Album review: On ‘Merchants, Dealers and Slaves’, Brymo is in a class of his own

by Wilfred Okiche



Currently embroiled in a legal battle with his former label, Chocolate City that got very dirty, very fast, Brymo was until recently in a bit of a limbo. Unwilling to record new music with his former family (also home to M.I and Ice Prince) and unable to release previously recorded material due to a court injunction restraining him from doing so, the avoidable avalanche threatened to derail his once promising career.

However, some respite came his way when a March 3 ruling by a federal high court in Lagos, lifted Chocolate City’s earlier injunction, effectively allowing the gifted vocalist to record and release new material. Brymo and his team wasted no time in flooding the market with physical copies of his third album, ‘Merchants, Dealers and Slaves’ released last year exclusively on online platforms.

His sophomore record ‘Son of a Kapenta’ released in 2012, on the Chocolate City imprint had its genuine moments even though most of it was bleached of the organic origins, in favour of a more accessible studio sound. For some reasons, ‘Son of a Kapenta’ was not promoted to realise its maximum potential and before long, Brymo wanted out of the arrangement.

His new record ‘Merchants, Dealers and Slaves’ on the other hand is quite a different cup of tea. It is a different Brymo that is on showcase here. A more confident artiste, free of the shackles of big label limitations, willing and determined to explore his musical tastes and stretch his creative juices. ‘M,D and S’ is a narrative tour de force, an instant classic.

But there is a catch. The sound and feel of the album is going to alienate some fans of the old Brymo, that young man who gave the stroke of magic to Ice Prince’s ‘Oleku’ and stunned a nation with the folksy ‘Ara’. It becomes immediately obvious on first listen that Brymo’s trajectory is more ‘Ara’ than ‘Oleku’. His song writing is 2 notches above the norm and he spins yarns of hard luck and missed chances and irresponsible grandfathers. There are stories of tough love, of hustling on the streets of Lagos and of hope for better days to come.

‘Truthfully’ is a captivating ballad that seizes your attention immediately. Brymo pours his heart out to a lady love. With just the right mix of realism, his powerful delivery, matched with down to earth lyrics sells listeners on his authenticity. But Brymo is a man who has been let down by love. On ‘Grand pa’ a swirling up tempo afro-fusion hybrid, he sings of an irksome grandfather who would rather drink and party than take responsibility for his family. Grand pa could be Nigeria under its present leadership. Such loser folks make up the bulk of the characters Brymo sings about on ‘M, D& S’, giving the disc a rich, dark, melancholic mood. Lead single ‘Down’ is a metaphor for current political happenings and even the deceptively jubilant ‘Eko’ which plays as an ode to the big city ends with him leaving a bothersome lover, Titilope.

When it comes to penning deep, haunting and open ended lyrics, Brymo has no peers. Chock full of gems and witty one liners, the album would easily win any song writing or recording award in the country. He trades the unchecked dazzle of Jesse Jagz for the restrained genius of Mikky Me and their chemistry is faultless. ‘Purple jar’ and ‘Cheap wine’ give new meaning to the term soul stunner and by the time Brymo wails his heart out on the reggae-tinged ‘Everyone gets to die’, one is left in awe of the genius that Brymo and Chocolate City have been holding back all these years.

‘M, D& S’ is a near masterpiece, the kind of album you listen to and place the artiste at the top of your classics list. You want more immediately but music like this takes a while to come around so you contend yourself with repeat listens. Over and over again.

Thank you Brymo for this one.


The writer tweets from @drwill20

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