Patoranking plays it safe on Three – Dami Ajayi

Unlike Timaya, his predecessor in many respects, Patoranking’s use of Caribbean derived dancehall is still suspect.

His shtick in his first two albums was to find new ways dancehall could fuse with other sounds, like afrobeat, afrobeats, even fuji. There has also been a leaning into conscious music which made his second album even more pretentious. But what has made his music memorable is that he knows how to court the dance halls.

No straying into niche for this brother, whose love for the Ajegunle raga continues to fly low on his radar unlike say the hugely under-rated Solidstar. Patoranking understands how to bring a party to a song and uses that knowledge better than ever on his latest project.

Called Three, an abrupt title but in keeping with the idiosyncratic ways he names—for this first time, Patoranking names his album accordingly.

Three because it is his third album, one year behind his sophomore Wilmer named for his daughter and four years behind his somewhat elusive God Over Everything, excessive in retrospect.

With 12 tracks lasting about 41 minutes, this is easily Patoranking’s best album yet.

He plays it safe, making music that is reminiscent of his best moments. The production is top-notch, as always with an army of ace producers like Ctea, Telz, Culan, KillaShay, Coublon and Mr Kamera at the helms of sound.

Patoranking is alone on 7 songs; he recruits help from Flavour, Tiwa Savage, Sauti Sol, King Promise on songs that will be touched upon shortly.

‘Abule’, the album’s lead single, is one of his biggest accomplishment in years. Abule, of a necessity, is the Yoruba word for village but Patoranking probably meant hood. Doubling in his roles as a mythmaker and chronicler of a hood vignette which revels in youthful exuberance, romance, dance and petty crimes, ‘Abule’ is about having fun in spite of lurking hardships and the crisp video shot by Director K is a colourful intrepretation.

What Patoranking achieves most easily is a nostalgic mood quite reminiscent of Ajegunle raga that has been incipient in his style but has finally bubbled to the fore.

The album opens with ‘Mon Bebe’ which features the former best highlife song crooner, Flavour. With the arrival of the Cavemen duo, Flavour has been unseated but his verse on this song is reminiscent of his shtick: the gorgeous nonsensical language of wooing.

‘Whine It’ has Sauti Sol and Patoranking delivering a competent dance hall song. ‘Matter’ has Tiwa Savage playing up her sultry; it is not quite ‘Girlie O’ in star wattage or chemistry, but it suffices. ‘Brr’ would have been a monster summer dancehall, except that the album was released after summer and, besides, we haven’t had much of a summer.

‘Do Me’ is vintage Patoranking, thumping with hard-hitting percussion and even harder innuendoes. ‘Ranking rakes in some black positivity on the funk-inspired, disco-inflected retrospective ‘Black Girl Magic’; perhaps some roll skaters will find uses for it.

‘Lion in The Jungle’ gives us that roots reggae flair. Here Patoranking belatedly insists on his creative evolution but on the undercurrent, he is repudiates his former life of hardship for the future’s sake.

It has been a long time since his breakthrough song, ‘Alubarika’, there have been sparks of brilliance, a fairly steady stream of popular hits and a coherent new album, his third, but the jury is still largely undecided about Patoranking’s mastery.

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