“Yellow” is Brymo’s best work, thus far – Joy Dennis
For a Nigerian artist who had his first solo hit, almost two years after Wizkid’s, the man Brymo has come to be known for dipping his foot in things that are, according to industry insiders, bigger than him.
Apparently, he thinks he’s the most powerful artist on the planet. Whether he genuinely believes that or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he has this self-assuredness that he’s really got some big ‘thing’ going.
But that confidence of a drug lord which he exudes isn’t just bollocks, as we’ve come to see. It is absolute conviction that his work is art, perfect, good, timeless, and that no matter how long it takes, he can successfully sell this music to a wider audience.
Yellow is his seventh studio album, and it consists of three sides, arranged in such a way that each of these sides can be a full album on its own, since the LP album itself doesn’t have a generalized message. Side A, Side B and Side C have six, five and four tracks, respectively. Most likely for stylistic reasons. Side A was performed in English, B in Pidgin and C in Yoruba.
SIDE A – ENGLISH
From the start, “Espirit De Corps” will leave you wondering who you’re really listening to. Telling us that “a bitch, is now a witch, with a switch” in an M.I Abaga sound alike voice, sure isn’t like the Brymo we have come to know. The track is a trap-influenced jam and the hip-hop work on the beat is commendable.
But beyond the sound, “Espirit De Corps” describes a scenario (in a social setting) where different categories of people with different roles, all exist in a somewhat tight-knit relationship, governed by the principles of balance that exist in the universe like karma. That imaginary society thrives on disorder and a domino effect of vices that in turn constitutes an endless state of chaos.
Brymo uses the first person narrative technique to point out that love is a ‘disorder’ on “Blackmail.” Mental disorder, maybe. He then went goes on to assert that he’s sure that his lover has Stockholm Syndrome, postulating that love in itself is a captivity-esque psychological phenomenon. This he does, by citing a demonstration of blackmail as one of the behavioral dispositions that ‘exposes’ this truth. “Blackmail” is soft-rock, and relies on Brymo’s vocal ability for most of the song.
The name Ozymandias was made popular by a poem from an English poet which was about one of the greatest rulers of Egypt, Rameses II, who some believe to have been the Pharaoh from the Book of Exodus. The poem established Ozymandias as a tyrant, full of himself and who was great in his time. And there is a broken statue of him in a desert, with the inscription “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!” But even his statue is dilapidated and long forgotten.
In the same vein, the track, “Ozymandias” is rich in symbolism and poetry; with some fine minimalistic piano riffs and gentle percussion. Brymo finished the track by announcing that, we are in a woke generation and people on the streets are now becoming alert to injustice. In a nutshell, Ozymandias’ cold command legacy is now being challenged by, ‘songs of anarchy’ from ordinary people who are tired of the system.
“Heartbreak Songs Are Better In English” has a pop vibe, and surprisingly lightens the mood a little, pulling the album out of a dark place. Brymo expresses his thoughts about traditional masculinity and how culturally as a man, he’s not allowed to be emotional over a heartbreak. So, he went goes on to throw around figures of speech communicating his heartbreak, in complex poetic English that doesn’t reek of emotional imbalance.
“Strippers + White Lines” is the lead single off the album, and the official video was released a day before the album release. The soul-filled song, which is another one of Brymo classic parabolic numbers, dives into sociopolitical issues, discussing suffering, pain, and mental slavery.
An acapella “Smart Monkey” is added attached at the end and it is basically Brymo just echoing his philosophy of the smart monkey over and over again.
“Without You” is a ballad about two lovers, who choose to remain in a relationship that is constantly being threatened by their flaws. Even though, they both know they’ll be safe on their own. The romantic song, brings to close the first part of the album.
Side A, the English part of “Yellow” is heavy on psychology, touching on a range of topics, from societal vices to relationship issues, with songs that have no connection musically. They are simply related by the sacred touch of a top-notch poet, and a narrator, who more than a couple of times assumes the role of the character he writes about.
SIDE B — PIDGIN
Side B starts with the rhymeless “Woman” which is filled with synths and strings. Brymo sings about his commitment to a relationship and urges the woman to do the same, even as he reassures her he’s going nowhere. The alternative rock song has Brymo first addressing a third party, telling the story of this mysterious ‘woman’ and then addressing the woman herself, with a clear tone of superiority enhanced by the pidgin lingo. It is a confident rendition.
On “Black Man, Black Woman”, Brymo swims through narratives, satirically discussing societal values and gender differences. He did make mention of what sounds like a criticism of fake life and show-off. He blames it on some crazy clown “wey dey spread the hate around.”
“Gambu” is more instrumental than anything else on the album. The flutes satiate the track, even as Brymo criticizes people “wey dey sing for crooks.” He laces his short critique work with African proverbs, translated in pidgin and spoken in his own words. On the hook, he sings; “Person wey befriend rat go chop shit / But I go still dey follow you if you soak for shit / Love only me and be my own Gambu.”
“Rara Rira” is a feel good track, that’s a mashup of alternative sounds and the new afro-fusion, sufficient enough to showcase Brymo’s versatility. Brymo acknowledges amongst other things that life is too short to be worried. The song exalts happiness and enjoyment.
On “Brain Gain”, an EDM-influenced pop record, he offers the solution to Africa’s economic and political problems. According to him, things aren’t as good on the other side, as are conveyed in the stories we hear. “Brain gain, na im we need,” he concludes.
Side B, being the pidgin part, seems to have given Brymo the ability to express himself to the fullest and it felt feels as though he is in his real skin, the one he is most comfortable in it. It is also that part where the listener gets to understand what he is actually saying, without feeling he’s missing anything out, even though that might not be totally true.
The journey begins with “Adedotun”, a song of encouragement and hope. It combines Brymo’s traditional alternative sound, with Afro-Cuban rhythms. “Adedotun” gets even more interesting when Brymo made a call to action with “eniyan gbogbo e ba m gbe’rin”, which translates to “everybody sing along with me.”
It is worthy of note that Brymo, on this track, laid lays some emphasis on the existence of a spiritual and metaphysical reality. He literally preached the “God has not forsaken you” message.
Then the album progresses from the rhumba style into a storylined Orchestra-esque sound, “Orun n Mooru,” a story set in a traditional Yoruba community. On it, he drives home the points, “talkers gotta talk” and “if nobody talks about you, then you’re nobody.” He did all these by narrating in Yoruba from an omniscient point of view.
“A Feedu Fan’na”, the last Yoruba song, is a self eulogy, with some live drums layered with sounds of the indigenous instrument, shekere. In both instrumentation and vocalization, it mirrors, “Olumo” from his 2018 album, “Oso.” Brymo re-echoes some common proverbial sayings, drawing attention to his use of ‘deep’ Yoruba.
The album ends with “Abu Ya” which features Lindsey Abudei. The track is an acoustic performance of humming and expression-filled ad-libs. Sounds like the lady’s invoking the spirit of the ancestors. She did say some Igbo words, though.
Side C, is Brymo hundred percent (except for the last track, of course) and if nothing else, this part demonstrates how ancient (maybe even contemporary) African philosophy is tied to folklore and oral traditions.
Ultimately, Brymo has always had his philosophy of life, and in what can be referred to as ‘audacious’, he has continuously tried to push his message, which comes across as a consolidation of Nicomachean ethics and modern hedonism.
Not everything he said on the LP can be deciphered immediately, and historically, Brymo’s works make even more sense after listening through it, several times. Nonetheless, we can hear (and feel) an improvement in his artistry, as he talks about love, pain, and struggle.
Yellow as a work of art details the musings of its creator, about love, psychology, the African society, and the black man.
It is a masterpiece, and it might even be Brymo’s best work, so far.