Marathon Reviews: A breakdown of music by Black Topia and VRSD, Monki Bznzz and Maka, Laxy BBK, Mau From Nowhere and Yung D3mz, Uche B and Boye 'The Genius'
In December 2020, Pulse Nigeria commenced a vertical tagged, ‘Marathon Reviews.’ The project aims to shine the light on some slept-on African projects that we discover. Of course, we will not be able to touch all albums, but we were able to visit.
You can check Vol. 1 of Marathon Reviews HERE.
Black Topia and VRSD – Paints & Palettes
This is psychedelic, cerebral music. It’s not dissimilar to the brand of music that brought brands like Odd Future, The Internet and Brockhampton. While elements of the production on Paints & Palettes mimics popular music, the production essentially retains a high level of minimalism.
While the projects simply needed better sound engineering, the projection of the vocals on the 4-track EP adds to the minimalist tendencies, as does Black Topia’s singing on ‘Ultraviolet.’
Topically, the music is riveting. It documents emotional turbulence and problematic coping mechanisms. As the title of this EP suggests, the music is cathartic and blithe. To tell the regular stories, a part of VRSD simply seems reluctant to tell the story as it is.
He uses abstractions and inordinate delivery to tempt the mind of a listener into following a trail that’s headed for an emotional rollercoaster.
This EP isn’t about crisp delivery or fashionable enunciation. Black Topia and VRSD are authentic, they simply want their stories to be heard. Guess what, they are trying to create a companion for the emotionally troubled. This EP isn’t dark, it’s a companion on the trail to finding light. This is the first step is catharsis on with ‘Paints & Palettes.’
This is real life and it’s an acquired taste.
Mōnki Bznzz X Maka – Sometimes It Rains in December
In December 2020, talented Nigerian, Monki Bznzz and Maka released a six-track EP, Sometimes It Rains In December.
While Maka said profound things throughout the EP, the music that her voice and Monki Bznzz’s incredible production was able to conjure distracts listeners from Maka’s topics. On the EP, Maka is morose and confrontational, but also cautious and open. She is like a female army general with a purpose and a weakness for love.
On ‘Monkey Business,’ we did identify a part of that enemy’s camp as “Fuck Boys,” but Maka’s expansive vocal range and her mastery of it to suit Monki Bznzzz’s set of chaotic beauties robbed any listener of the possibility to concentrate on anything she’s saying.
Nonetheless, we were compelled to hear enough; enough to know that Maka was a frustrated Nigerian woman on ‘Flood.’
Lyrically, ‘Sometimes’ is the most profound track on this EP. Maka uses the popularity of heartbreak songs to project the inevitability and the attraction of love. She sees heartbreak as something of an inevitability that people recover from, not a perpetual paralytic.
She says, “Dem gats to break your heart, e be like that sometimes…”
But by ‘Jide Nu M,’ she’s conflicted. She wants to be held and loved, but she’s scared of heartbreak. She sings, “I can’t deal with the pain of falling in love, ‘cos it’s dangerous…”
In the end, she concedes to love on ‘Back To You.’
Laxy BBK – AfroBionic
In March 2020, Lazy BBK released a 7-track experiment in Afro-swing and Trap. It is titled, Afrobionic. With his signature baritone vocals, Lil Tee shares similarities with Burna Boy, Blackmagic and Pandamonae.
It’s also quite telling that the opening track from this EP is titled, ‘Wambolombo Something.’ Guess who else has a song with the same title; Burna Boy, from his 2011 EP, Burn Identity. He also borrows from different eras of Nigerian pop music.
The difference is that Afrobionic is made by Abuja artists through Abuja, and for the rest of the country.
Across seven tracks, Lazy BBK sounds documents love, women, love, opulence and sex in open ratchetness, but with warmth and genuiness. ‘Anything For You’ seeks Eeskay to discuss love while ‘Useful One’ questions the genuineness of love. Big Nova and Drayko aid BBK in using opulence as an attraction for love on, ‘Salute Me’ and the brilliant ‘Dapper.’
Opulence alone is the premise of ‘Lavish,’ which sounds like a D-Block Europe record. The best song is reserved for life as Trap births, ‘Afrobionic Outro’ on psychedelic synths.
At the root of every track is an incredible piece of production handled by UCee and Afroselecta. Alongside Ransom Beatz, those guys are creating a delicious set of Afro-swing.
Mau From Nowhere – MFN
In November 2020, Mau From Nowhere released his sophomore EP, MFN. The talented Kenyan rapper feels like a bridge between Goldlink, Dara Alamutu and Phora, maybe with a little bit of beta phase NF on more experimental music.
His music is highly introspective and mellow, as he raps and sings his way through themes of love, mental struggles and emotional fortitude.
‘Dogtail’ is a tale of struggles related to love while the album opener, ‘MFN’ is a more methodical record that is both pessimistic and optimistic; happy and sad; upbeat and downbeat all at the same time.
Despite the uncertainties and his self-proclaimed doubts on ‘Maybe,’ all MFN wants to do is live and breathe. On ‘Dogtail’ he simply sings, “Let me breathe…”
His music is meant for niche markets, but dedicated markets, nonetheless.
Yung D3mz , Uche B and Boye The Genius – Girls Like You
A three-way project between Yung D3mz, Uche B and Boye ‘The Genius,’ ‘Girls Like You’ is a 6-track woman-theme music aboard Afro-pop and Trap music. The records on this EP excel on a beautiful set of beats as those three artists deliver in English, Pidgin and Twi.
‘Electric’ is a delicious record which aims to set a girl apart from other people that she shares a gender with. That record was performed by Yung D3mz and Boye while ‘Dangerous’ follows a similar trope, but on an Afro&B production, similar to sounds from I Like Girls With Trobul by Wurld and Sarz.
The best track on this EP is the third track, ‘Anita.’ With Rema-esque Indo-Afro vocal manipulations, Yung D3mz and Boye deliver sweet lamba, filled with adlibs and gorgeous takes. ‘Confident’ is the most lyrically accomplished record on the EP aboard an Afro-swing beat while ‘Virgil’ is a Trap record by Yung D3mz and Uche B. The record is opulent, despite being woman-facing.