Two worlds merge in “Ethos.”

About “Ethos”: Ethos is the work of a flawed soul putting out pieces of himself.

Gilbert Bani popularly known as A-Q is probably one of the most respected rappers in the music industry. Besides being one of the rappers at the forefront of hip-hop in Nigeria, he has also launched ConnectHead – a platform where music professionals post their gigs and are hired by people who need their services. It’s a tool for musicians and other creatives in the industry to easily access any professional help they need at a moderate price. Inspired by the untimely loss of his producer, ConnectHead was born initially for producers, but the vision expanded as a result of the challenges many artists face in the industry. One minute A-Q is a musical genius spitting hard bars, the next he is a tech bro bringing solutions to the music industry, “Artists don’t really know what to do next when they just get into the business. It will make sense if there was a kind of manual in terms of guiding the artist and that is what The Connect Head is doing,” he said during an interview with Tech Next.

From his debut project “Listen and Overstand,” to “Golden” A-Q has told stories from his different experiences in his country, to the industry, love, loss etc. His recent project, “Ethos” follows the same trajectory as the previous projects, but certain elements set this album apart. First, the project is a joint album in a collaboration with Brymo and this is A-Q’s way of overcoming performance anxiety – the rapper made it known on a Twitter space that he choose to work with Brymo after watching the artist perform at one of his shows and he suddenly felt like he was out on something, he said, “In 2021, Brymo did his organized chaos show and I saw how fans were singing to each song and I said to myself “This is one part of my career that I am really missing,” to connect with the audience and be one with them. It made me want to perform again and I decided to work with Brymo. There was something I needed to learn from him.” This confession is also tied to the story behind the album’s art cover which was inspired by Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X, “That picture was about Ali and Sonny Liston, Sonny used to break legs for gangsters.”

“Ali was scared and that was the performance anxiety I had at that time and just knowing that I needed Brymo to get me out of that or somebody to get me out of that was the same way Ali needed Malcolm to talk to him, to pray with him and he went into the ring and he won and that was them celebrating in an ice-cream parlour and it just resonated with me and I was like “this is the story”.”

Just like Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali, A-Q and Brymo come from different worlds, with different visions of art and excellence spread across successful projects and just like how Malcolm gave words of encouragement to Ali before his fight with Liston, Brymo serves his art as a cure to A-Q’s anxiety – offering his thoughts on love, loss and life, helping A-Q tell his story and bring “Ethos” to life.

The album begins with an introduction to the project “Ladies and gentlemen welcome, prepare and ready your eardrums this might only happen once or maybe twice in a blue moon seldom,” A-Q makes it obvious that this is a rare collaboration. “First, I got to tell you I’m in rare form” these words place the rapper in a rare state of zen, everything he says might not be repeated by another and this is one of the things that makes this project distinct. After Brymo delivers the chorus in Yoruba, A-Q returns musing about his formative years and paints a picture of when he was struggling to pay bills, “Came from the same place hell’s from mehn I had to hustle hard to get out of that hell storm, every time mama shed a teardrop, took that made it into seeds for the bedrock. Never at home but when I came back, slept on the floor, bed had bedbugs, when the light bill came had a head rush knew they’ll cut that wire to bare floor.” Making your way from being unable to pay electricity bills to becoming one the best rappers in the country and transitioning to venturing into tech is a dream and A-Q is living it. In the next song “Ni Temi,” the artists talk about their desire for solitude. A-Q sings, “I never wanna be involved, there’s too much risk involved. I’d rather just be indoors, I don’t wear Christian Dior. What am I missing, I was in the streets for too long shifting jaws. Every other, night a different broad but I don’t want to be involved,” letting everyone who listens know about his want to be left alone, taken out of conflicts, not associated with the glamour of social media, he doesn’t want conflict or beef with anyone. Brymo echoes his thoughts with words like, “E’mi ni t’emi mo k’oju m’ose, n’mo bawon faja. E’mi ni t’emi O se koko, mo ma bawon d’ebe.”

When A-Q isn’t pondering on his rise to fame or his want for solitude, he is singing about exploring his visions without anyone’s permission in this “This is war,” “And I may not be, he who kneels for means to be what he already is and I am the one, who finds the itch who scratches it to bleed, who watches it to heal.” In “Timezones,” the artists pose as lovers with complicated relationships, needy girlfriends, how social media has influenced their relationship and with all these mishaps in the relationship he still wants sex. “I wasn’t grateful, (oh no) you wasn’t faithful (oh no) I need some vodka, maybe some Grey Goose, you need some grape juice (oh no), I couldn’t save you (oh no)/I don’t have TikTok, I could care less about what your posting/You want back, cos I’m chosen. Pull out my staff and split your red sea let my kids go in.”

The next song “Do you ever miss me?” is a soft love song that takes us to another part of the project. The duo sing to their love interests about what they would like to do with them and to them. Brymo opens the song with “Oloo m’oni e, mo ni ‘soro. Amo ife mi le, o le, ju Ogun ol’oro Oloo Ife re sha ni koko. Aye yi o le, omo eniyan lo soro Mo duro d’ege o, mo wo eni kan se t’ori iyen k’ere o,” singing about the simplicity of love and how the complexities in a relationship comes from humans. A-Q comes in singing about how their love surprised him, “Never been the type to get carried away, I rather carry you on my back no matter the weight. It was a party for me when you parted the waves, I walked into my path I was partly enslaved to my addictions, musicians part of the craze. You found me when lost and pardoned my ways, but what’s love without a little misbehaving, let’s do all the things we craving run naked while it’s raining.” However, their relationship is plagued with the complexities of their humanness and that’s why A-Q raps, “Felt like love was missing felt like you were distant even though you were closer than you ever been, listen
I just want walk into the kitchen while you’re cooking, put you on sink and put this raw meat in your dishes.”

“Fuck me, control me when I was 22, you move me, consume me the man I am was missing too. Hold me, control me, wrap around me. Love me control, when I am 52. Ife l’akoja ofin o, Ife l’akoja ofin Ife l’akoja ofin o, Ife l’akoja ofin,” the first words get your attention immediately you hear them because of the directness and Brymo’s raw voice. “Ife Lakoja Ofin” which translates to “Love is the number one rule,” tells the story of the pain that comes with love. Love is not a bed of roses and these artists let us know with words like, “Your love is conflicting I’m conflicted. Your love language speaks to me different, letting love lead only led me to regrets, loving you deeply brought me distress. Unconditional love came with conditions, starting to feel like incest even though is not but I feel fucked in-depth, I just wanna (reset, reset, reset). Showed me a face only your mother could love. Shaking in my legs and knee caps, love is blind, so you never could see that.”

“Baale House” takes a different turn as the duo talk about the corruption, hardship and violence in the country. A-Q raps, “Hell on earth, Nigeria stays burning as it rotates. Try to speak on behalf of my people hoping it holds weight, no way the bastards shot the messengers at the toll gate, where do you find solace, fashion statements with no taste/ The yahoo boys’ dealings and the ritual killings. Fake miracles and healings such a mutual feeling huh,” about the killings at the Lekki Toll gate and the nonchalant attitude of the government. The last three songs on the album all follow the same theme of loss. Here, A-Q and Brymo sing about the hurt that comes with losing someone close to you and the never healing wound that accompanies that loss. In “Family First,” the duo sing about loss, the expectations of loss and the pain of betrayal. The first lines in the song “Let’s not pretend, me and M haven’t really been on talking terms,” sprinkles thoughts of disagreement between the two rappers into the minds of listeners but during a Twitter space A-Q said, “It’s not a cry for attention, it’s basically me not being happy with certain issues and I need them resolved. I am always ready for the conversation and if the issues aren’t resolved although it’s not like it’s going to become a diss track fest and before that would happen I would leave the game before I would disrespect M.I, I would not rap again. It’s basically a message to clear somethings, that’s what that song was, a message to family, like an open letter to clear somethings that’s what it was.” In this song, he sings about the loss of his father, brother and friend/music producer BeatsbyJayy; A-Q goes further to examine his journey so far and appreciates everyone that believed in him. In “Stay,” A-Q lets go of every weight on his shoulders from his childhood trauma to losing his father, the fear of losing his mother, paying black tax and toxic masculinity, “Never been the same since I lost my dad. Dear mother if you leave, I might lose my grasp/ Be a man they always say all these bills I got to pay if I break no one will save me. But I’m asking will you stay, the sacrifices that I make, the black taxes that I pay.”  

“Ethos” ends with “All by yourself,” a tribute to A-Q’s friend Beatsbyjayy who died due to complications from Covid-19. Here, A-Q reminisces on their last moments together, the impact of his death and dealing with the pain he feels.

In “Ethos,” A-Q and Brymo tell tales of love, life and loss; thus, taking listeners on a journey through their own experiences with the three themes. Here, music producer Bigfootinyourface mashes different soundscapes into a whole brilliant body of work. With a perfectly arranged tracklist, “Ethos” transcends from songs on self-reflection to songs about the different angles of love to dealing with loss and expecting the pain that loss brings. A-Q said about this project, he said, “I have a lot of achievements but this “Ethos” album will be my biggest achievement, I just know it,” and with the reactions, the project is getting, this might be the artist’s most successful project. Stream “Ethos” here and let us know your thoughts about the album.

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