Friday, 1 December 2017

A Storyteller At 27: A Review of The "27" Album

By 'Joba Ojelabi

Rap is sacred, at least in its original and unadulterated form. Making art from nothing but words and a rhythm requires a fine level of creativity and effort. Standing out in this art however becomes even more tasking if a fine number of people have explored and mastered the art. Within the Nigerian music industry alone, there have been countless rappers who have emerged with distinct approaches to the art: From the more elitist style of M.I, to the indigenous bars of the likes of Olamide, Phyno and a host of others, rap can have different meanings to a listener. And unlike singing, an artist might not be able to hide his/her inadequacies behind sweet melodies and high pitches. Barrister Folarin Falana is a name that should not be strange to most Nigerians, not because of his exploits in defending human rights like his father and mother, at least not in a court room. Falz as he is more commonly called is known for his hybrid bars. Somehow, the 27 year old artist has found a way in fine ingenuity to blend elitism with indigenousness.

After making an entry into the industry with his Wahzup Guy album which did quite a good job at introducing Falz’s style of music which he has since branded Wahzup music, Folarin established himself as a storyteller in subsequent tracks and ultimately his second studio album; Stories that Touch. Of course, mastering the art of storytelling is often a good thing for a rapper. Nothing says good rap than being able to organize the right words into a delicious rhythm to tell a good story. Sadly, as much as there are many who have been faithful apostles in this gospel, there have also been fake prophets; wannabes who have only insulted the art. However, Falz once again reestablishes himself as an old new kind of rapper as he brings back his peculiar style of storytelling in 27.

Released on the 27th October 2017, the day the rapper clocked 27 years of age, the 27 album came as a surprise to fans as the album was unannounced before release. This, as expected, leaves any true listener of Falz unsettled till every track on the album is scored. If his birthday was going to bring a surprise, it might as well have been a pleasant surprise.

However, the first seeming disjointedness arises from the name of the album and its content. An artist born on a 27th releasing an album with the name “27” on his 27th birthday is expected to somehow marry the art expressed in the album with its title, at least with some level of selfish storytelling. It is not wrong to expect that Falz in the course of the album gives some insight on why he chose that number which seems quite recurrent in his current circumstances, sadly this does not come in the 58 minutes that 27 occupies in any listener’s life even though the album opens with “Polished”, a track that reintroduces Falz’s alter egos and the artistic marriage that makes Folarin and Boda Taju one and the same. Falz promises his sophistication in both an English and Yoruba accent and switches between both with such convenience that might just once again certify him a master of his art from the very beginning of the album. He then goes on to even make it more interesting on La Fete as he adds French to the list of languages with which he tells his stories.

The first feature on the album comes next with Burna Boy coming on to deliver on the chorus of Alright; a romantic reassurance for two young lovers planning to elope. Unlike Burna however, Falz steps a little out of his comfort zone as he holds on to a part of the chorus. And somehow, the rapper tries not to get too outshined on the vocal expedition. Jeje then brings some groove with a gentle but danceable beat that gives Falz’s lyrics a fine home.

Falz however brings on his classical storytelling skills in Child of the World as he goes full throttle on the typical youthful narrative, specifically from the feminine perspective. The title of the song itself being indicated to have come from the Yoruba translation of the phrase; Omo Aye. Child of the World’s story is one condemnation, redemption and most importantly admonition. All of these Falz captures in 4 minutes and 25 seconds during which he speaks of untimely pregnancies, single parenting, child abuse, prostitution and a number of other pressing societal themes. Sir Dauda, the only featured act to appear twice on the album then comes on Boogie and delivers, reminding us in the process why rapping and singing are not the same. The Lamba song is another song that stands out on the album not so much for its lyrics but more for its production which is allegedly handled by Studio Magic. Well, the song most certainly carries some magic. Get Me stands at number 8 and Wande Coal reminds us of the age-long reality that being school smart is not being street smart, or as the Yoruba put it, eni t’omo way l’omowe in Way. I Do It is simply just another statement of the rapper’s and indeed most artistes’ reality. Something Light offers us something light with Ycee corroborating Falz’s comically serious rap style. Then we have Le Vrai Bahd Guy, My Money, and Confirm; which brings back Sir Dauda and somehow preaches integrity even in the hustle, building on the foundation already laid by Way.
Next takes on the collective effort of Maleek Berry and Medikal to round off the new tracks as Wehdone sir and Bahd, Baddo, Baddest close the album.

One would expect that an album with a title like 27 released on the rappers 27th birthday which is also a 27th should give any listener a peek into the artiste’s past 27 years, at least to some extent. And although Folarin Falana’s 17-track album almost absolutely does not comes close in this area, it tries to make up in the quality of its production and of course, Falz’s witty lyrics. It might not be too much of surprise to learn that 27 stands tall amongst the Nigerian Rap albums of the year 2017, even though there’s not a lot to actually compete with. With 27, Falz reminds us why his not using his Law degree is easily forgivable, the young artist is a good storyteller and if anything, the world can never have enough Storytellers. The question with 27 then remains; was that story really good enough?
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