Rated doesn’t sound like the much-desired update on Ceeza Milli’s artistry; rather, it raises some questions about his talent…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
In the music industry, Ceeza Milli is known first as a songwriter, secondly as a singer, and thirdly as a close affiliate of Wizkid, and the Star Boy Records crew.
Ifeanyi Charles Bosah’s interest in music got heightened during his sojourn to Ghana. There, he released several mixtapes to wider acclaim. One prominent feature of Milli’s sound is Ghana’s palm wine music, attributable to his year in that West African state.
Ceeza Milli was signed to Aristocrat records in 2017. The ubiquitous, Wizkid-powered “Shayo” was one of the beautiful end products of that relationship. In the first quarter of 2020, Ceeza Milli released his debut album, “Diamond in the Rough.” Two years later, he returns with a new project, Rated, an independent release with a distribution deal with Not Just OK.
The first voice you hear on Ceeza Milli’s project doesn’t come from him. It’s from a clip off an interview with Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo. In less than fifteen seconds of audio, Fela enunciated some points about music, and the place of that art in society. This is obliterated by some crowd vocals, and later Ceeza Milli’s voice. Milli goes political when he says, “Na Who Give The Order.” It is not a question but an attention-seeking line. It shows the artiste shares the agony of his people, who still await answers after the horrific October 20, 2020 Lekki Massacre.
“Lesson,” which opens this project, is a mélange of different emotions. It starts from enlightenment, swirls to anxiety, and ends in gratitude. The incredible Abuja Metropolitan Music Society (Amemuso Choir) were on hand to lend their vocals to the uplifting mood of the song.
At the end of Fela’s short sermon, Ceeza Milli goes in: “My brother, tell me the matter, why you dey judge me?” This might sound like an open confrontation, but they are only the words of a distraught artiste. Ceeza Milli seeks clarity, and has volumes of toned-down questions for his haters on this song.
The artiste dedicates the last part of the song to thanksgiving. While he faces a lot of troubles, God has been faithful, it seems to say. The choir did an incredible job by amplifying this with their voices. At the end of the three-minutes-, twelve-seconds song, Milli cleverly kills more than one bird. He addresses the age-long belief in the industry about his pride, tells his part of the story, and at the same time takes the listeners to the church without going to the cathedral.
British-Nigerian rapper-songwriter, Sammie Cash’s infectious genre-blending verses become the yin to Ceeza Milli’s yang on the carefree-themed “Paper.” The second song of this project slices between Dancehall, Trap, and Afrobeats. It’s curated in such a way that it appeals to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and the Caribbean. It’s not Ceeza Milli’s forte. He only tries, but Sammie Cash takes home the trophy as he relates a story about a girl who wants to have a nice time. Ceeza Milli’s is fixated on his lifestyle, battle with enemies, and, more essentially, the cool, nice time out with the most beautiful girls around. “Paper” is a self-conceited song, best suited for the next narcissist around.
For an artiste who took a two-year break from school to hustle, for his younger brothers to go to school, you feel it best when Ceeza Milli says lines like “I came, I conquer, I just bought my mom a crib,” on “M.O.M.” (Money On My Mind). It’s a victory song. He goes further with lines like: “You can see me balling, my nigga.” He then switches to name-calling of luxury brands. The song shares some thematic similarities with the opener. Ceeza Milli has never forgotten his naysayers, and this time around, he switches things up a bit as he traps over a boisterous drum and sunny synth beat. It’s a gratitude and prayer-filled song. Sometimes, he goes somber, as he calls on God for protection and guidance.
“Big Talk” permeates life, parties, and money. Lyrically, it is never far away from the previous three tracks. It’s still all about the money. The production is still pristine and his vocals share similarities with Wizkid. By the time the song races to a close, you get bored with Ceeza Milli’s antics. The production might be forward-leaning, but the tropes sound cliche and predictable. The lyrics are not stately, this project would have been better off without this track.
Released over two months ago, “Chop Life” is a palm wine music-inflected track. While the remix currently ranks impressive numbers on streaming platforms, the original made this project. Drenched in money talks, party, and self-acclamation, money talks provide the platform for Ceeza Milli to express himself. While he might still be bothered about his haters, he still creates time for the party. Ceeza Milli knows what he’s capable of. In the second verse, he says, “Bad Boy Milli, they know who I am.”
Does this project in any way uplift his Diamond in the Rough album? Definitely not. Rated is not the stately follow-up project the fans expected. It is a constricted project. Although Milli’s fans might have expected some love songs, Milli only wanted to have fun and bask in his Lavida Loca lifestyle.
From an initial title of “Underrated,” to “Rated,” one would have expected Ceeza Milli to make all the five tracks count; however, this never materialised. The first and third tracks are a cut from each other, and the lyrics of the other songs are watered down. For an artiste who claimed to be rated, this shouldn’t have been.
Rated doesn’t sound like the much-desired update on Ceeza Milli’s artistry; rather, it raises some questions about his talent, and it makes one wonder if he’s not better off as a songwriter than a singer.
Emmanuel Daraloye is a music critic with over 400 album reviews in his archive. His bylines have appeared in Tribune Newspaper, Vanguard Newspaper, Punch Newspaper, Guardian Newspaper, Sahara Reporters, The Cable News, Legit News, The Lagos Review, Modern Ghana Web, Ranks Magazine, and many other blogs and online platforms.