With “Sideh Kai”, Illbliss Solidifies His Legacy – Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

If we were to consider rappers as commentators in an arena for the appreciators of arts, Illbliss would surely be one of the two or three rappers whose voice has stayed relevant for three different decades.

He is one of those artists whose art coming to the gallery of Nigerian hip hop has sustained eager interest from lovers of the art form. His music has a unique way of beating a path to the audience.

I remember discovering Illbliss’s “Aiye Po Gan”- off his 2009 debut album, Dat Ibo Boy – on MTV Base, and listening to the Oga Boss album over and over again between 2012 and 2013. After what seemed like a two-year silence, experienced the burst of energy that was “Bank Alert” blaring from the radio in my University hostel in 2014.

His music was part of my coming of age, as it was for most of us, the eldest music enthusiasts of Generation Z. And in real time we experienced the transition of his remarkable sound from the urban sound that characterized the pre-Oga Boss days, to the more cultural and high life inflected style which he now espouses.

Illbliss’s new album, Sideh Kai, is the latest of half a dozen projects put out by the prolific rapper in the past ten years. His two earliest albums were released well past a decade ago. As an artist who has put out so many projects, and whose art has been elaborately illustrated, Illbliss has consistently shown the stuff he is made of and he has continuously told his story. He falls in line with the Baldwinian portrait of an artist who has only one story to tell, and tells it again and again until it becomes crystal clear even to the blind.

Sideh Kai can be summed up as a portrait of identity, personal history, family and an expression of gratitude. It builds upon a tried and true template – prosperous Igbo man, from Imo State, raised in Enugu, who moved to Lagos with nothing, and who has all but conquered the rap game. This has been established over and over again in Illbliss’s previous project.

The fifth track of Sideh Kai, “Masterclass” which is a masterclass opens somewhat facetiously and with self-deprecation: “They say Oga Boss, you’re a legend/I dey laugh/I came here for money” somewhat downplaying the legendary status he has achieved in the rap game.

But this time, away from the braggadocio, Illbliss adds a new layer to the portrait he paints with words; a grateful son, fulfilled husband and happy father.

The album opens with “Red Caps”, a flamboyant track about being Igbo, which is destined to resonate and make an impression on the southeastern region of the country, a region currently thriving in its rap culture. But then the first eight songs in the album, though very notable in their charismatic flair, and featuring Odumodublack, is Illbliss as we have known him in the past ten years in the consistent track of his musical evolution.

Sideh Kai is unique in that it is a project dedicated to his daughters after whom the project is named and whose voices pepper the album. A deeper listen shows that it is as well a project about the most important women in his life including his wife and mother who make cameos in the project.

On the track, “Daughters”, in which he tells a touching story of his journey to fatherhood, Illbliss lays bare the feeling of pain and relief which accompanied some of the difficult situations surrounding his children’s birth. In how the story revolves around the triangle of him, his wife and children, he paints a picture of a caring father and supportive husband whose love has rubbed off on his daughters who get along well in spite of their apparent differences. And in the following track, “Maale,” featuring Cobhams, he pays homage to his mother.

The appearance of Made Kuti alongside Cobhams in “Spirit” and Fave’s soulful vocals in “Peace of Mind” are in many ways the engine that propels the album’s soulfulness. “Gen Z” featuring Yukel is another remarkable track on account of how it paints a portrait of the younger generation and their take on the present situation of things in the country.

Sideh Kai is a worthy addition to Illbliss’s enviable legacy of eight projects in the past 15 years. This time he does it in honour of his daughters, and the most important women in his life, and amidst this, in the fifth track, “Masterclass”, he pays tribute to hip-hop, a craft to which he has stayed so true, so faithful and so dedicated.

Since his last album, “Illy Chapo X”, Illbliss has established himself as the first rapper from Nigeria to release albums that made him relevant in three different decades in Nigeria, a feat he only shares with M.I Abaga.

With Sideh Kai, IllBliss aka Oga Boss aka Ill Chapo has cemented his enviable longevity and legacy. There is no reason to think otherwise.


**Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera is a writer and freelance journalist. He currently lives and writes from Enugu State. Follow him on Twitter @Chukwuderaedozi

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