by Wilfred Okiche
For his 6th studio record, Mr Idibia has assembled a sound that is quite different than his earlier discography. His roots have always been undeniably reggae/dancehall music but polished to a shiny pop gloss. This unmistakable sound has been present in almost everything he has ever done. But Idibia wouldn’t be the pioneering maestro that he has come to be acknowledged as if he kept doing the same thing every time, hence, his insistence on evolving his sound at each outing.
After a landmark début solo record, Face 2face that was mostly a pop-spiritual affair, 2baba like he prefers to be called now, took a different route for his sophomore record, Grass to grace and expanded his sound to accommodate elements of high-life back when no one was doing so. There was some initial resistance from an audience not used to their favourite artistes testing unfamiliar waters, but the album came to be accepted for what it is was. Not all of his experimental attempts have achieved the desired results though. The Unstoppable did not hit the mark at all and only took off with the repackaged international edition but by the time he made Away and beyond in 2011, he was assuredly the same artiste fans have come to love and respect.
The fans may find it difficult once again to connect with 2baba on this record, especially at first listen. No longer content with being the local champion, Idibia baits the world music community with feel good, thrill seeking fare of the journey man kind. Instead of guest appearances by Tiwa Savage, Psquare or Wizkid, he brings on names like Kim Almarcha, Shurwayne and Tony OneWeek. The result is a record that is all over the place, untidy and seems targeted at older audiences.
Which does not mean that it is totally unsalvageable. A lot of it is inconsistent but Mr Idibia retains his deep spiritual vibe and sings as always from the bottom of his heart. The younger ones might find the hammy house music trance of #Aproko to their tastes. In it, he goes all out against rumour peddlers who congregate on Twitter to air his dirty laundry and prescribes a simple hashtag treatment for them. The opener Go with Trinidadian soca act Machel Montano is for the club hopping set and is sure to rein them in even when it plays like a B-side version of his earlier hit, Implication.
Let somebody love you with Roc Nation’s starlet Bridget Kelly is adult contemporary fare. 2baba confidently makes mincemeat out of the simple but tasteful drums and strings assembled by producer Femi Femdouble. Ms Kelly finds herself complimenting 2face and even though the song never really takes flight, it speaks to the maturity with which 2face has come to represent at this state of his life and career. He packs in a couple of slow burners like the average Kiss of life, the middling Hate what you do to me and the excellent The best I can be which is elevated considerably by a sharp Iceberg Slim guest verse
He retains traces of his reggae bonafides on songs like Confessions even when label mates Dammy Krane and Rocksteady do not do much to assist him but also finds time to pay homage to Fela with Jeje, an all-out afrobeat concoction that is roughly sewn. It isn’t his best work but his heart is in the right place.
The most problematic part of this record starts from track 11 where he goes all out for that ‘international’ vibe which he probably hoped to ascend with. What should have been the album’s clincher becomes instead the weakest link. International loving, a tedious language crossing duet with francophone singer Kim Almarcha fails to connect. Boulay boulay with Shurwayne fares considerably better with its carribbean feel and Diaspora woman gets off on the energy with which he and Fally Ipupa attack the melodies. Fans of a certain age can rock to Lesse passe (with Sir Victor Uwaifo) and think 2face an icon for remembering to cater to them but younger ones will be bored stiff by it.
The disc is titled The Ascension but 2face does not quite get this record of the ground. The individual songs may work on their own terms but they fail to come together to create a suitably convincing sound. He alienates his local audience while attempting to push the boundaries and does not exactly triumph in his crossover attempts. He may achieve some results (the album debuted on the Billboard World Albums chart) but at what cost one wonders.