Photo Credits: Still from Martell Cypher 2
Eight months after the well-received Martell/Chocolate City cypher, Chocolate City Finest, led by Label Executive and veteran Rapper, MI Abaga, have done it again.
Coming a few weeks after Hennessey’s Finest Cypher featuring Y-Cee, Ice Prince and Vector, it is clear that Henny won’t listen to MI’s counsel on how to spend their budget.
From the aerial view, it is two French cognacs sparring, and when capitalism competes with itself, there is only one winner. But in the small print of these advertisements, a handful of rappers kick a few bars about vulgarity, vainglory and braggadocio—and Naija Hip-Hop may be better for it.
The 2nd cypher feels a bit too much like the first. The first cypher was definitely a dream, all rappers—Blaqbonez, Loose Kaynon, AQ and MI—arrived gun blazing, matching metaphors with extreme wordplay and verbal threats. Beats by Jay was producer on both projects, a frequent collaborator with AQ perhaps this was why AQ is the most significant assassin on both.
On the first, AQ’s verse is the epitome of expansive beauty, the mild-speaking rapper with even milder mannerisms knows how to tie subjects and themes seamlessly. One minute he is bragging about his voice being vibranium, the next he is critiquing Mr Reals and Slimcase. Hear him, “…If you can take it/I am coming with slim cases/When the lamba hits you /the shaku will switch places.”
If the first edition was anything to go by, there should have been a change in order of delivery in the second. Blaqbonez, evidently the youngest, shouldn’t go first again. I am still reeling from the Ls he delivered in the first. His second performance hardly matches up but it is Loose whose flows really got better. AQ came with his knowledge yet again, home-schooling listeners that he is the metaphor for black knowledge and pride, going back before the middle passage to the colonial era and now to the post-military era. He has nice things to say about Awolowo but no nice sentiments for Tinubu and Buhari. Mid-way, he objectifies Yemi Alade’s body and still bothers to give Chicken Republic some feedback.
MI Abaga’s tight leash on craft continues to be his saving grace. His word play, delivery and technique elevates him to the top tier. Add to this, the reverence of his cohorts, and his boss status is certified, cognac in hand.
While Hennessy is more expansive in their curatorial process and far-reaching in their grassroot involvement, Martell is evidently more elitist and cream-on-top about theirs.
To contextualise this, Blaqbonez featured on Henny’s 2016 class but he has since jumped wagon. If Hennessy’s inclusion criteria is the ability to spit ill bars, Martell’s inclusion requires that you just be on Chocolate City’s roster. The one-cask-of-Martell-question is this: how does this help Hip-Hop?