Since his encounter with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commision (EFCC) in May 2019, Naira Marley has built one of the most viral social movements in Nigeria. Better known as the Marlian president, the rapper delivers his long-overdue debut full-length project God’s Timing is the Best.
The Lagos-born and Peckham-bred Naira Marley gave music a trial in 2018 with the guitar-led psychedelic “Fly Away.” Naira Marley’s ‘Issa Goal’ with Olamide and Lil Kesh was the unofficial Super Eagles World Cup anthem during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
A year later, he was in trouble with the dreaded (EFCC). He was arrested alongside fellow artist Zlatan Ibile and popular socialites–Aremo Gucci and Rahman Jargo– and charged with fraud.
Inadvertently, his arrest and trial made him into a pop culture icon especially among the youth. He echoed their disenchantment with the state of the nation and became a face for their collective anger.
For the young ones, they had Naira Marley at the forefront of their hedonism. Three years later, the movement seems to be waning, the formative years are gone, and Naira Marley’s ENDSARS misstep still echoes. However, Marlian music, an offshoot of his movement, still brings smiles to people’s faces.
The rapper recently appeared on the much-vaunted NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) concert. It was a disastrous outing as Naira Marley struggled with his performance, singing off beat and off-tune even though the band tried to ameliorate the situation. It was glaring that Naira is not cut out for a live performance. His new album is just as disappointing.
Disregard the title’s homage to the divine, the album is suffused with lewd lyrics, aural pornography, and street wisdom delivered in the hybrid fuji/hip-hop mode. The first expression you hear is ‘Booty quaking’ on ‘Jo Dada’. The production reworks ‘Soapy’ as Naira Marley urges a girl to dance for monetary rewards.
Mayorkun comes through on ‘Happy’ with his lamba-filled verse. He has a perfect hold of the track while Naira Marley explores the side effects of Marijuana and offers advice on how to curtail naysayers and troublemakers.
‘First Time in America’ chronicles Naira Marley’s worldwide tour while ‘No Panties’ dovetails into sex talk. ‘Ayewada’ is a carefree anthem with Naira Marley basking in his hedonistic lifestyle.
Rexxie, the regular collaborator, helms production for the majority of the tracks on the album. A lot of the tracks were stark imitations of one another.
‘Montego Bay’ is filled with self-appraisal and guilt-free storytelling. It builds on a sloping, inquisitive mid-tempo production. Naira Marley’s vocals overflow with hurt as he reflects on his battle with drugs, haters, and society.
They say Marlian doesn’t love, no, that’s a joke. On ‘Melanin’ Lil Kesh becomes the yin to Naira Marley’s yang as they both celebrate their lovers. ‘Drink Alcohol Like Its Water’ is simply the second-coming of ‘Soapy’. ‘Modinat Kai’ is littered with street talk, ghetto wisdom, summery synths and over-the-top percussion.
Marlian record signees Zinoleesky and Mohbad cpme through on ‘O’dun’ and ‘Owo.’ On the former, they both reflect on the fake lifestyle of Lagosians while on the latter the cliche trope of money is explored while they lay down some of its advantages. The amapiano-sampling ‘Coming’ and saxophone and whistle-led club banger ‘Kojosese’ ends the album.
God’s Timing’s the Best is a conventional Naira Marley project. For those who expected more, I guess they didn’t follow his trajectory from the inception. Naira Marley has always been a one-pattern type of artist.
On this album, he brings that to the fore by repeating the same formulaic music-making process on most of the tracks. Also, five songs off this album were previously released. Had this album been released in 2019/2020, the lapses may have been overlooked due to his pop icon status and street love. With the formative years of Naira Marley long gone, this album exposes his weak songwriting and formulaic production. Naira Marley’s God’s Timing is the Best is, at best, trite.