This is where I am with Illusions an EP by Leriq and Tomi Thomas. An album fueled by love, lust, heartbreak and more.

Over the last couple of years, Leriq has been one of the most brilliant producers coming out of Nigeria, Africa.  His production work with Burna boy, Mojeed, Pucado, Ozone’s project speaks volume. However that same volume has failed to be present in his last 2 solo projects on the other is Tomi Thomas who has been a star to watch out for since his secondary days with boyband LOS, his versatility sets him apart, with each project Tomi takes on different challenges, different genres.

Tomi is best described as the artist with the soul of an old Kanye West song and the energy of a prime Rooney. If plot 49 was the perception that Tomi Thomas could be one of the most versatile artists to be reckoned with, Illusions is Tomi Thomas using his vocals as the focal point to connect to the audience. Leriq’s ability to infuse various genres together and make the production simple yet classy.

The EP places Tomi’s vocals at the center of it all and Leriq’s production at the backseat providing support.

‘I never thought you could be so cold, and my nights got darker even since you gone’

The EP starts off disgruntled, Tomi expresses his frustration for his partner’s departure on Thru the Fire. His vocal and energetic patois delivery is what strings the track, Tomi’s ability to switch from one mood to another is what makes him a robust artist, when the tempo is set, he allows himself to sink deep into the lines, he has the ability to make every line sound like he’s reliving the burden, taking the listeners through the emotions this is evident on All for Love, Breaking it off.

Tomi’s reggae delivery on Hammer was pleasing to the ears. Tomi’s real feat is his voice control, the ability to go high swiftly, and downtempo.

I love Tomi’s versatility, his ability to switch up the genre is brilliant but in the process of showing off his versatility It’s easy for one to get lost in the process, he bounces from lust to love to heartbreak, too much of everything is indeed an overkill.

This EP showcases Tomi Thomas’s hunger for exploration, while always experimenting various sounds to test his limits.

 

Essential Tracks: Hammer, All for Love, #Instachewies

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