by Ore Fakorede
Rap is more than just laying sandlot rhymes over a beat, but apparently, this is something that many Nigerian rap artistes have failed to realize. In the hurry to craft supposedly ‘tight’ punchlines, they often exhibit a suicidal disregard for depth and true meaning. The result of this mediocre wordplay is the insensible hogwash that some erroneously call rap music.
Lynxxx, a rapper signed to Syndik8 Records, became a blip on the radar screen of Nigerian music following the release of his single, ‘Change Your Parade’. A condensed smorgasbord of genres that rode to popularity on a catchy, Auto-tuned chorus and Lynxxx’s posh pidgin lines, ‘Change Ur Parade’ became a recurring decimal on playlists in 2009. An accompanying music video of good-quality was released early in 2010. Lynxxx has finally gathered enough momentum, airplay and perhaps, courage, to release his debut full-length album, predictably-titled ‘This Is Lynxxx’.
At first listen, the most glaring negative characteristic of the album is its split personality. This schizophrenia is especially obvious in Lynxxx’s lyrics which are torn between retrograde superficiality and risqué genius. On some songs, the shallowness of his lines (Baby girl, wassup utunu/I’m Lynxxx by the way, lemme talk to you) give the impression that he had a gun pointed to his head when he was writing. He masks this avoidable absence of songwriting creativity (or is it just a lack of the patience required to strike depth?) with improvised comedy, but the ensuing laughter fades too fast.
To further un-sweeten the deal, some of the features that made ‘Change Ur Parade’ a success of some sort are shamelessly recreated all-over ‘This Is Lynxxx’. Notably, the repeated use of the words utunu and ‘baby girl’ is sickening. (Excuse me but, aren’t there other ways to refer to women?!) Also, Lynxxx’s inability to stick to a particular style of delivery has him sounding like a less-suave Naeto C on some tracks and like Tinie Tempah with less- well-honed Briticisms on some others (‘International’, ‘Ping’, ‘Big Bomskolo’). A few of his expressions are borrowed from foreign artistes, audible signs that he still has a lot of self-definition to do.
Regardless, there’s a certain panache and swagger to Lynxxx’s flow that makes ‘This Is Lynxxx’ a solid debut. Lynxxx sounds most appealing when he rhymes exclusively in English, effortlessly punchlining his way to lyrical superiority over several Nigerian rappers that have been around longer than he has. The sweet-sounding ‘Ice Cream Factory’ is almost audio pornography, as there’s a chemistry that is more felt than heard between sultry-voiced R&B artiste Enze and Lynxxx. Her well-timed ad libs weave nicely around Lynxxx’s wordplay, and she shines like Milky Way stars on the chorus.
The utunu-infected ‘Good Lurvin’ is essentially a pick-up song for the sex-starved. Fast-rising star, WizKid (album still expected!) repeats the ‘don’t dull me‘ line from his most recent single, ‘Don’t Dull’, pointing to a probable lack of prolificacy and creativity on his part. ‘Playa’ starts with a superb verse of comic rhymes from promising guest artiste Falz, but the song is surprisingly ‘dulled’ by the usually superlative General Pype who plays a somewhat watery role. It doesn’t help that the General keeps piping up over and over again that he is a player. A failed modulation (a mid-song change to a higher key) also adds to the disappointment.
On ‘Alabukun’ (yes, the painkiller), Lynxxx enlists professional help in the form of critically acclaimed crooner and Twitter addict, Banky W. The self-styled Mr. Capable is more than adept as he literally steals the song with his vocal excellence. The lyrically-ingenious Lynxxx boasts about his sexual proficiency (Baby, it’s no joking, ’cause I go in/And my stroking, mind-blowing, Imma break you down till your body needs towing), blending well with Banky W’s more romantic lyrical bent. Add the impressive twenty-nine-second bridge and the end product is a kosher musical aphrodisiac for setting the mood in a dimly-lit bedroom.
‘Wahala’ is another collaboration, this time with the exquisite, MAMA-winning Mo’ Cheddah. Any relation to that P-Square song (you know it) is only skin-deep as this track is much less of a club banger. Rather, there’s some role playing as Lynxxx propositions an apparently unimpressed Mo’, who shows off the duality of her talent- masterminding the cocky chorus and delivering a well-worded rap verse. Again, the guest artiste takes full points and Lynxxx detrimentally ‘pirates’ Usher’s popular ‘yeah, men‘ line.
From, ‘Ego’, a jazz-tinged potential classic, Lynxxx ups the ante more than a little bit, making the ‘first half’ of the album sound like a rehearsal. The album morphs from a meek revolver into a rail gun for launching well-crafted punchlines like nuclear warheads. ‘Ego’ stands out on ‘This Is Lynxx’, and what makes it even more excellent is the fact that Lynxxx pulls off the job without any help. A groovy understated beat, a laid-back chorus, a riveting piano solo and backing horns provide the perfect canvas for the storyboard art that Lynxxx paints with his words. The quick double-salvo is completed by ‘Mixed Signals’ featuring nouveau vocalist Efya. Efya obviously knows what she’s doing, and this underscores the fact that Nigeria has an unimaginable number of musical prodigies waiting to be discovered. Lynxxx’s lines are once again, razor-sharp, as he analyzes the actions of a love interest (I’m not really a long thing but who could tell her/She just wants to treat me like a vuvuzela).
Unprecedented depth is struck on ‘Don’t Say’, a slow rap ballad on which Lynxxx defines the difference between a fling and a relationship, driving home his points with exceptional intelligence (Known you for about three weeks, and now you’re saying/You’re in love with me, girl I hope you’re playing; ‘Cause if not, then I’m worried sick/ ‘Cause In my vision this ain’t nothing but a blurry pic). The ‘Syndik8 Radio’ skit embedded into ‘Don’t Say’ is perfectly believable, and it does a meaningful job of connecting the track to the next one.
Ikechwukwu, Saucekid and Sakordie join Lynxxx on ‘Monster Music’, a noisy hardcore joint complete with piano riffs and a slickly-engineered sample. Sakordie is the star of this one as he supersedes everyone else with a flow that sounds like something Eedris Abdulkareem has been trying to achieve for over a decade. ‘Big Bomskolo’ is sheer raw-edged lyrical wickedness. Over a beat reminiscent of Da Grin’s ‘Pon Pon Pon’, Lynxxx holds nothing back as he spits lines that would put the famous Chocolate City rappers to shame. Three jaw-dropping verses in crisp English, Cockney and streetwise pidgin, in that order, and a cheeky simulated phone conversation. OMG! When M.I. tops this, I’ll let you know.
‘Follow Me’, a true five-star collaboration, cannot but be compared to M.I. and the Choc Boys’ ‘Represent’, but the former is light years ahead with its incomparable lyrical depth and lack of unnecessary braggadocio. SDC, excellent rappers that they are, bring some serious firepower to this track and POE sounds good as well. ‘Spotlight’ gives Lynxxx needed room to publicize and reaffirm his private decision to keep his ego in check and remain unchanged by fame. The breezy chorus perfectly connects introspective verses that reek of reality.
Lynxxx allows himself to be blown to bits by Naeto C on the queerly-named ‘Jollof Muzik’. Naeto’s Auto-tuned singing and a dope, cipher-filled verse are more than enough to make Lynxxx look like a guest on his own song. With lines like “We’re sipping on wine that’s so old that it is on its menopause/Yo, home girl show me your thirty-two, what? I look like dental floss? My flows are jeun soke, not looking hungry like my competition/see girls don’t dress for guys now, they dress for competition/I’ve seen her run through more parties, than a politician,“ Lynxxx is almost invisible here. This tour de force of an album is rounded off by a banging continental remix of Lynxxx’s fame-bringing ‘Change Ur Parade’. Featuring Ghana’s R2bees, the remix amplifies the best parts of the original and adds a new flavour.
With more brilliance than mediocrity, Lynxxx is an evidently talented rapper. His diction is better than average, and the quality of his musicianship stands out in an industry littered with so many pretenders to the throne. Yet, on this debut, he sometimes comes off as unnecessarily flawed and shallow, as underpinned by his utunuisms. This album should have been called Mr. Utunu, honestly. Perhaps in a hurry to come up with songs and capitalize on the fame from ‘Change Ur Parade’, a measure of repetition and mundaneness crept into his songwriting.
The high-powered and crowded guest list, though highly impressive, is often choking as it gives little room for Lynxxx to focus on his wordplay and shine in his own right. He therefore sounds much better on such tracks as ‘Big Bomskolo’, ‘Don’t Say’ and ‘Ego’, where he is without company, than on ‘Wahala’ and ‘Jollof Muzik’ on which he features the song-stealing Mo’ Cheddah and Naeto C respectively. In addition, the generic nature of his delivery makes it particularly hard for him to project a unique vocal identity. Pidgin expressions aside, ‘International’ and ‘Ping’ sound like they were lifted off any British rapper’s mixtape, and that’s not a good thing. However, with time and attendant maturity, Lynxxx should work out his kinks and perfect his musical act.
Flaws included, ‘This Is Lynxxx’ is one of the best debut albums ever released by a Nigerian rap artiste. When on top of his game, Lynxxx works wonders, turning ordinary instrumentals into superfine songs that make you push the ‘repeat’ button unconsciously. An amazing start to a promising music career.