Pieces on Film, Prose and Music by a Nigerian

Tag: hiphop


Originality is Overrated.

No Guts No Glory cover

Should an artist’s influences be so concealed as to be imperceptible?

Not according to Phyno, on whose debut No Guts No Glory, his heroes, mostly out of American hip-hop culture, are on display. The album even opens with a line from Eminem’s Without Me: “Real name, no gimmicks.”

Later, there’s Alobam, rhythm taken from Drake’s Worst Behaviour; and on standout track Good Die Young not only is the rap from Kanye West but the use of a Marvin Gaye sample harks back to the American’s work on Jay-z’s 2001 work, Blueprint.

Yet Guts is a triumph because of Phyno’s delivery. As expected, Igbo listeners get more mileage, but fortunately hip-hop is also about delivery as it is about lyrics; and Phyno’s delivery is remarkable. His more successful songs—including Man of the Year, Parcel— have verses riding beats so intimately one feels inseparable from the other.

Igbo rappers are not a novelty: Mr Raw (the artist formerly known as Nigga Raw) revived interest in the region for the mainstream; Ill Bliss was never really an Igbo rapper, neither was Ikechukwu. Phyno has updated Mr Raw’s flow, and if Ill Bliss and Ikechukwu sprinkled their verses with Igbo, Phyno floods his with the language.

On Icholia, MI offers:

“Ice got the north

Phyno got the east

Olamide, the west

So what’s left for you to eat baby?

I guess you gotta go down south baby

with that mouth baby

And I’m out baby.”

As characteristic of brilliantly perverse rappers, it is a double entendre—yet MI, very self-consciously, stops short of saying any of his collaborators (and rivals) transcends a region.

Well, Phyno makes a case on Man of the Year: he is, after all, the “East Coast nigga now…banging in the West.” And should his rich form on No Guts No Glory continues, he won’t have to say it himself: We’ll chant it, regions be damned.



Same Ol’ Mode


That Mode9 is still able to release albums in an industry that treats him with a shrug is a wonder.Apart from winning five consecutive Lyricist on the Roll plaques at the Hip Hop World Awards, he’s been left alone. On one hand it is tragic a rapper of such intelligence wallows in neglect while purveyors of clichés receive attention; still, it is terrific he is still making records when nearly all of his contemporaries and lyrical peers are not.
Three years after Da Vinci Mode he is back with punchlines nobody else offers. Named Alphabetical Order and in conjunction with XYZ, his producer, his newest effort has tracks literally in alphabetical order— one of the many self indulgent moves fans of the man have come to expect.

Novacane, Zoning Out, Let It Go would warm the cockles of hip hop heads, while lovers of R&B would gravitate towards Vacay and One on One.
Alphabetical Order isn’t as melodious as E Pluribus Unum his debut or as wildly inventive as his Pentium IX mixtape, but it tramples any other rap album out there; which confirms a long-standing truth: Mode9 is his own competition.


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