It’s been a busy year for the Ibile rap god – signing new talent, burnishing his rap reach through collaborations with the Nigerian-American Rapper, Wale and whetting appetites with features and videos.
El Hadj comes after the critical disappointment that is Baba Hafusa; a 17 track album which opens with Asalamalekun, an effort released earlier in the year. Where I Come From is where his intent for the album becomes clear, a mid tempo hood tale produced by Sossick. Here, he describes his area during pre and post elections, the raw tension that descends on the neighbourhood, the desperation of youth and his own ability to navigate the its dangers ‘Y’all already know my name na, Alhaji Kowope , Money on my mind every day, omo mi o f’owo sere’.
Reminisce made an album for the time, the mood very nearly matches that of the country; no overt materialism, hope over despair and there’s plenty of it. On the heart rending I Remember, a coming of age tale that details his personal loss, perseverance, and triumph. This song is to Reminisce as Ghetto Dreams is to Da Grin and it’s unsurprising that the same man was behind crafting the mood for the track. Sossick, a criminally underrated producer who has been behind crafting the prevailing sound for the second wave of Yoruba rap – think back to the dark, unapologetic punchiness of Pon Pon Pon and his turn on Ghetto Dream’s chorus. I Remember is an appropriately sparse production with the piano keys wringing even more feeling from the song. It wouldn’t be too much to say Reminisce and Sossick made a Nigerian rap classic with this song. He’d been capable of being this kind of storytelling all along, but the story itself reveals his reluctance ‘ma ka poly ti’n ba shey tan, igba me lo lo ma fi n blow, but calculations me wrong, learnt that now with each song, rap game yi ya weyrey gan, seven year mi fi blow’ (I’ll attend a poly, how long does it take to blow? But my calculations were wrong, learnt that with each song; this rap game is a madness). He can be excused for going the overtly commercial route when he does, his success was a long time coming.
This isn’t to say Reminisce is all grimy rapper dude on this record; Ibadi with Sossick on the hook represents a high – A contemporary trap joint, delivered in a husky self assured drawl; as joints for the ladies go, it is a success. Then there’s Simple Boyfeaturing 9ice, a song sweet enough to forgive 9ice’s ridiculous ‘See your nipple, see your dimple’ line. If Sossick gave this album a feel, Terry Apala gave it a delicious jolt, an almost show-stealing turn with his neo-apala feature on Skit; that this isn’t a full song is mild disappointment.
El Hadj is the album Reminisce was always capable of making, a really good marriage of production, lyrics and relevance and he owed it to his own legacy to make music with more than the usual testosterone rap or party jams. Old habits die hard though, Owo Reis a joint that sounds like one he left off Baba Hafusa; its base vulgarity not quite fitting on this mature offering. The same can be said of Konsignment. It’s a joint we’ve heard before in one guise or the other, and it would not have been missed had it been left off. Telephone featuring Olamide, a lamba joint with that signature YBNL sound is a mediocre joint that appears to have been done out of habit as opposed to a creative need; the guest having appeared on at least three Reminisce albums.
El Hadj is a journey, a reawakening, a commitment to being a better Baba Hafusa and it’s a rebirth in many ways. He’s since parted with Edge, his long term management to be repped by his own imprint, Les Roses Rouges. He’s also signed the rather lyrically impressive Ola Dips, the young protégé who steals the show on Oloun, a hustler’s prayer of a song. The record is also contemporary Nigerian rap album.
Reminisce has pretty much found his niche with El Hadj, his versatility and depth on full display without alienating those he fondly refers to as ‘awon temi’ (the streets) but the street is more than dance, many a fan will be able to see himself in his journey on I Remember and in the neighbourhood as unpacked on Where I Come From as well as these joints; This is a grown man rap album for the most part. Coming at a time when other top rap cats are crooning on tracks, Reminisce has stayed true to his first love. Hard-hitting rap joints like Asalamalekun, Feego, Oloun, Where I Come from are for the rap purists who might have felt ignored on his last record.
El Hadj is a very good album, well-produced and delivered, Reminisce almost delivers the perfect body of work his talent is capable of. Almost.
This album is rated 7.5/10
You can follow the writer, Tola Sarumi on Twitter :- @AfroVII
*The opinions expressed in this article/review are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of notjustOk.com.*