The first thing that strikes you is the cover art for Asake’s sophomore outing Work of Art.
In cosplay mode, he has replicated one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s most iconic photos. The photograph is at once playful and symbolic. Asake is a creator and genius musical artiste much like the man he is channeling.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American visual artist whose art works took the US by storm in the 80s beginning from when he emerged as the youngest artist ever to take part in Documenta in Kassel and one of the youngest to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial in New York in 1983.
Five years later, he was dead inserting himself into the 27 Club.
Basquiat left a body of work that has appreciated in value over the years with his Untitled fetching $110m in 2017 making it one of the most expensive paintings ever sold.
So, it makes sense for one of Nigeria’s biggest musical artistes of the moment to liken himself to Basquiat.
The 14 track album which is a cocktail of beats from fuji to amapiano to highlife and sega opens with Olorun, a song of thanks and appreciation to the Almighty on which Asaka drags us along to church where he thanks God for seeing him through 2020 which was “very tough’ and “carrying me from down to the top” then closes with the ear-worm, Yoga where he sings that he has plenty enemies “it is better to get them surplus” because “who go dey for you no go take off.”
But in between the first and last tracks, Asake takes us on a sonic odyssey punctuated by references to how far he has come, how rich he has become and how he has emerged the “Capo di tutu” and “Commander” a la Ebenezer Obey.
Any doubts about Asake’s talent or ability to sustain the momentum created with his first album, Mr. Money with the Vibe and the wide spread adulation and fame that has come with it are banished at first listen.
Work of Art presents Asake the lyricist, wordsmith and braggart. We are also introduced to the songwriter (who often gets entangled in his own wordplay as he yokes words together as if by violence in his quest for end rhymes)
His lyrical prowess shines through on song after song and listening to him, you can feel and hear his maturity and sure-footed delivery.
He is a man not afraid to say what he wants to say whether it is about smoking a big jumbo Colorado or asking a girl to come back to his condo, this is not a man afflicted by indecision, diffidence or shyness.
His lyrics drip with the self-assuredness of a successful man with money. If the first album was a prayer, this second outing is a testimony.
In Awodi, he is the fabled Falcon that soars high and Asake boasts “My sink never sinking” while on 2.30 he throws a poser “what’s the probability/ To see a better me with agility?”
But if anyone is still unclear about Asake’s contribution and significance to the musical ecosystem, he spells it out on Basquiat, where he goes full braggart mode describing himself as “walking poetry, I am greater/I’m a work of art, Basquiat” and indeed he is.
Amapiano is another stand-out track on the album and on that song, Asake goes toe-to-toe with YBNL label head honcho, Olamide on one of the best boast tracks ever to come out of Nigeria.
The song is fun, catchy and redolent with references to their place in the scheme of things.
They see me coming, dem dey shout hallelujah Every day e bi be like a new year Overseas, dem wan chop me like suya Ọmọ, I no fit dull for this Dunya
Olamide counters fast with lines dripping with swag underlining his status as a Don.
From the ground up, nigga stand up
See the fandom, we no dey do random
But when they shut down, and then, they never done
I’m telling y’all, better get the memorandum…
Italiano, no kill Luciano
Killing beat is all I know
This is a bravura and boastful performance that reminds one of the confidence, swagger and braggadocio of footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It is not until track 11, Introduction that Asake deigns to let us know whose album we are listening to as if anyone could have missed the fact with songs peppered with references to “Ololade mi Asake” and “Tune in to the king of Sounds and Blues”.
So when he sings – “First thing make I introduce me/I be Mr. Money” it is rendered redundant.
The bragging is moderated towards the end of the album on the Kegites/gyration inflected Lonely at the Top where Asake grows reflective, contemplative and philosophical singing that “See life na one, no get another one/I go take am do wetin I love” because despite the sold out shows, massive fandom, the bling-bling, global adulation and bragging, he has discovered that it is lonely at the top which is a sobering admission.