Ruger and BNXN’s RnB EP: From beef to a collabo lacking in depth  – Patrick Ezema

Music beef, or battles of supremacy between musicians, is the two-edged sword of the music industry. When left to fester unchecked and get too personal, a beef may take a dark, morbid turn, but when it remains in the realm of healthy competition, music beef can be the trigger for creating beautiful music.

BNXN and Ruger were enmeshed in a beef of their own through July to August 2022, as the conversation heated up about who would emerge winner of the Next Rated award at the 15th Headies, an honour they were both in contention for.

The artists took to Twitter to clash over numbers, quality of music, and even their appearances, but the only definitive sign of a winner came when BNXN emerged with the Next Rated award at the ceremony in September 2022.

Following that, the artists indicated that their fierce rivalry had cooled. BNXN posted a video vibing to his former rival’s song on Instagram, and noting in interviews that the feud was behind him.

What was unexpected, even after the truce, was that the artists would unite to create a joint EP. Its arrival should mark the definitive end of one of Nigeria’s most controversial rivalries in recent times, but while it shines on the merits of two of the finest artists in their class, RnB (Rugger’n’BNXN) does not embody enough substance to live up to the monumental occasion it signifies.

This is due in part to an oversight from its creators, who were so focused on RnB being a fusion of their sub-genres that they forgot that music, as an art form, is a medium of communication. The EP gives nothing away about all of the lore behind its release, and if there was ever a project that needed to tell a story of its creators, it was RnB.

Instead the duo have saved the juicy morsels around their beef and eventual make-up for interviews, where they have discussed their union and admitted they created the project in only three days. That is a  brag that elevates only when the music very good. When it isn’t, like in this instance, it becomes more of an excuse.

RnB delivers, at least, on the exchange of genres it promises. On most of its tracks, the sonic pace is set by BNXN’s low-tempo Afropop, into which Ruger inserts his verses. The music is fresh and solid, and when they are able to build some chemistry, like on Ilashe or POE, where they exchange lines on the same verse, it is almost flawless.

The EP slacks where one or the other of its creators is forced  into a realm they are not familiar with: Ruger is not as proficient rendering slow verses in near falsetto on “Romeo Must Die” and “Calculate Love” like he is dishing high-energy lines on the carnival-rocking “Party Monster”.

Thematically, however, RnB tilts towards Ruger’s end of the collaboration, and this is a problem, because the artist’s view on women and love very easily takes on a dark, misogynistic shade. He brings some of it to the EP via “Ilashe”, where he plays a role many women will sadly be familiar with; first the generous and doting lover sparing no expense for the woman he loves: “I go splurge you all my pay/ Order anything wey you want, girl, it’s alright.” Not long after, he slips off this mask to reveal that this was made as an unsolicited payment for sex, which he now demands. “Swear that you don’t know what we are doing here/ Abi no be free boat wey you use reach here?”

An unnecessary narrative like this spoils what should have been the strongest track on the project, and it is made even worse by Ruger reiterating the same on social media.

RnB allows its creators enjoy a well-earned victory lap: both in their mid-twenties, at the head of their generation of superstars for a music movement that, despite the lag it has suffered this year, is still on the world-beating path it has been on for the last decade.

RnB is not the best work from either of these stars, forget the fact that it does not even attempt to acknowledge the saga behind its creation, but a combination of the superb talents and decent chemistry of Ruger and BNXN makes it a great addition to both their discographies.

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