Blaqbonez displays artistic maturity in his attention to detail, thematic cohesiveness, and stylistic versatility…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Blaqbonez does not seem to ever take breaks. Barely 18 months after Sex Over Love, and 4 months after Behold the Lamb (a joint project with M.I Abaga and A-Q), Blaqbonez blesses us with his second full-length album, Young Preacher.
Blaqbonez made a name for himself in the underground rap scene over a number of years by dominating various rap competitions, participating in cyphers, and releasing a smattering of mixtapes. He landed properly in the limelight around 2019. He was signed to Chocolate City and released his Bad Boy Blaq EP through their 100 Crowns imprint.
That year saw him bag a number of accolades that seemed to point to him as one of the emerging flagbearers of African Hip-Hop. While his rap talent is undeniable, his appeal was strengthened by his vibrant, comedic, and unusual persona. His rambunctious attitude on social media meant he was constantly amassing interactions and generating buzz around his work.
He dipped his toes in the Afropop pool and was met with acclaim there as well. Fans were drawn to his personality and stayed for the musical dexterity. He has created a niche for himself that allows him to oscillate between the worlds of Hip-Hop and Pop (in the same vein as someone like Drake), and the maturation of this duality is evident all over Young Preacher.
(Read also: Moliy Captures a Sour Relationship on “Honey Doom”)
The project begins with the eponymous “Young Preacher” on which Blaqbonez introduces the central thematic conceits of the album. He dubs himself a young preacher because he is about to give a sermon on the gospels of life, love, women, sex, fame, hustling, etc. based on his experiences.
This idea is confirmed by the voiceover outro that says, “This was a message from the Young Preacher. To listen to messages on critical thinking, the streets, and university hoes, press play.” Ramoni provides a quintessential Hip-Hop beat comprising powerful organs, swinging keys and trumpets, jazzy basses, and groovy live drums.
The icing on the instrumental cake is sampled chops from Styl-Plus’s throwback hit, “Runaway.” Blaqbonez rides this beat with honest bars delivered with a punchy energetic flow. “Shawty acting cute but I can tell that she crazy, Cut her off cause I see through the see-throughs and the fake shit, This is wise words from a nigga who done fucked all kinds of chicks,” he tells us over the soulful instrumental. Although the lyrics on this song don’t seem focused on one particular topic, they serve as a sort of table of contents for the rest of the project.
Young Preacher kicks off in earnest with “Hot Boy,” a song that begins with Reggae-infused guitars and dancehall-inspired drums. Over this bounce, Blaqbonez brags about his sexual prowess and perpetual hotness. His lyrics are brash and explicit in the way we have come to expect of an artiste who regularly references “BBC” in his songs.
He even does so here again, saying, “If she come around I give her BBC, Bomboclaat me spread her legs like gymnastics, Me part it, Eat that booty, me nah care if it’s plastic.” However, something about the playfulness of his delivery tones down the crassness of the words.
The keen listener will catch interesting harmonies and melodic ad-libs that add extra flavour to the track. The song then makes a dramatic transition signalled by heavy Afroswing drums and a switch to a more rap-focused delivery.
In this section, he makes a statement that will be relevant to the rest of the album and its topics. “They told me toxic music is selling, But this one no be sales, this is real life, tell ‘em, Share my pain then I count my blessing.” This line sticks out to me because, while one can say that the subject matter of the album might be exaggerated for entertainment value, Blaqbonez is reminding the listener that these heightened stories are real-world realities for many people.
“Whistle” is a soft and sweet offering that enlists the silky vocals of Lojay and Amaarae. Wailing strings and a simple Dancehall drum pattern serve as the backdrop for a tale of enchantment to be spun. “See as I report, I go run like a dog to your whistle,” Lojay admits on the catchy chorus.
However, before you are tempted to think the song is fully wholesome, he adds, “Streets na cruise, And them go cheat on you, So if you get your boo, You better guard your boo.” Lojay and Amaarae shoulder the bulk of the song and deliver deliciously. Their vocals swim beautifully over the instrumentals, disguising clever, naughty wordplay with romantic, sugary melodies.
Next up is “FashionNova,” produced by Grammy-winning British-Ghanaian producer, JAE5. He bestows Blaqbonez with an instrumental in his signature style; a minimalist Afrobeats bop with energetic percussion-driven drums, thick bass runs, and sparse melodic phrases. On this song, Blaqbonez displays his mastery of melodies.
He employs an array of rhythms and tones that keep the listener engrossed and engaged. His singing is surprisingly strong, with smooth vocals and rich supporting harmonies. The lyricism on this track is simple yet witty. He makes references to Santi and the alté scene, as well as makes a reference to Zinoleesky that is perfectly tied in with an interpolation of the latter’s hit song “Ma Pariwo.”
JAE5 strikes again on the next track, “Back in Uni,” which garnered a lot of buzz when its video released. The song sees Blaqbonez reminiscing on the folly, infidelity, and toxicity he got up to in his younger days. “All the hearts I broke in Lekki, only God fit to protect me. All the lies I told them girlies, goddamn I’m way too reckless, My girlfriend way back in uni, some things she’ll never know…”
The kicker is that the song isn’t approached through the lens of regret, but more along the lines of a cautionary tale that espouses the way of the world. As such, the instrumental is rather upbeat and lively, featuring fast-paced Afroswing drums, pounding 808 basses, and bright chords.
(Read also: Blaqbonez’s “Back in Uni” Music Video Is a Witty Collage of Famous Cinematic Cuts)
“Fake Nikes” is our first return to pure Hip-Hop. Blaqbonez addresses fashion and the expectations on celebrities like him to always be decked out in designer clothes. “Name brands don’t guarantee drip though, Half y’all look stupid in Gucci, I look hard as fuck bruh I’m Gucci, I just buy what I want no pressure,” he informs us over a classic sombre hip-hop beat comprising of solemn vocal samples, warm pianos, and slow drums. His flow is measured and delivered in a very matter-of-fact manner.
This song shows off rap Blaqbonez in full stride. The chorus is delivered as smoothly as the verses and features heavenly choral supporting vocals that lend the song an old-school sensibility. This stands in nice contrast with the verse delivered by Blxckie, which leans more towards the contemporary auto-tuned mumble rap style a la the likes of Yung Thug.
“Ring Ring” continues in the hip-hop direction, boasting an extremely lively beat built around rapid-fire hi-hats and chopped-up melodics. On this cut, Blaqbonez waxes poetic about dodging correspondence with a casual hook-up who seems to be demanding more. “I know you like that, Wanna get soured up in that G-spot, Gonna bite back, if you waiting for my text you go die there, You wanna wait on my text, then you gonna be depressed.”
This song is another showcase of Blaqbonez’s humourous penmanship, which he uses to poke fun at typical relationship problems. Tay Iwar makes an impactful appearance on the track, providing his unique vocal texture to soften up the song a bit. He assists Blaqbonez on the chorus, holds his own on a euphonic verse, then supplies angelic ad-libs for the outro of the song.
“Loyalty” is a melodic Hip-Hop song that samples Paul Play’s “Forever.” On this slightly melancholic tune, Blaqbonez confesses his lack of loyalty to a potential lover when he sings. “You know I’ll probably fuck around and cheat, ‘cause you want some loyalty and I can’t give you loyalty.” There is a sombreness to the song that implies that perhaps Blaqbonez does feel a bit of remorse about being this way. The remorse is conveyed excellently in the tone of his delivery.
“She Like Igbo” is probably one of the best put together interludes I have heard in a while. It is produced by Ozedikus and features sax passages from Fela Kuti’s stellar “Water No Get Enemy.” Blaqbonez lays down a short and simple verse about a lady who is more infatuated with marijuana than she is with him. He does this over complex jazzy drums and a funky bassline. A brief voiceover skit completes the interlude.
We head back down the Afropop lane with “Ess Mama.” This song features Tekno and his trademark danceable delivery over an archetypal Afrobeats instrumental courtesy of Blaise Beats. Blaqbones and Tekno describe a situation in which they make very direct advances to a woman they intend to take to bed. “Ess mama, Me no get time to waste mama, Me no wan complicate mama.
If you get yansh make you shake mama,” they declare on the chorus. The simplicity that Tekno brings in his songwriting is a perfect complement to the subject matter as it resonates with the directness of the approach described in the song. There is no time for complex lyrics and verbose wooing when all they want is a quick tryst.
“Mazoe” softens the energy and is a bit more sincere and effusive. Takura and Sauti Sol’s Bien take over this track with their rich timbres and sensual lyrics. The song delves into a relationship that is seemingly centered around its sexual components. In a way that is similar to “Whistle,” the sonorous harmonies and dulcet tones of the featured singers allow sexually explicit subject matters to be addressed in a more amorous way than one might expect.
Blaqbonez turns in a verse that matches the energy of his guests but he sprinkles in a dash of trouble, saying “If you no get another man, I got another girl.” There seems to be a very intentional effort not to let any of the love songs get too wholesome.
(Read also: Iyanya’s “The 6th Wave” EP Is a Return to Form for the Afrobeats Icon)
“Star Life” is another soft Afrobeats jam built on smooth chords, supporting saxes, Amapiano log drums, and clacking percussions. Blaqbonez utilises moving group vocals and sweet refrains to elucidate the shortcomings of the fast life that he lives as a celebrity, admitting “Sometimes I get lonely, And I need someone to hold me.”
“Back on BS” is a subdued Hip-Hop spin on which Blaqbonez persuades a lover to return to their depraved ways with him. “Don’t worry about your boyfriend. It’s sweeter when you are unfaithful,” he suggests. The sad pianos, morose organs, and bumping drums play host to very straightforward flows and tempered delivery.
Young Preacher closes out with “I’d Be Waiting” which gets its name from the sampled segment of Asa’s “360°.” This track is a braggadocious, self-aggrandising cut on which Blaqbonez explains what sets him apart from other rappers. He lists his accolades and documents his rise to fame candidly. “I sold out M.O Park, I mean I’m carrying ‘cause no other rappers could do that shit, And that ain’t arrogance,” he brags.
Altogether, Young Preacher is a project that is greater than the sum of its parts. Blaqbonez displays artistic maturity in his attention to detail, thematic cohesiveness, and stylistic versatility. Every track is impeccably assembled. The production is creative and effective across the board. The pronounced inclusion of samples shows the intention and expertise employed in the creation of the beats. Frequent voiceovers and skits tie the different songs together as part of one congruent whole. Blaqbonez goes above expectations with the layers he fills each song with.
Across the project, you will find tasteful harmonies, exemplary use of gang vocals, and subtle backups. The song-writing keeps Blaqbonez in character regardless of the particular tone of the song. His lyricism is less focused on snappy punchlines and is instead centered around tongue-in-cheek honesty. Like a skilled comedian, he plays out situations in ways that seem entertainingly hyperbolic, but in doing so, he cuts to the heart of the issue and points out relatable truths.
And, although Blaqbonez is appraised to be a prominent voice in African Hip-Hop, his commercial appeal and versatility is embodied in the fact that a greater percentage of the album leans more to Pop than Rap. While Hip-Hop fans might have hoped for differently tipped scales, I think any fan of music would find a number of things to thoroughly enjoy on this album.
Lyricism – 1.5
Tracklisting – 1.5
Sound Engineering – 1.5
Vocalisation – 1.5
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 7.5/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.