by Wilfred Okiche
The most respected indigenous rapper not named Olamide rebounds with his sophomore album titled ‘Alaga Ibile’ over a year since his debut, ‘Book of rap stories’. While a lot of rappers sing and chant their way to commercial success, the inevitable side effect is that they tend to appear soft and diluted maybe, opening up their courtyard to direct hits and arrows from purists who accuse them of selling out and peddling a watered down version of their stuff. It is an affliction that every one from MI to Olamide has suffered from, even the venerated Mode 9 has not been left out.
Reminisce (real names Remilekun Khalid Shafaru) does some singing on this album (Sunkere, Fantasi). He also collaborates with some of pop music’s biggest names Davido and Wizkid but his hard edge voice, sharpened to a hint of menace retains its rough gravitas that at no point would one accuse him of such a concept as selling out. Or ‘diluting’ his goods.
Even when he is obviously reaching for a wider audience.
He almost dares his listeners to come at him with all the criticism they can muster and then pummels them into submission with his edgy wordplay and tales of struggling in the hood.
‘Alaga Ibile’ opens with ‘Intro’ where he begins with the Started from the bottom chant made famous by US rapper Drake. Sporting a furious chorus , it almost stands alone as a full single and Reminisce proudly displays his street credentials. You wanna know the truth, me o ki n se butter/spent most of my youth chilling in the gutter/smoke a lot of kush, that is why I stutter. While his mates would sing about getting a Victoria Island address or that house in Lekki, he stays close to home and really just wants to roof his home in Ikorodu.
The first track is ‘Government’ with Olamide and Endia and Reminisce rides a thumping beat from Chopstix. Olamide does not underwhelm but it seems he is held in check by Reminisce’s threats and he ties everything within the beat and respects the song’s structure.
The partying begins on ‘Sunkere’. Non-Yoruba speaking audiences may struggle with understanding his lyrics but the melding of hard hip hop beats with a tinge of fuji inspires some major head shaking and fist bumping. He takes it even further, embracing a direct fuji sound on the buzzy ‘Fantasi’.
The biggest pop star on the planet, Wizkid shows up on ‘Eleniyan’ and while his breathing on any track is guaranteed to turn it into a hit, he goes beyond the call of duty and puts in more than a serviceable verse. It seems that everyone is terrorised by Reminisce and would much rather put in some effort while working with him. Sarz also does top notch work on the beat. Who can blame them?
Davido breezes in with ‘Daddy’ and while this could have easily been filler material, it assumes a whole new meaning when the Omo baba olowo wails mo fe l’owo jun daddy me. With that line, Davido brings himself to the streets, revealing a vulnerability not usually seen on his own records. For a moment, he is one of the common folk, struggling with the same dreams as everyone else. It also helps that the chorus is instantly catchy. The duet with Burna Boy ‘Rude gyal’ does not quite stick. There appears to have been a higher plan here but it just doesn’t materialise.
The most embarrasing song here is ‘Ife’ a fel good joint that has Reminisce try everything at once. He sings, he raps, he uses a vocorder, he even speaks Igbo. He tries too hard. It is instantly forgettable. Sossick who handles most of the production on the record is a guest vocalist on ‘Turn it around’ and he steals the song with an affecting chorus that recalls Akon in his prime.
But Reminisce is most at home on songs like ‘Swagu’ where he rides menancing beats and drops bars with all the ferocity he can muster. Sossick does some fine work on the production and ‘Buga’ (with Naeto C) melds both rappers styles seamlessly.
Towards the final arc, ‘Alaga Ibile’ loses a lot of steam and starts to bore with it’s sub-stellar tracks. Thankfully Reminisce has made enough of an impression earlier. It wont set the charts or market on fire but it serves some purpose, introducing Reminisce to wider audience. And he did not even have to sell out totally.
– The writer tweets from @drwill20