adjective ‘prolific’ best describes Gilbert Bani better known as A-Q, a
Nigerian rapper last seen when he released his EP, The Definition earlier this
year. In less than six months, he is back again with his third LP, Rose, a
tour-de-force presumably named for his mother.
A-Q is one of those consistent hands who signed the dotted lines in a deed of covenant with the mic. He lives up to this bond by heating up the airwaves with new material every so often. He is a rapper in the league of Mode Nine who also recently released yet another LP called Insulin.
latest release might be his most ambitious attempt at cross-over (and breakthrough)
since his prodigious career began. With two LP and six EP albums to his credits,
this rapper knows how to belt them out. This time, he plays his latest release
as a narrative, evidenced by the way the 18 tracks are listed in prose form.
important is the intimidating star-studded dramatis personae he recruits for
his narrative. This album features the likes of MI Abaga (who also got A &
R credits), Jesse Jagz, Sound Sultan, Naeto C, Yemi Alade, Small Doctor and
nine other lesser known artistes. Interestingly, for so many featured voice
acts, the album was almost entirely produced by Beats by Jayy.
variety of artistes lends the album a contemporary flavour but fails to water
down A-Q’s persona which resonates on almost
every track. Truth be told: 18 tracks is a tad too much in the wake of short
attention span but our musicians still subscribe to the parable of a sower who
casts his seeds anywhere he sees fit.
A-Q’s rationale in throwing about 18 stones is that one or two will land on good
heads. That said, not all these stones are gems; some are painfully mediocre.
begins with an assertion about A-Q’s love for television; NTA 2 Channel 5 is an ode to Nigeria’s National Television and
Nollywood veterans. In this same vein of doling out salutations, he drops
nostalgic rhymes that would strike a chord with those who resided in Lagos in
the late 80s and 90s. This album continues with 80’s Baby with striking choral assists from Maka who passed on the
baton of hook crooning to BoyBreed on Amen,
a mid-tempo song with a grating beats but personable lyrics. It is important to
state here that A-Q is a brilliant rapper; he does know how to string a song together
with the right aliquot of metaphors, flows and a decent turn of phrase.
Agu Ji Ndi Men is that song with the
Igbo chorus about the exuberant life of Lagos flexing especially the economics
of it. Smoking under Water features
Rage doing the hook whilst A-Q goes full throttle fast American rap on his
paean to getting high. Following this closely is Red Cups with beats reminiscent of Warren G’s Regulate. An aside: red cups hardly need introductions especially
in the Nigerian music scene. They were the staple of our music videos—and then Skales
snuck one into the front cover of his debut, Man of the Year.
Digital Waves and G Boys featuring Jesse Jagz and MI
respectively, A-Q murdered Jagz but was murdered in return by MI; suffice to
say the Abagas won but someday soon, we might have to return to the
conversation about Jesse Jagz’s claim to being the greatest.
the bonus track Coma featuring Yemi
Alade and Small Doctor expressly delivers on the promise of its name, All Because of Money featuring a
preachy Naeto C is a sedative overdose. Summarily, the victory of this LP
cannot be attributed to the featured big names. Sound Sultan’s masterful
delivery on the chorus of Judas is
easily the most outstanding experience from the popular artistes’ caucus. The
lesser known featured artistes deliver more delight and on these songs, A-Q
seems more at ease and self-effacing.
Ashewo is a hilarious ode to commercial sex
workers who take charge of Lagos nightclubs and roads any given night. Khandie
does justice to the chorus of Half Bread
is Better than Puff Puff but AQ fails to deliver a tender love song perhaps
he was exasperated from the preceding brilliant crunk song, The Same. On Political Science, he recruits Patrick Obiagbon’s bombastic
sentences as hook while he opines about the politics of Nigerian music industry.
A-Q’s affecting love song to his mom, Rose, is the most biographical,
vulnerable and emotive moment of the album; little wonder, it won the bid for
the album title.
album Rose is almost a gem. It is a work of genius almost ruined by ineffectual
collaborations with big industry names. Oh yes, it does not sit with the
zeitgeist, rather borrowing its ethos from hardcore hip-hop—just like the
Americans used to do it before Hip Hop went figuratively and literally south.
What’s more important however is that his registers and experience are deeply
Nigerian, middle-class and human—not necessarily in that order.