Album Review: With Id Cabasa, 9ice fights back for creative relevancy

by Will Fred

9ice and Id Cabasa made sweet music in the past. Their union produced 9ice’s magnum opus, Gongo Aso as well as a couple of other essential records of both their careers. Then the inevitable happened, their union collapsed and they both went their separate ways. Both careers suffered instantly.

9ice has had the better run as he’s continued to make music, even if not at the same level that he was prior to the split. You see Gongo Aso is the kind of record that could sustain an artiste an entire career if managed capably. 9ice has made some effort.

2009’s Tradition was a potent effort that received some critical acclaim. But then 9ice’s creative ebb began to slide gradually, through the double disc that was Bashorun Gaa/Versus, until he hit a creative and perhaps commercial nadir with the double dose of 2015’s C.N.N/G.R.A. 9ice has been largely ignored since then, surfacing only to guest on his colleagues’ records.

At the twilight of 2016, after a stint in the political arena, 9ice put out Id Cabasa, a curiously titled record. Named after the man who was once mentor and guiding hand to his cause, Id Cabasa, the album, is a gesture borne out of goodwill, a successful young man showing appreciation to his most important benefactor. Id Cabasa, the person, is responsible for putting together six out of the album’s sixteen tracks and according to 9ice, is set to walk away with proceeds from the album.

How nice. But how good is the record, and how does it stack up musically? Does it aid 9ice’s current career trajectory or does it hurt him as much as C.N.N/G.R.A did? Truth is it would take special effort to make another record as dismal as C.N.N/G.R.A and wisely 9ice has decided to set himself on the path to redemption.

9ice has never really been that artiste that panders to the pop charts and on Id Cabasa, he surprises no one anywhere when he fails to come up with the obvious hit(s). He works with certified hit maker DJ Coublon on the pleasant, preachy opening track Glass House (those who live in them do not throw stones,) as well as on the ripped from the headlines Economy, but while the latter takes it back to the confidence of 9ice’s earlier work on Bashorun Gaa, none of them is guaranteed to set the charts on fire.

The closest Id Cabasa comes to a genuine radio friendly hit is with the Young John (Hit Factory) produced entry, Living Things in which a bubbly 9ice just wants to live a good life, with plenty of money and little hassles.

Id Cabasa himself does not show up till the sixth track, Oh Baby and his veteran status manifests immediately as he dabbles into more traditional, guitar heavy, down tempo melodies, leading 9ice to embark on a love declaration in which he refrains, Baby you are much more to me than words could utter/You are worth more to me than baby mama.

Id Cabasa does similar work on the enjoyable Mio Yo where 9ice declares Food is ready is not for free. Ogara and Beautifully Spoilt are both low key but perfectly acceptable entries. Olorunsogo is a mid-tempo filler that sits in comfortably.

Dapiano goes by way of Spellz for the danceable Poison but 9ice slows things down and throws it back to Pete Pete, his striking duet with Asa from Tradition on the wise beyond its years Oro to tell real life lessons in folklore style, maintaining his status as one of a handful of artistes who can command listening ears with a stripped down, pared back approach.

Id Cabasa is not exactly a comeback as 9ice never really went anywhere. Think of the record as a clawback to relevancy by one of the industry’s MVPs.

It isn’t great, not by a mile, and it is riddled with flaws and unforced errors. But the album reflects an inspired 9ice (been a while since we saw that,) making what can be termed good music once again. He may not be at his peak anymore but there will always be room for even sup-par 9ice. His voice still matters.

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