EP Review: Holes In A Pair by Slimo

Any avid watcher of the poetry scene in Ghana today would have noticed the vibrancy and energetic efforts at pushing the artform towards the centre of entertainment. 

Poets are leading this effort through the release of various projects-mostly EPs. This year has seen the release of some compelling body of work by some leading voices within the poetry scene; picking up from last year. With the release of these EPs, poets aren’t concentrating on sharing their works with just a handful of poetry enthusiasts in a small room. They are reaching out to a larger audience- both far and near.

Slimo, a performance poet is the latest to join the caravan of EP dropping poets. His 6 track EP, “Hair In A Pair”, is a collection of thoughts and observations on relationships.

Slimo’s love for poetry began in Junior High School but it wasn’t until at the University that he took to performance. He emerged on the radar of many after placing third at the annual Ehalakasa Slam in 2016. On “Holes In A Pair”, one clearly notice his gifts-artistry, nuances, clarity of thoughts. For Slimo, “Holes In A Pair” is a reflection on a flaws in relationships: between a father (Sugar Daddy) and daughter; Mother and Daughter; Man and Life; Girl and an Ex”. 

The stories on the Spider 64 produced EP are, according to Slimo ”inspired by real life experiences of a lady”. It features Elidor The Poet, Jeff Joen and Tommy Maverick

​ The EP’s ‘Intro’ present a poet who trades talking or speaking for rapping. It’s the musings of a jilted lover who completely extricate himself of any blame: ‘said I’m the cause of all this but had your mind made up. Just to look good in the eyes of the people. Don’t you do that with your make-up?’.

On ‘Sugar Daddy’, his descriptive writing comes to light- he describes his characters and situations in vivid detail: ‘margins of his singlet shows/ the armpit of his shirt are soaked in sweat‘. Employing a skit from the classic ‘I Told You So’ movie as a contextual tool, he brings a tone of comic relief to a serious subject. ‘Sugar Daddy’ is a story about infidelity- a young girl dating a older married man whose wife is being banged by the young girl’s brother. He aced on how he eneded the story.

‘Her Mother’ is a ‘how to be a lady’ letter from a concerned mother to her daughter. She takes cognizance of today’s fashion culture- short, tight, skimpy and cleavage showing crop tops-worn to win likes on social media. Her conservative views on dress codes stems from the fact that ‘there’s no proof that decency was different than it is now’. She emphasizes the notion of ‘you get addressed by how you dress’ especially in attracting the right guy: ‘You search for the right guy is like a mirage in a desert with thirsty nomad’.

‘Is life unfair?’, that’s question ‘Fruits’, the bluesy/country-esque guitar driven piece seek to unravel. ‘Fruits’ explores the relationship between Man (humans) and Life. With vox pops serving as anecdotes, Slimo eschews the notion of pre-determinism. He regards failure as a human choice (life is not fair is a cliche that denote failure). He bemoans the often crazeof blaming life for what it offers rather than taking the blame for how ones life turns out. In his view, ‘life is fair if you make yourself useful’.

Both ‘Numbers’ and ‘Blues’ play on the concept of unrequited love and the recuperation process after a break-up respectively. Sampling Nina Simone’s ‘You Know How I Feel’, Slimo whines about the unevenness in relationships; where one party isn’t into you. He questions the trip that is love: if love is that good a feeling, why do you have to fall before you feel it?’

‘Blues’ on the other hand, deals with the difficulty in seeking a perfect palliative after a break-up: do you jump in a new one, curse him for stealing your innocence, taking long walks? Or you still wish he calls you, send you those text, make you a priority?.

“Holes In A Pair” scores high in some aspects – creative presentation of thoughts, right theme songs to aid his expressions, a voice tone that’s not irritating- some male poets like to flaunt their skills and cadences unnecessarily. 

However, there are flaws, minor though as noticed on ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Fruits’, where the transition from song/skits to delivery didn’t merge well. His opinion about how women should dress (on Her Mother) would raise eye browns in some quarters especially the link between decent dressing and marrying the ‘right guy’ Although the EP is inspired by the reality of a lady friend, Slimo excused men of blame for some of their actions that provokes post traumatic love disorder. 

As a debut project, “Holes In A Pair” is a good advert for Slimo. His talents are not in question. How he goes from this point would define him, as an artist, a writer and a creative mind. Every relationship has it’s flaws (holes) and this EP seek to ask the simple question: what is the hole in your pair (relationship)?

How Sisimbo by Red Red touches on love, water and identity

One of the beauties of music is that, it helps you construct a comprehensive narrative about an artiste through the scrutinization of their catalogs. One could deduce their life stories, fears, socio-political views and lifestyle through their lyrics. Genius, the lyrics annotation site has on occasions written, from the volumes of lyrics available, the biographies of some hip-hop artistes.

The music duo Red Red, has on their latest single provided some dots which could be connected to establish a thread between water, love and identity. The group is  made up of Mensa Ansah (M3NSA); one-half of the FOKN Bois and Hangarian DJ Elo, with the musical collective Irie Mafia. The song, “Sisimbo” has, as its theme, the subject of love (relationship) and the importance of finding a common ground despite the turbulence associated with it.

M3nsa’s musical history sparkles like golden crusts. In 1999, at 18 years old, he was producing songs for Reggie Rockstone (he produced and featured on ‘Mapouka’, off Reggie’s Me Ka album). Prior to that, he was a member of the rap group LifeLine Family. The group disbanded after enjoying massive success following the release of their debut album. Their single ‘Wo Sisi Y3 Wo Ya’ became not only a chart-topping tune but remains as one of the best songs of all time.

M3nsa didn’t drift into musical oblivion after his stint with LifeLine Family like some of its members. He released the certified classic ‘If You Don’t Know’, in 2003. He took a role as a producer for some years before forming the irreverent group FOKN Bois with Wanlov. Holding his place as a member of FOKN Bois, he joined forces with DJ Elo to form the group RedRed. DJ Elo is also the husband of Sena Dagadu, one of the most versatile and eclectic singers/rapper you’d ever encounter.

The group’s name, “Red Red” takes its source from a popular Ghanaian dish of fried plantain and cooked beans. Most of the songs they have released take inspiration from Ghana; either in theme or influence- Gidigidi and Ghetto are examples. The music Red Red makes lean towards pop/EDM (Electronic Dance Music). They, however, infuse influences from other genres including hip hop, afrobeats, afro house, calypso.

Their latest, “Sisimbo” has M3nsa crooning about a difficult relationship and the need to find a common ground towards fixing whatever is deemed broken. He sings: ‘I’ll ride the waves even though the sea is rough; one drop of faith for you and me is enough’ over a sparse, mid-tempo and minimal EDM/pop beat that breaks into a calypso rhythm on the hook and reverts back to its original sound of pop. M3nsa exhibits a spotless cadence in his delivery. In the words of DJ Elo, their initial intention wasn’t to create this EDM-pop-Calypso beat with variants of Afropop sound. 

We were trying to make something like afro house, South African house or Angola house type of music. But, in the process, it came out like… I don’t even know what it is. It’s nothing to do like all those things. Basically, it’s a fishermen song’ – DJ ELO

What Sisimbo reveals about M3nsa is his origins: a Ghanaian; a Fante. The song title is taken from an olf folk song popular among the fisherfolks or fishing communities in the coastal regions of Central and Western Regions of Ghana. As DJ Elo hintermd in the quote above, Sisimbo is a fisherman​ song.

Music is a very important part in the lives of fishermen in carrying out their trade. It serves as an inspiration. It serves as a rallying point of their collective efforts. It fosters a sense of community amongst the fishermen. In essence, music is the force power behind their performance. Aside the relaxation music provides.

Sisimbo is a Fante folk song that the fishermen sing… It’s just about moving in synchrony and it applies to all relationships if you’re on the same boat; in one accord… It’s​ about difficult relationships, not romantic relationships – M3NSA

M3nsa hails from Senya Breku, a fishing community near Winneba in the Central Region. He, however lived (and does have a home) in Dansoman, a town in Accra found along the coast (he most often lives in London and Budapest). The communities surrounding Dansoman have fishing as their main trade. This put him in a stead to know about fishing, the sea and the music of the trade.

Sisimbo is sung to point out the importance of rowing in unison in other to propel faster the canoe over the rough waves to the calmer part of the sea. M3nsa employs the rowing of oars and the sea as metaphors to highlight two crucial situations about relationships. First, the sometimes turbulent nature of love affairs and second, the show of strength to strive over the rough seas (relationship) towards a point of calmness (peace). This is illustrated aptly by lyrics as ‘waves of emotions. maybe the ocean’s turning me upside down but all I need right now is to be coasting’.

Red Red isn’t the first to reference Sisimbo in a song. Legendary highlife artiste, C.K. Mann on his evergreen tune Asafo Beson, referenced it on the song.  Working towards perfection​ isn’t as easy as the blinking​ of an eye. It takes blood, sweat, and toil. 

Red Red have released a very catchy, inviting and danceable song; a perfect crowd puller. M3nsa’s ability to borrow from his Fante roots and in the process showcase his identity (perhaps unknowingly) as well as remimding us of the fluidity of love adds to the appeal of “Sisimbo”. And as the poet Nayyirah Waheed wrote, ‘we return to each other in waves. This is how water loves’

Album Review: ‘Thuto’ by Cassper Nyovest

On Thuto, his third studio album, South African rapper Cassper Nyovest blends self introspection, grandiose boast with grandeur production 

The first time I heard the name Cassper Nyovest was, when news came in that, the South African rapper had sold out the 20,000 Ticket Pro Dome and the 400,000 Orlando Stadium in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Later, I saw him on ‘Sway In The Morning’ freestyling to the admiration of radio host Sway Colloway. That’s infact, all i know about Cassper. Until Thuto dropped and I pressed play. 

Let me indicate that, in the absence of any previous albums from him that I’ve heard, this review is basically based on what is heard on Thuto. There isn’t going to be any comparison between this album and his previous works. 

The 16 track album features four artistes-including Black Thoughts (of the legendary hip-hop group ‘The Roots’). Thuto shifts from slow burning soul to hard hitting trap beats with introspection of past deeds and the celebration of his success as crux. 

Thuto isn’t filled with elements of hip-hop that excite purists like rhyme schemes, punchlines, metaphors and similes (critics have pointed to this as his flaws as a hip-hop rapper). Thuto’s strength, aside the stellar production, lies in Cassper’s words- honest, sentimental, shamelessly self-deprecating. It’s also an unapologetical display of his success and status.

“Confused”, the soulful opener, has Cassper Nyovest musing over a lot of issues: his life, ambition and the music scene: ‘this shit could get better if we realize all we got to do is help each other whiles we are alive’, he raps. But it was Goapele’s vocals over the piano and soft drum taps that summed up the message poignantly ‘I don’t know what to do right now/I don’t know what my mind’s telling me right now’. Cassper Nyovest get sentimental when he talks about his mum ‘thinking suicidal’ adding ‘sometimes we need to carry the people we rely on’.

The sentiments flourish again on the self-confessional ‘I Wasn’t For You’ featuring Tsehogo. Struggles with love and wrong decisions taken like ‘giving the side bitches your side of the bed‘ and ‘manipulated your mind, left you confused‘ bubble through the song. Probably inspired by his break-up with his then girlfriend,  Boitumelo Thulo, IWFY sees Cassper bear his own cross-blaming himself for losing her. ‘Destiny’ doesn’t deviate from the template: soulful and confessional. Its carries a concert hall vibe. It’s the kind  of song one would close a performance with. The flaw with the Goapele assisted ‘Destiny’ lies in it’s duration- 6:42 mins long-and the subject matter sounding repetitive. 

Hip-hop artistes are notorious for celebrating their moms on songs, and the reason isn’t far fetched (most grew up without a father figure). Despite celebrating his mom on ‘Confused’ (thr same soldier she who taught me how to read the bible), “Superman” is an ode to his father. The relationship between a father and son is so much detailed- the protection he offered (a hero without an ego), his resilience (he didn’t have money so how did he pay for college?) and the many life advice he shared (thank you for teaching me to never hit a girl), Cassper raps with a tone of appreciation. Even though the song is a celebration of his father, he doesn’t fail to point out the stress of being a man; a father (to much pressure on the male figure.  If you ain’t providing you’re worthless). Tsepo Tshola sprinkles a bit of glory the track.

Retrospective and confessional musings are replaced with colourful boast about success (wealth) and status after ‘Superman’. Boastful talk is one of the greatest elements in hip-hop. And what’s success if you can’t boast about it? Even Kendrick Lamar, adored by many for his humility despite his success doesn’t fail to remind you who and what he has achieved (at 29, I’ve done too well you can will my whole estate- DNA).

So, for Cassper Nyovest, who has two platinum albums and sold the Dome and a stadium, rubbing it in our ears or face was to be expected. A glimpse of is present on the from-poverty- to-riches “Bentley Coupe” (Is either I’m talking money or I’m making it); the boom-bap “Nyuku” (the game’s full of fakes tho’/I’m the real one); “We Living Good” (I’m chilling whiles my enemies work overtime.. came and killed the game with just an ad-lib) and the hater-baiting song like ‘Top Shayela’ featuring Nadia Nikai (you know you only make the news when you say my name).

‘Tito Mboweni’, a trap drenched song is a roof raising anthem. It’s a championship song for those who are successful (‘I got a Bentley and a Bentley/Major league with them whip ‘moses’). “Tito Mboweni” was a first black Governor of  the South African Reserve Bank so, a song bearing his name is apt to be about riches. Cassper speaks about the traps of success on “Touch The Sky”, “Ng’yekeleni” featuring Black Thought (The Roots) and the afro-trap “Push Through The Pain” sums up the story of his success. The churchy “Amen Hallelujah”- a celebration of the goodness in his life- caps the album after the “Baby Girl”.

Thuto is saturated with his too much talk about his success; making it a tad boring to listen. With the many issues confronting the South African society- socially & politically-one would’ve thought Cassper Nyovest, with such a voice would tackle some of them. Again, Cassper Nyovest borrows from a host of influences. One could hear him sounding like Drake, Future, Rick Ross and Migos on some of the tracks (even imitating Quavo’s ad-libs). 

For someone whose first introduction to Cassper’s music is ‘Thuto’, it would be hard to rank this album against his previous two platinum certified albums. But, that notwithstanding, the lush productions, the passion expressed and his ability to bear his soul out on songs; on subjects many may consider personal earns him top marks.  Just like the album art, Casper was damn intrsopective​ and did glow like the gold chain on his neck and Rolex watch on his wrist.

Rating: 7/10.


THE CUTS: EP 02 Vol. 01

THE CUTS is your weekly round-up of songs and videos-and anything that has caught our attention and think you must hear or see. The music featured here aren’t genre specific. THE CUTS is delivered every FRIDAY
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Kula feat Klem – Don’t Blow It

Kula is steadily growing his clout as one of the top prospects on the music scene. His profile took a notch up from last year when he was featured on some of the biggest shows in the country. After his song ‘Go DJ’ (an ode to DJs in GH) became the official theme song for this year’s DJ Awards, he’s out with a new single about love. On ‘Don’t Blow It’, featuring singer Klem (XtraLarge Music ), the two remind us to not blow it when our partners offer us their heart and trust. Produced by Timmy (producer of Kojo-Cue’s Tsio Benke Mi), ‘Don’t Blow It’ carries a mid-tempo Afropop vibe. Kula on the first verse narrates how they met (first as friends, later lovers) in a calm, simple and fun manner. On the second verse, he teases out her qualities. The Klem delivered hook is an assurance of his unwavering love. Should the ‘Kw3’ heard at the end of each bar of the second verse become a thing, know who started it first. And, did Kula say ‘me bo mu s3 karat?’ Ei, #SaBoiWei Paa!!

Kwadjo SPiRi – Ogya (Fire)

Confession: I’m a sucker for samples. I get ecstatic when young Ghanaians rappers sample good old classic Ghanaian works, use them the way they like and get it right. One rapper to do both is Kwadjo SPiRi. A single off his ‘The Fly EP’, produced by Lik-Wid Ice- samples the hook of  Ogya by legendary afro band Osibisa. The song rides on trap bounce. It’s your true hip-hop tune with Kwadjo SPiRi boasting about his credentials (he’s the fire) in many styles of rhyme- slow, fast and dense; switching between English, pidgin and Twi. ‘Rising to the highest/ flying on this flying feathers/ we shining bright/black stars in the night’, he raps. One noticeable thing about him is that, he knows how to ride beats.

King Promise – Oh Yeah

King Promise has promise. He has the qualities to become a force on the music scene. A good songwriter, an ever improving artiste. His growth is seen with every song or feature he drops. His new song ‘Oh Yeah’, produced by Killbeatz is turning heads and it’s obvious to note why: the melody is catchy; the lyrics are simple and easy to sing. The accompanying video runs on similar plane.  The storyline is easy to grasp. King Promise ‘accidentally’ bumps into a nice girl during his morning jog. The two exchange phone numbers and a date follows. The rest of the video is a club scene. This Lex MacCarthy shot has good visuals: the tone of light used in the club is perfect. The video isn’t crowded with people-Killbeatz makes a cameo. King Promise’s fashion sense is on point. That coffee brown jacket is awesome. Even though black is my favourite colour, I won’t hesitate to rock that jacket. It’s a smart move to release ‘Oh Yeah’ now that he’s getting attention off the back of his performance of DJ Vision’s ‘Double Trouble’ and also penning a VGMA winning song for Adina Thembi (Too Late). My only reservation is that, the lyrics for ‘Oh Yeah’ are basic compared to that on ‘So Special’-his first single. But, then again, it could be deliberate; after all easy lyrics and catchy groove is what reigns lately.

Suede – Alkebulan

‘Alkebulan’ is jazzy in tone, Pan-African in it’s lyrics and afropop in sound (soft drums, horns). This new Suede released single is a celebration of Africa-the continent and it’s people as suggested in the chorus: ‘I can’t my lady oh/She be fine  lady oh/ Africa my home’. Suede proceeds to beckon Africa and her many countries ‘to rise up’. Even though they have been many excellent odes to Mama Africa by incredible artistes, Suede’s ‘Alkebulan’ is refreshing partly due to the recording approach -the vocals are distant and hollow yet appealing. The only downside to ‘Alkebulan’ are the lyrics-they aren’t creative enough. They feel like a collection of phrases that came to his mind rather than a well thought out and written lyrics. They sadly pale in comparison to the strong and impressive sound of the song. ‘Alkebulan’ is, however, a timely released song to mark the African Union (AU) Day

 

EP Review: Buying Our Freedom by Eli Muzik and Alex Wondergem

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Unorthodox. Brave. Relevant. Growth. These were the adjectives that came to mind after listening to this Eli Muzik and Alex Wondergem EP, ‘Buying Our Freedom’ some weeks ago. Here are two artistes who have joined hands to create a project that mirrors their thoughts at issues of our times.

‘Buying Our Freedom’ is question plagued. Questions bothering on life and its frustrations, hope and people. The elements found in Eli’s music is ever present-the Afro neo-soul/afrobeat influences. Just that, the love-ly lyrics are shoved aside.  They are replaced with grating lyrics bedeviling us.

If the growth of an artiste is measured by the depth of their lyrics and of course, their wokeness, then Eli has hit that spot. Any keen observer of Eli would have noticed how daring his lyrics have become lately. One hears within his voice a tone of activism and social consciousness. On songs like ‘Gold Coast’ and ‘Gaudette’, he expressed a new element in his art.

The art and its value has been a concern for Eli for a while. In 2015, he wrote an article for this blog titled ‘The Times’. The article-more like his musings-bothered on how the art being made today is lacking a ‘truth’ value. In the article he posed a question: So I ask: Of what value is truth and false to the young mind, whose foundations are built upon what he hears, sees and feels through these forms of art?’

The quest of sharing the truth value is present in ‘Buying Our Freedom’. From the opening track, (more like a skit), what is heard isn’t Eli’s voice. Rather, an advice from Prez. J.J. Rawlings about ‘evil dwarfs’, from which the track takes its name ‘Old Evil Dwarf’. In the skit, Rawlings takes political shots at the leadership of the country at that time (the NDC). ‘There’s nothing more oppressive than when a political leader refuses to see the actions of negative elements around him’, Rawlings observes. For him, a leader must ‘put his feet down’ and remove these negative elements-the old evil dwarfs.

It becomes clear that, Eli and Alex are going to producing a work that eschews all courtesies. In its place, ‘disruptive’ truths. While Chapter II and Je M’en Bats Les Couilles are neo-soul influenced, the messages/themes covered aren’t similar. ‘Je M’en Bats Les Couilles’ (I don’t give a shit/care) has Eli pouring out his frustrations about how things are evolving; how ‘this world is eating him today’ yet doesn’t ‘give a fuck’. The strings, pounding drum and striking snare driven ‘Chapter II’ preaches self-love and how that inspire your own creativity. Eli soulfully croons about ‘having issues with the way I felt by myself’ born out of low confidence and self-esteem.

Low confidence and diminishing self-esteem are two dangerous mix for an artiste. The two situations has the potential of not only confining the creativity of artistes but also, push them into a state of depression (mental health). And when that happens, who does the artiste call? Thus Eli’s rhetorically question: ‘whose is it to make me feel right’? In self-love lies the answer.

On ‘Hygrade’ and ‘Sunday Morning’, the pace of the songs increase, abandoning the soulfulness for hyperactive afrobeat sound. Alex Wondergem’s productions are more aggressive and rightly loud, to match the themes of songs. ‘Hygrade’ is unorthodox, as it wasn’t a subject I expected Eli sing about- calling for the legalization of weed. An interview granted by Kwaw Kesse after his running with the law over smoking weed preceded Eli’s ‘legalize it’ call. In a style reminiscent of Fela Kuti, Eli, singing in pidgin, chants ‘the thing, e dey everywhere for here…we know the power it get’. He points out the irony of the ban-the people with the power are the abusers of the drug.

‘Sunday Morning’ samples one of Joe Mensah’s famous instrumentals (it was a signature tune for Viasat One). On this 1:24 mins, Eli celebrates Ghana. ‘Sunday Morning’ is a call to all immigrants to return home for ‘Ghana better pass any place in the whole world’. He admonishes those with thoughts of travelling to rescind their decision: ‘make you no leave go chop shit for Yankee (US)’. ‘Sunday Morning’ is your grass-is-not-green-on-the-other- side’ advice pack. Afro-trap influences envelope ‘Hueman’, a song about defying labels (‘they want to identify me but that’s a story hard to write’); being themselves and the many things fans/world doesn’t see (nobody know the things e dey do me) features singer/rapper Worlasi and Adomaa.

Good art is when it comes from the heart. Good art is what impacts society and life positively. Eli Muzik and Alex Wondergem perhaps set out to reflect on this country and its people but ended up with an EP that speaks the minds of many as well.  In its broad lyrics, interesting themes and vibrant grooves lies the appeal of the tape.

‘Flame On’ by Ria Boss is a relevant song for this time

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On her recently released EP, singer Ria Boss was quick to remind us of the need and importance of being free. The advantages of finding ourselves and traversing this catastrophic thing called life to a place of bliss where happiness and freedom shake hands frequently and not intermittently.

Every song on the Six (6) track EP- beginning with ‘Golden’ to the last track, ‘Everything’, has Ria  motivating the listener, with hopeful lyrics. Lyrics that calls on the listener to eschew all negativities and start trundling on the path of happiness. The EP name, ‘Find Your Free’, captures the crux of her messages succinctly.

One of the outstanding songs on the EP (in my opinion) is ‘Flame On’, the guitar accompanied, live recorded song. ‘Flame On’, aside the great qualities it boast-good production, the soulful singing- it’s the message in the song that captivated me. A very necessary and timely song for this era where fear and uncertainties stifle our efforts at reaching a place of peace and happiness.

We live in a society where fear and terror is on the high, unemployment is biting and parents aren’t ready to encourage their wards to seek opportunities that are deemed unconventional. We hear of the experiences of people who are trapped in situations where quitting should be the rational decision to take but are forced to stay within such frameworks-bad marriages/relationships, jobs we hate, opportunistic friends. Such people sacrifice their own pleasures to make others happy thus deferring dreams. The fear of failing or being deemed a failure scares all of us; holding us back from finding ourselves and also, our freedom.

It is not uncommon to witness, especially on social media the many incidents of abuse, either sexually, verbally or physically yet the empathy needed by these victims are replaced by hateful comments. There also have been cases where others have been mocked for expressing unpopular opinions/comments. The fear of getting judged leave many to silently nurse their wounds rather than ask for help from others (you can’t even trust those you’d share your deep thoughts with).

“The world can be overwhelming, and sometimes we get scared. Of ourselves…of…time. Regrets build and it sucks and we forget that life is passing us by and we should trust in ourselves more. We shouldn’t deny our inner children. When we were little, we had aspirations for adulthood, we shouldn’t deny ourselves the joy we thought we’d feel. There’s light, there’s happiness, on the other side of fear, and wallowing. I was depressed when I wrote this, I wanted to remind the kid in me to stop being scared and trust the journey.” – Ria Boss

It is for this reason that ‘Flame On’ is such a necessary song.. Armed with the right words, Ria Boss proceed to inspire and assure us to ignore those self-inspired pressures and those society pile on us; dig within ourselves and chase our dreams. Although she is singing to inspire herself, Ria Boss’ words is for everyone else She begins by sharing her state of mind: ‘Losing focus, I can’t sleep at night no more’. Then on the pre-hook, attempts to motivate herself to chase the dream ‘maybe I’ll be somebody else if I wish hard enough/Maybe I can make the pain disappear/Maybe if I face all my bad days with some armor/Gotta stop living in fear’.

On the second verse, Ria Boss points to the many issues afflicting the world and by extension fuels her fears and draws her away from her aspirations. She sings about the crumbling of the world around and how ‘through the blood, the strange fruit, bombs and prayers all seem mute’. Ending with a very relevant question: ‘What’s the point of living?

When our fears tend to overwhelm us, we conceive a variety of assumptions to cocoon within temporarily. We know these ideas or escapes are nothing but fathoms that would vapourize; yet, they’ve become ways that help us dump down on our fears. And Ria Boss did same on ‘Flame On’, teasing out thoughts that could hide these fears: ‘maybe I can find love to make time worthwhile/Maybe I can try to set the demons free’. When such options lacked the potential to lock out her fears, she finally decides to live: ‘Maybe if I face all my bad days, I’ll be strong enough/Imma stop living in fear’.

Life is like a volcano spewing its dangerous lava each day. In our quest to avoid getting burnt by the flowing lava, we are forced to stay within our comfort zone, even when it’s a depressing zone. Distancing ourselves from the fears and uncertainties that entangles us should happen at a point. That’s what Ria Boss is encouraging us to do when on the hook of the song she assures the little girl that: ‘you don’t have to face your dark days alone/There’s light on the other side’, so she should not be afraid to ‘set yourself on fire’.

Even though Ria Boss wrote this for the little girl inside of her to encourage and motivate her towards finding her free, all can relate to the inspirational words behind Flame On. Don’t let fear dim your shine. Set yourself on fire.

 

 

Album REVIEW: JULS – Leap of Faith

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On his love soaked EP, Juls takes a leap that has definitely paid off

Love is at the centre of Leap of Faith, the debut EP released by UK based Ghanaian producer, DJ Juls on 8th May. The meaning behind the EP title comes as a double entendre. First, it’s reflect a certain doubt in his crossing from a credible producer to an incredible one. It also reflect, based on the themes covered, a man in love.

For many years, DJ Juls has worked his way to the top. The many years of work is beginning to pay off in a huge way. What began as an experimentation with a new found production style, which he credits his girlfriend for, became a ground breaking one. Employing classic highlife grooves and deliberately slowing the tempo of the song caused a seismic shift as far as the afropop sound is concerned. Juls, arguably created what is today’s afropop sound. The experimentation which began with Mr. Eazi has become an industry standard.

This new sound is what is heard on this EP. DJ Juls also assembles some of the ‘new age’ artistes who are proponents of this wave; this eclectic afropop sound. A cursory look at the features shows a host of Nigerian artiste with a few UK based Ghanaian artiste.

The EP opens with ‘My Wave’, an infectious tune soaked in rich highlife grooves with Juls blending various elements of traditional African music. The guitar riffs and horns along with the excellently delivered vocals of Odunsi (The Engine) and Sona makes a solid opener. Maleek Berry and Nonso Amadi, two fast rising artistes croon with passion on ‘Early’, a love-tinged tune, which sees the two exalting their love interest. ‘Is that invitation to take you out? Even if you say no, I’d take you out/I just wanna wake up and check you out’, Nonso sing with tenderness. Whereas Nonso comes across smooth and soulful, Maleek Berry’s tone was intense. A perfect blend. The emotions expressed are passionate and honest; something that hit the listener. ‘Early’ is likely to be the radio banger off the EP. ‘Give You Love’, released as the first single in late 2016, doesn’t deviate from the norm: the charming guitar riffs, triumphant and the hard hitting percussions suck you in before L.A.X’s words. He croons about love like someone bitten by the love bug.

The tone of the EP tilt towards afro-dancehall on the Kojey Radical assisted ‘Temperature Rising’. Employing elements of Nigerian juju music, Juls lays down a beat for Kojey to slay- thanks to his booming voice and cadence. The sing along chorus aside: ‘you feel the temperature climbing/you know that time is expensive/ you know that these moments are priceless’; the DJ scratches hand the song a late 80s/early 90s mixtape feel. The afro dancehall template is followed on ‘After Six’ (featuring Santi and Tomy Agape), ‘Coco’ (where Santi joins Odunsi) and the Frass AOD featured ‘Mi Luv’. Next comes ‘Bad’; the club crafted tune which features Nots3, Kojo Funds and Eugy. The minimal elements of drums and snares tease the bad in you out. The EP ends with Eji Owuro, the R&B influenced love-themed song featuring Moelego.

There are a host of positives on Leap of Faith. First, Juls has formally cemented his place within the pantheon of producers who have shaped the sound of African music. Second, the feature list and the pairing of acts as well as the sequencing of songs were perfectly done. Finally, settling on a host of African, new age’ artistes pushing the new rhythms of Africa to a wider global audience was an excellent decision. The switch from the mellow, slowly burning rhythmic grooves on Leap of Faith to dancehall vibes saved the EP from becoming a boring, repetitive outing.

It is uncommon for even experts in a field to have a bit of doubt when making a transition from one spectrum to the other-a transition with the potential of changing their lives. Granted Juls, has in recent times, etched his name in the top African producer list but that doesn’t erode the doubt, as seen in the EP title. The leap taken by Juls has indeed paid off. Acceptance: check; success: guaranteed!

written by Swaye Kidd (@swayekidd)