12 ALBUMS YOU MUST BUY IN 2008
Artiste: African china
In April 2006, he was arrested in London, and accused of raping one Denise McLoughn. Unlike DSP Alamieyesiagha who fled the UK to avoid prosecution, China stayed back to see the trial through, even after he was given bail, and numerous mischief-makers were trying to devise an escape route for him. The 29 year-old conscious lyricist maintained his innocence. And when months later, he was discharged and acquitted, given his passport and allowed to return home, it was obvious he had been vindicated. It was also obvious that, to compensate for his long absence from the scene, he would chronicle the entire incident in an album that fans would be too glad to consume. London fever is that album where African China tells the story of Chinagorom Onuoha’s experience as an accused person who faced a jail term in London. But the album is a year late. The heat on the whole issue has simmered, and more urgent, pressing issues have since taken over our attention. However, the 11-tracked album is, characteristic of China, a body of work worth listening to. Dangling in-between reggae and dancehall, the singer’s music is unapologetically conscious and heart piercing, as he tries to draw listener’s attention to man’s injustice to man. And this third album displays the maturity many have been waiting for: lyrical maturity, production maturity and thematic maturity. Don’t be surprised if you discover there’s a love song on ‘London Fever’. Or that he’s employing the Ibo language more profusely in his lyrics. And please, do not be amazed that, in spite of his new-found ‘British’ accent upon returning home in late 2006, the singer still ‘manages’ to deliver his songs in that ghetto language, accent and diction we’re all familiar with. By now though, we’re used to having one or to gospel tracks on an African china album. So it’s unsurprising he retains the formula. Like the regular African China album, this one will take a while before it grow wings and starts moving off the shelves. But when it does, it’ll be difficult for anyone to stop it…
RETURN OF THE KING
Artiste: El Dee
‘I’ve been doing/it/ before tribesmen recorded their hits/ before everybody knew they could spit/I’ve been doing it. …when it was all about the love/Before/radio created the buzz… before your folks thought rap was cool/when the only way out was school…/before y’all started going abroad/before 2face got the award… …when the labels/wouldn’t give us a chance/before Psquare knew how to dance… …long enough for me to say I’m king’. This is the album where Lanre Dabiri tells us all (including psquare and 2face) that we’re his subjects. The above words, an excerpt from the first cut off his brilliant 16-tracked album presents a clever argument for his case. But, if El Dee Tha Don should become our paramount ruler, for the sake of longevity, what would happen to Weird MC and Baba Dee and De Weez and Dr Fresh? But kingship apart, El Dee kills it with this one. From the intro skit, through to the last song, it’s easy to ignore the production and get consumed by the message the young man is trying to pass across. OK. So he throws a few stones at former band mate Freestyle. So he makes a few bogus claims (like owning several houses and businesses). So he sounds like he has to explain why he moved from Lagos to Atlanta, and why he ‘didn’t’ abandon the tribesmen…? All that aside, El Dee still makes more sense on his debut solo album that most of his contemporaries will in their entire career. In an era where the general focus is on the male-female sexual anatomies (a la D’Banj and Psquare) and get-rich-quick mania (a la Olu Maintain), it’s refreshing to have the priviledge of listening to an LP like return of the king. It’s so overwhelming that you’ll easily forgive the rapper for leaving his immediate constituency and flirting loosely with other styles and genres (as in ‘Champion, which would pass for an Eedris Abdulkareem song anyday). And it’s so easy to almost forget that that fiery track- freestyle can’t freestyle- where he throws lyrical venom on Freestyle is not on the album…
Label: Naïve/Iyke tha don
What do you call an album that has no fillers? An album where every note is on the right key; where the song-writing and composition are jaw-dropping and the spirit of the music pierces deep into your soul? What do you call an album written and performed by Asa; and produced by Cobhams Asuquo? Stop searching for words baby. It’s called a masterpiece! The soul-kid kept us waiting for three years. Now, with her self-titled debut album, she’s making us eat from her palms and begging for more. She’s held us captive! If you still think this lady has blood flowing through her veins, Asa is the album that’ll convince you it’s music that powers her organs and tissues. Warning: please don’t try cutting her arm with a knife!
After Bouqui and Weird MC, Sasha is the only other female act confident enough to drop a rap album this past decade. And we should give her ‘thumbs up’ for that. Not just because she’s a lady thriving in an otherwise male-dominated arena, but because she’s succeeded in putting together an album fans will find difficult to resist. And as she joins other recorded sisters who’re representing the ladies in the hip hop world, it’ll be a needed encouragement for aspiring female debutantes like Blaise and Kemistry. Thankfully very soon, we can all stop asking ‘where my ladies at?’! First lady is the gospel of rap according to Sasha. And all though the album, she leaves no stones unturned, as she attempts to take us through her journey- the journey of a typical man – through moments of doubts, elements of confidence, connection with God, girl-power advocacy; plus other trivia that make the album fun listening (imagine the hip-hop/dancehall mesh on ‘strong thing’!) But then, what did you expect? When Paul Play, TY Mix (watch out for this guy) Cobhams, Big Lo and El Dee come together to do an album, it’s natural to expect the results to be ‘disastrous’… Obviously pained by constant attacks from those ‘who think she can’t rap; she got lucky on a track’, the rapper fills the album with punch-lines (watch out for lines like ‘still window shopping/how’re you guys gon buy me) and braggadocio (you know, the kind of blow-your-own-trumpet-lest-it-gets-rusty ego masturbation and self assertiveness rappers are known for world over) right from the first track. And she does a good job of it, staying in her comfort zone, allowing guest acts to star where necessary (she’s got Asa, Niyola, Pype, Ikechukwu, Naeto C, Big Lo and GT The Guitar man to help out) Now, cynics can go to bed. Point proven. Sasha. Can. Rap. Period.
Label: Sam Kargbo
If X-Project was experimenting when they put Sierra Naija together, then I’m afraid they’ve had a successful experiment. For, while the album recognises the pulse of the streets, and is tailored to satisfy the average music fan; it also pays homage to the critics, obeying those key elements custodians of musical art like to adhere to. That’s why it won’t be surprising if the album quickly becomes a favourite with fans and critics from Lagos to Freetown and beyond. The trio lavish talent on the album, and for lovers of good music, it won’t be hard to see the amount of hardwork the boys put into the project. This one is an album that blurs the line between regular R&B and those fading traditional styles the ageing ones amongst us are begging us to preserve. And, by the way, where on earth did they find that truly talented, dogged but physically-challenged cat (can’t use both legs…) called Ani Ranks!?
Church-goers must really owe Miss Gogo Majin a lot of thanks. For, at a time when most gospel acts are busy recycling old, popular gospel songs and reworking hit choruses, this young lady, fresh from music school in London gives us a breathe of fresh air; a hope, of sorts, that great, original works can still emanate from, and dominate gospel circles. Don’t be fooled though, ‘Gogo’s Song’ book is not for the regular listener. The 10-tracker is a collection of prise and worship songs, backed by beautiful music, for the enjoyment of those in love with God, and those still searching, willing to create a space for Him in their soul. Gogo first showed up on the scene in 2004, shortly before she left for the UK. Now, she’s back with a well-produced, well mastered album to display her prowess. It’ll be nice and comforting to think she’s here to stay…
Artiste: Sound Sultan
Sound Sultan has a way with skits. And that’s not all. He has a way with words too! And he has mastered the elements of literature, so much that most career rappers may soon be looking up to him for poetic certification. But in showbiz, talent is not always the sole key to success. And, quite ironically, the sultan of sound has suffered one failed album (his second album, Textbook) where most acts with questionable talents are recording hit after hits. Now, he’s back with a third album (his second for Kennis Music) and it’s interesting how he is sticking to his formula, fully aware that this is a make-or-mar album. That’s exactly what stands out true talents from wannabes; or, in vernacular parlance, ‘abinibi’ from ability. On 007, it is clear to see that Sultan is only keen about making music how he best knows how to: coating conscious, confrontational lyrics with several layer of satire that even the subjects of his subtle attack will unknowingly nod their heads to his tune. Sort of asking someone to go to hell in such a way that he’ll look forward to the journey. If, because of the theme, poetry, satire and at times anger on this album you are tempted to put him in Fela’s shoes, don’t worry. You won’t be the first to be doing that. The trend started with his first album ‘Kpsheww: sound of a frustrated mouth’ which contained the classic satire ‘Jagbajantis’.
PRESS ON PT 2
Artiste: De Indispensables
The duo of Tick Lips and Lenny have tasted the best of two worlds: this minute they are hopeless young lads, tuck in the heart of notorious port Harcourt settlements, faced with banditry, violence and a bleak future; next minute, they win a talent hunt, get a record deal and are on their way to musical stardom. So it’s only natural that they try to tell the story of their lives on their new album. That’s exactly what stands them apart from other R&B/pop groups out there today. On ‘Press On Part 2’, the boys tackle issues as serious as slavery. Freedom, and peace to the regular themes of love, romance and heartbreak. Thanks to their label Grafton records, they have an advantage most acts their level will give an arm and a leg for: opportunities to record in the UK (where they’re topped the charts, and collaborated with a couple of DJs) and impressive collaborations with MOBO winning rapper/DJ Phoebe One and Black Uhuru star Junior Reid. They hold their own, aside both acts (on ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I’m free’ respectively), showing a high dose of talent and confidence – two things they’ll need when the international doors begin to open. They have a Channel O award already (for Best R&B act Africa West), and an upcoming UK release of their album. Plus a great love from critics at home and abroad. What’s left is to see how indispensable the fans will find them this year and beyond…
Ask those who know, and they’ll tell you it’s foolhardy to change a winning formula. Once you identify what counts, just keep at it- that’s how companies replicate success. And it works for bands too! For years, it worked for Maintain. Now, rave twins Peter and Paul Okoye are using it to their advantage. Haven’t we all been criticizing their musical talents since they dropped their first album ‘Last Nite’ earlier on this decade? So why are they still around seven, eight years after, even after we predicted they’ll nothing but a flash in the pan? It’s because they know what counts. And they adhere to it. That’s why we bought millions of their second album. That’s why ‘bizzy body’ and ‘temptation’ were monster hits. That’s why their new album ‘game over’ has sold over 2 million copies less than three months after its release. That’s why the unpardonably repetitive song ‘do me’ has become more popular than ‘arise of compatriots’. That’s why they’ll be here for a long time. Until the formula stops working, that is. True, ‘game over’ is filled with Psquare’s regular tricks: repetition, often meaningless poetry, interpolations, sampling and beats tat get you off your seats. But, to be fair to the Anambra-born brothers, this album has a few cuts that pass the test. Try listening to the ballads ‘no one like you’, ‘miss you die’ and ‘ifunanya’. Either you’re a fan or a critic. This is one album that’ll be difficult to resist buying. It’ll even be more difficult to get it out of your jukebox. Don’ be scared if you’re a critic. After all, I’ve got three copies: one in my car. One in my room. And another one playing on my PC right now!
GRACE OF GOD
With over a hundred albums in his kitty; with countless party engagements and scores of tours, and age taking its toll, it’s good to know that juju maestro and tireless performer Sunny Ade still found time to put an album together- his first body of work in a long time actually. Lovers of juju music and followers of brand KSA are already adding this one to their list of favourite picks, even though the marketers are not doing anything remarkable to promote the album. ‘Grace of God’, as characteristic of KSA, is rhythm and percussion-driven, with traditional call-and-response, idiomatic lyrics and an overdose of wisdom. Whether you want to hear the band leader singing; or you’re fascinated by the notes that come out when he plucks the strings of his guitar; or all you want to do is dance to the groove of the music; you’ll find out that Grace of God is up to the task…
Artiste: TY Bello
Label: North Avenue
She’s a portrait photographer. She directed her own video. She’s a singer and songwriter. She’s even a trained economist. Toyin Shokefun-Bello has become, right before our own very eyes, a jack of all trades. Problem is, she’s a master of them all! Well, maybe not a problem exactly. ‘Cos, if you take a ride with TY into Greenland, you’ll see that the roads are paved with soul-soothing tunes, an eclectic mix of hope, love, gratitude and pleasure. You’ve been missing KUSH for three years? You’ve played their only album ‘The Experience’ till it’s worn? Try listening to Greenland. Together with Lara George’s ‘Forever in my heart’, it’s the only cure to KUSH-Deficiency syndrome (KDS).
Artiste: Yinka Aiyefele
Okay, now, enough of all that serious stuff. You’ve spent a hard day at work, a couple of hours in a senseless traffic… it’s running late and you can’t join the boys at your reguar hang out. You’ll most likely need this new CD from yinka Ayefele to keep you company. Remember though, what you’re looking for is not 100% original compositions or music. No. That’s not Ayefele’s forte. What has kept the juju act going, since the accident that confined him to the wheelchair, is an understanding of the pulse of the streets, and a profitable balance between secular and gospel styles (in a rather smart way, he manages to render ‘gospel’ lyrics on so called ‘secular upbeat juju beats (called ‘tungba’ and ‘alujo’ in Yoruba parlance) thus creating a hybrid sound that has dominated the party scene for years) That’s what you’ll find on almost all the nine tracks that make up Gratitude.