Blessed is undoubtedly Mohbad’s most cohesive body of work yet, celebrating his return to the music scene after a challenging period in his life and career…
By Emmanuel Okoro
When it comes to neo-street-hop and Afro-pop in Nigeria, one of the artists that have always championed it is Mohbad. 27-year-old Ilerioluwa Promise Oladimeji Aloba was born in Lagos and immersed himself in the sounds of the street, a move that significantly influenced his music. Like many artists of his generation, Mohbad utilised social media platforms like Instagram to showcase his skills by creating covers and freestyles of popular songs. This approach proved successful and caught the attention of Marlian Records, owned by the renowned Afrobeats and street-hop artist, Naira Marley, who recognised Mohbad’s potential and signed him to the label in 2019.
In 2020, Mohbad released his debut EP, Light, which featured standout tracks like “Ponmo Sweet” featuring Lil Kesh and Naira Marley, and “Father Abraham.” But it wasn’t the project that caught on music lovers. Rather, it was “KPK (Ko Por Ke),” a hit single that unofficially ushered the Amapiano wave in Nigeria and took his career to even greater heights. The infectious beats, catchy chorus, and Mohbad’s energetic delivery resonated with listeners, making the song a nationwide anthem.
Mohbad’s career trajectory following the success of “KPK” continued with the release of “Feel Good,” another hit that further sustained his run, with both songs earning nominations in the “Best Street-Hop Artiste” category at the 2022 Headies Awards.
However, Mohbad faced challenges in 2022, including his departure from Marlian Records and an unfortunate encounter with the NDLEA (National Drug Law Enforcement Agency) that threatened his career. Despite these setbacks, Mohbad is back stronger and resilient with a sophomore EP, Blessed, forerunning with “Pariwo” with Bella Shmurda and “Ask about Me.” Blessed marks a new era in Mohbad’s life and artistry, showcasing his determination to overcome challenges and continue making music that resonates with the street. The project is Mohbad’s chance to re-establish his status as one of Nigeria’s promising acts.
The extended play opens with “Beast & Peace,” taking up an evocative and powerful soundscape. The song features thumping drums that resemble a war cry, coupled with the enchanting sounds of a violin, setting a poignant backdrop for Mohbad’s lyrics. Here, Mohbad delves into his struggles and reflects on his journey from a difficult past to a place of gratitude and triumph. It makes sense that the song is titled “Beast & Peace,” symbolising the internal and external battles Mohbad has fought the previous year, and the peace he now experiences.
“Sabi” comes next, and opens with sparse violin and defiant drums, creating a sensory backdrop that sets the tone for Mohbad’s impactful lyrics. Here, he reflects on his journey to the limelight, acknowledging the challenges he faced and overcame. Despite being underrated by some of his peers, he remains steadfast in his belief in his abilities as an artiste. The track is a testament to his resilience and determination to prove his worth in the music industry. “Sabi” is not just a showcase of his unquestionable street-hop artistry but an expression of gratitude and determination.
Blessed picks up with the Afrobeat, Fuji, and Amapiano-infused rendition, “Account Balance.” Mohbad’s signature style shines through as he reminds listeners of his hit-making ability through the bouncy and infectious tune. Using street metaphors, the song lyrics tell us that the quest for financial stability has led his people on the “streets” to prioritise more productive endeavours rather than engage in violence. Mohbad taps Zlatan, who brings a new dimension to the song, as he talks about familiar themes such as money, women, and high-end jewellery. These are subjects that resonate deeply with the “streets” and its inhabitants. The combination of Mohbad’s and Zlatan’s unique storytelling abilities, complemented by the captivating instrumental arrangement, results in a catchy and lighthearted track.
Mohbad’s reflective and emotive side takes centre stage on the next number, “Omo Mi.” The song’s atmospheric backdrop, characterised by distorted drum rolls and violin runs, immediately sets a poignant tone, drawing listeners into the depth of emotion that Mohbad expresses. Here, Mohbad pays tribute to a significant figure in his life, a lady who has been a steadfast supporter, standing by his side through both challenging and triumphant times. The heartfelt lyrics convey gratitude, admiration, and a deep sense of connection to this special person who has been instrumental in his journey from struggles to fame and fortune. “Omo Mi” exhibits Mohbad’s range as an artist, demonstrating his ability to craft high-energy street anthems and introspective tracks that delve into his personal experiences. “Omo Mi” is undoubtedly one of Mohbad’s best offerings on Blessed.
Mohbad takes listeners on a journey of gratitude and thanksgiving on “Blessing,” which comes next. The track features a captivating blend of saxophone riffs, busy piano chords, and heavy bass. This intricate and well-crafted instrumentation elevates the track to one of the standout productions on the EP. In “Blessing,” Mohbad acknowledges the presence of negativity, and people with hidden agendas who may wish him failure in his musical pursuits. Despite these external pressures, he remains resilient and focused on his journey. “Blessing” also delves into the role of faith and spirituality in Mohbad’s life. He highlights the impact of visiting the church and receiving light, signifying a source of strength and guidance that has supported him through difficult times.
“La Pio Pio” sees the ex-Marlian soldier marching into familiar territory, infusing the song with street lingua laden with sexual innuendos. The NiphKeys-produced Afrobeat sensation sets a lively and energetic tone from the beginning, with vibrating shakers, sparse log drums, hints of bells, and Fuji elements, creating an infectious and captivating instrumental backdrop. “La Pio Pio” is a powerful rendition that connects Mohbad to his roots and influences. The infusion of Fuji elements pays homage to the traditional music of his culture, incorporating it seamlessly into the contemporary Afrobeat sound.
“Ask about Me,” one of the Blessed’s leading singles, sees Mohbad touching on the challenges and dark moments that hovered around him in the previous year. The song is set against a Nektunez Amapiano-laden production with choir backup vocals, creating a dynamic and engaging soundscape. Mohbad confidently asserts that he has come a long way and has achieved significant progress. He makes it clear that he is no longer in the same place he once was. As he sings about earning in local and foreign currencies, Mohbad underscores his success and financial prosperity, showcasing the tangible rewards of his hard work and dedication to his craft.
The journey ends with the collaborative track, “PARIWO,” with Afrobeats singer, Bella Shmurda, a fitting choice that brings the overarching theme of gratitude to the forefront. Together, they celebrate their journeys in the music scene while delivering a powerful message of staying focused and true to oneself. Through the lyrics of “PARIWO,” Mohbad and Bella Shmurda express their gratitude for their rise to fame and fortune, acknowledging the challenges they encountered. The track becomes a reminder to remain undeterred by the obstacles and to keep pushing forward despite any setbacks. “PARIWO” encapsulates the essence of the entire project, emphasising the theme of gratitude that has been present throughout.
Blessed is undoubtedly Mohbad’s most cohesive body of yet, celebrating his return to the music scene after a challenging period in his life and career. The EP showcases Mohbad’s unique taste for luscious production, with the tracks featuring rich and captivating instrumentals that enhance the overall listening experience.
In 20 minutes, Blessed covers a range of themes, each carefully crafted to convey Mohbad’s journey and emotions. Throughout the project, Mohbad delves into faith, determination, gratitude, love, and tranquillity, touching on reflective and uplifting themes. In hindsight, Blessed is a powerful statement of Mohbad’s evolution as an artist, demonstrating his ability to rise above any setbacks and obstacles he faced in the past. It is tangible proof of his ability to soar beyond any setback and take flight.
Lyricism – 1.5
Tracklisting – 1.3
Sound Engineering – 1.6
Vocalisation – 1.4
Listening Experience – 1.6
Emmanuel Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde