The 042 music scene has produced remarkable artists into the Nigerian music canon. The OGs include Mr. Raw and MC Loph and Flavour. The Eastern state of Enugu is known for its articulation of sounds, amplifying several movements in one swoop, artists like Phyno who combine the genres of Hip Hop — which most depicted street life and everyday struggles — with Highlife, the soundtrack of happier moments. Other bodacious acts to emerge from its scene are Charlie X, PayBac iBoro, Kemena, Elveektor, Barzini, all of them wholesomely embracing of its ideal of amorphous musicality.
Barzini was a member of the now defunct group Mars and Barzini, who in 2018 released their debut project In Spirit. A stab at the themes of identity and introspection, Native Mag complemented the duo for “[making] hip-hop more accessible,” noting how “Mars and Barzini are also employing the use of comedy, pidgin-based rhymes and light social commentary channeled through a youthful often boyish point of view.”
Beloved 2: The King’s Opening, Barzini’s second project this year, draws similarly from influences. Barzini has, since he embarked on his solo career, crafted excellent music from the finer details of his mind. Even as a rapper, he fluidly moves through markers and movements, such that only his artistic vision remains. On TKO, he situates excursion into relative themes like resilience, family and artistry, within some of the most eccentric beats you’ll hear.
2020, for many, has been synonymous with pain. Barzini, making music without the limitations of a label, knows to paint his own reality and for many creatives this year it is one of despair. But as always, music has generally relieved stress and inspired achievable goals. From the onset, TKO reveals itself a product of a creative’s thoughts. The ambitious opener “God Not King” with its lucid lyricism achieves balance where many would channel their inner Jesse Jagz. Attacking the boundless production with fiery promise, Barzini stakes a claim to his yet under acknowledged name. “They don’t seem to get it, how the boy raps so good/ and still write songs and sing so good,” he boasts. Moments before, he swears that “[he’ll] keep it popping, don’t care if I’m taking my audio door to door/ until the people say they want some more.”
This admirable combination of talent and hard work makes Barzini one of the more likable musicians out there. There’s no way you’d listen to “Mr Nwobodo” and not feel warm across the chest. You say “finally, a man who understands.” That record, the third track in this eight song EP, floats and descends, first from its production, swooning keys built around the confident drums which are neither quiet or loud; it descends through the mildly scratchy texture of Barzini’s voice and its potency as a conduit for the riveting storytelling. Dare I call it a classic, Nwobodo “Barzini” Amechi relates his come up, the nights in Nsukka, his signing to Aboriginal Records (which later turned sour), the dissolution of Mars and Barzini, the dream to one day rock the 02 Arena. His plan to achieve these is to keep moving, small step after small step. “Mr Nwobodo,” he asks rhetorically, “how do you stay strong after everything? How are you still ready to attack anything? Aren’t you fazed by anything?” The shout out to 042 elders Xploit and ODC is quite refreshing, seeing as they almost never get flowers for how influential they’ve been to the movement.
If “Mr. Nwobodo” is the calm-in-the-storm record, “Rugged You” holds up a picture of the man within the storm. Set to the project’s most abrasive beat, Barzini reps Port Harcourt and craftily employs animated street lingo to pass his message. “No over cap, use or head or dem go forget you” is the life saving wisdom you won’t find on Twitter. During the nationwide #EndSars protests, users of the bird app were enamored by the language of Port Harcourt which, as they were duly told, was in fact cult speech. And therein lies the wisdom of the highlighted lyric.
Love and its many variants, finds its way to The King’s Opening. In that regard “Killing Goat” is the best song on the tape, presenting some ingenuity of engagement with a theme that’s gone through many centuries of usage. PayBac iBoro, who appears on two songs, absolutely murders Killing. A genius at finding impossibly exciting pockets in his rhymes, the CULT! rapper drops two spellbinding verses on either side of Barzini’s nostalgic chorus. “Killing goat, looking yansh, open mouth” draws some inspiration, I’m sure, from a Flavour record although going back as “The Cougar Song,” PayBac has been making earworms from romantic affairs. (Also, on Killing, Gbenga “Jegzy” Adebayo’s guitar is so luminous it comes alive in the mind’s eye.) On three songs, including the stirring closer “Beautiful Ones”, that effervescence is evoked and to beautiful effect.
On Beloved: The King’s Opening, Barzini oversees an excellent combination of elements (story arc, excellent features, production, creative direction and art cover) and emerges on the other side quite the accomplished artist. The King’s Opening condenses wholesome experiences and not like anything you’ve heard. And that, precisely, is the reason it’s something you must hear.
WRITTEN BY: Emmanuel Esomnofu
INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER- @EEsomnofu
For Urban Central
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