Editors Pick

Falana Kicked Off Her Chapter One (EP) Tour With A Night Of Indelible Artistic Experience

On Friday, August 16, Falana kicked off her Chapter One Tour. The Neo-Soul and R&B singer had fans, family and friends gathered at the Terra Kulture, Lagos, for the first stop of her tour which is set to hit other African cities like Accra, Kigali, and Abuja.

Falana

The star of the night, Falana, performing live (Falana)

Anchored by Douglas Jekan, the event hosted a long list of celebrated guests and influencers like Denola Grey, Pamilerin, Godwin Tom as well as colleagues: BOJ, Teezee, Wavy The Creator, Odunsi (The Engine) and many others.

AYLØ serenading on stage

AYLØ serenading on stage

After thrilling performances by opening acts, Deena Ade, Celeste and Aylø -who just put out an impressive project “Dnt Dlt“- the star of the night, Falana was ushered on stage to a rockstar’s welcome, as she quickly takes us to church with “O God, here I am...”

Backed by her beaming six-piece band, the Nigerian-Canadian singer took us through her recently-released “Chapter One” EP, delivering acoustic renditions of some of the standouts of the well-received project, thereby giving them a flavor different to the way they were consumed on the tape.

Radiant and commanding on stage, Falana ran us through a run of old picks such as ‘To Zion‘, ‘Feel Your Energy‘, ‘Start Again‘ and ‘Dynamite‘. One of the highlights of the night was her performance of ‘Woman’, her somber record centered around women empowerment, highlighting the outstanding contributions of women in our society. Mid-performance, she broke into a monologue that accentuates the grim realities of single women in a patriarchal society such as ours.

Falana saved the best for the last as she closed her 1 hour 30 minutes set with her popular single ‘Ride or Die‘. The live rendition of this song filled the room with a gripping air of nostalgia, inciting the already captive audience to sing along to the standout record.

That wasn’t the end of the fun though, as everyone headed to Club 57 for the Culture Custodian-hosted after party.

Douglas Jekan

The host, Douglas Jekan (Falana)

The Lagos show was indeed a night to remember loaded with a pure and indelible artistic experience that left the audience roaring in appreciation. Her next stop is Accra where she would be treating unsuspecting Ghanaians to her thrilling performances. What a way to kick-off a tour!

 

Best Rapper In Africa Or Nah: What’s Next For Nigerian Hip-hop?

Immediately Blaqbonez crowned himself the best rapper in Africa, all hell broke loose on Nigerian hip-hop. The  100 Crowns rapper first made this audacious claim in the maiden edition of the AKtivated Sessions titled ‘Best Rapper In Africa and the reaction was volcanic.  The hip-hop community quickly spiralled into long polarising debates over the validity of Blaq’s claims. While some admired his confidence and assertiveness, others dismissed him as a nuisance and an attention seeker who had nothing to back such daring claim. 

If attention was the goal, Blaqbonez definitely got it.

The debates further diffused into claims and counterclaims, diss tracks flying around with not-so-subliminal shots, directed at the rapper and his associates. After a couple of weeks, the pink-haired rapper reaffirmed his claim in his latest release ‘Best Rapper In Africa’ where he took aim at rappers like TenTik, Holyfield and also called out some of his colleagues for being craven. This, in turn, generated swift responses from Payper Corleone, VaderDavid Meli and many others. Even the OGs aren’t left out of the frenzy as a video surfaced of AQ, Loose Kaynon and SDC’s Ghost in a heated debate on who was a better rapper. 

And all this just mean one thing to the fans, excitement. 

The last time Nigerian hip-hop got its fans this elated was in February when the scorching LAMB-Martell Cypher dropped. The culture has always thrived on competition and with projector missiles flying all around,  fans are ravishing in euphoria right now. It’s a common saying that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. But in hip hop, when rappers square against each other, the only true winners are the fans.  But sadly, the euphoria is going to wear off soon. People are bound to move on. And when they do, what is left?

Nigerian hip-hop has been in a sorry state for years now and despite the several efforts being made for its rejuvenation, the future isn’t looking too bright yet. And this is not for a lack of talent – after all, we can boast of some of the best rappers on the continent – or creativity. Regardless,  it seems Nigerians have just moved on to drown their pain and realities in afrobeats. Enough has been said on what hip-hop needs to get itself on its feet again. Multiple articles have been written, plans drafted, discussions had and more. 

If not optimized, this excitement and attention Nigerian rap and rappers are getting at the moment will fizzle out back to where we started. But some things can be done to sustain some of the eyes and ears that have been captured in this whole episode for the good of the culture. 

To start with, Nigerian rappers simply need to put out good music. That’s where it all starts from, the music. The problem is that many are still stuck in the ‘golden days’ and as such have refused to evolve with the times. Each age has its demands. Some are stuck on 90s-type boom-bap beats all in the name of keeping it real, and then turn around to guilt-trip the fans and media for lack of support when the record simply doesn’t pop. This was what Blaq had in mind when he rapped “If the music ain’t good it ain’t moving/ Your aesthetics will not replace the music.

Snap out of your obsession with the past. Listen, research and understand the sonic demands of the times and let that influence how you make music. The music world today is big on bending and fusing/melding genres. The lines between genres are so blurry today that they might as well be nonexistent. Experiment with other sounds that appeals to new audiences. Approach other genres from a rap perspective. 

Show Dem Camp did this with Palm Wine Music to positive results. The move has been commercially rewarding as they have registered new fans who might have not even heard of their Clone Wars series. They’ve also held two Palmwine music festivals -which recorded impressive numbers – and are even about to take the festival to the UK.  Other rappers like Blaqbonez, Ladipoe, as well as the Lost And Found on their last tape have been fusing rap with other genres and it has been rewarding. Falz’s seminal album, “Moral Instruction” was heavily inspired sonically and thematically by Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

This is also one of the major reasons why the so-called indigenous or local rappers are more commercially successful. These guys can make music in a way that resonates with a wide scope of audience. They rap in their local dialects laced with street lingo thereby making their lyrics more relatable and easy to understand, as well as meddling rap with dance music and even introducing dance steps to go along with it. Zlatan is the poster boy for the wide-ranging Zanku dance and its accompanying sound and he is undeniably Naija’s hottest rapper at the moment. 

Rappers also have to learn to step out of their shell and work with others. While friendly competition is healthy, there is so much more that can be gained from working together. 

Nigerian rappers should be always ready to join forces with one another and synergize over records, projects and even concerts. Collaborations shouldn’t also be limited within the hip-hop circle. Rappers can reach out to acts from other genres like the alte community, soul singers and afrobeat and even Afropop. Step into their space and see their world. This would help to create much more dynamic sounds and also help to share the fanbase with their collaborators. 

Over the years, there has been a downturn of collaborations between Nigerian rappers and their pop counterparts. In fact, these pop stars tend to feature foreign rappers on their tapes much more often these days. There should also be much more joint efforts between the English rappers and the indigenous ones. 

Visuals also have to be taken seriously too. Yes, hip-hop is a word-oriented genre but videos are very much especially in the visually-driven world we live in today. And maybe as a result of a shortage in funding or whatever reason, hip-hop acts don’t seem to place much emphasis on their releasing music videos. You don’t believe me?  Take some of the best hip-hop projects in the past year as examples. “Crown”, “Yung Denzl”, “Bad Boy Blaq”, “These Buhari Times” and the Lost and Found’s “Alternate Ending” have only about two videos released at the moment. Projects with over 50 songs and only three videos out.

Even if proper music videos can’t be done due to financial constraints, rappers and their teams can take advantage of lyric videos and visualizers which can be promoted on social media. 

Now the spotlight is on Nigerian hip-hop and no one knows how long the excitement is going to last. Mere buzz or an abundance of talent isn’t enough to sustain the genre.  The best that can be done is to ensure that this rare opportunity should be optimized as much as it can. The community has to come together to create and promote premium quality content that can restore hip-hop and rap to the mainstream.

For all the dust rappers have raised in the past few weeks, it would be beautiful to see it all transcend to something bigger and not just fade out to another false start.

Deena Ade Came Through With The Spice At Her “May Love Find You” EP Listening

As the world gathered to watch Arsenal and Chelsea battle it out for the Europa League title, friends, family, fans, supporters and lovers of good music showed up at Bar Bar, Lekki to celebrate Deena Ade and support her new project. Just a few days earlier, Deena Ade had released her  EP “May Love Find You” and on Wednesday, May 29, she was hosting an open listening session for the nascent project. This was to be the first time any of the songs would be performed live.

Creatives and industry colleagues like BarelyAnyHook, Aye, Tey, A-Q, Bigfoot and Tosan Mac came through to cheer Madam Suya for her impressive material.

Opening the night, rising act Oyve delivered a captivating performance that left an impression on many. Just right after his set, the star of the night, Deena Ade was introduced to thrilling entrance music from the band and deafening cheers from the excited audience.

After soaking up the moment for a while, she finally airs to the mic “Good evening everyone“, thanking us for showing up, and also promising a night of amazing music. Backed by the five-piece Gingerbread band, Deena Ade opens her set with the emotive ‘Shere’ — a standout off her 2018 EP “The Cries Of My Subconscious”, which she describes as a post-breakup analysis.

The night climaxed with a run of the 5-track EP, as she walked the audience through the creative process of each track right before performing them. Sadly, Dami Oniru wasn’t around to join her on ‘Ma Ti Lo’, a song Deena describes as a desperate call for attention from a potential lost-love.

Deena Ade is no stranger to live performances and it showed. All through the night, the singer was radiant, confident, fascinating to watch on stage.

With her amiable vocals, her warmth shines through as she breathes new life into the records. “May You Find Love” would never sound the same after this live and intimate experience. Throughout the night, Deena is dazzling, composed and overly thankful for the love and support she receives.

The day I wrote this, I wanted to emphasise on travelling far to see someone…and I have a lover in Magodo, so I would leave my house several times at night when my mother would probably kill me. So that’s what this song is about,” she says of ‘Midnight Drive’, the third track on the tape.

She closes her set with a sultry live rendition of the Bella-assisted ‘Savage’, one of her most successful records and also her personal favourite.

Right after running us through the EP, Deena engages in a Q&A session about the project, her artistic journey and her influences. When asked what she would be doing if she wasn’t a singer, she replied, “I’d be a revolutionary”.Right there, Deena Ade reaffirmed her unflinching stand against violence against women and abuse of power.

The “May Love Find You” live listening session was indeed a night of good live music, food and drinks. It was also a reminder of Deena’s gifts not only as a singer and songwriter but also as a captivating performer.

Listen to the EP here.

Photo Credit: The Late Night Soirée

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.

 

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, such 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; not until last year when things started to turn around.

 Backed by 100 Crowns and Chocolate City, his debut album, “Bad Boy Blaq”, propelled him into mainstream consciousness. 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 had eluded 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 is treating 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 but 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. Also, the remixes maintained the exact 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 bringing it all to bear on the records. Both songs are polar opposites, reflecting two different sides of the pink-haired rapper. On ‘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.

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.

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