Altogether, DUST marks the end of an era for Priddy Ugly, solidifying his legacy as a storyteller, lyricist, and artiste who dared to be true to himself. It’s not just the last album; it’s a timeless piece of art that captures the essence of a career well-lived.
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Priddy Ugly was born Ricardo Moloi on April 2, 1992, in Luanda, Angola, and raised in Meadowlands and later in Kempton Park, South Africa. His journey to musical prominence has been as diverse as it has been impactful. A natural achiever from his teenage years, he initially showcased his prowess in athletics before the world came to know him as a lyrical maestro.
During high school, Priddy Ugly wasn’t just making waves on the track; he also delved into dance, winning accolades such as the Best Male Dancer award at the St. Peter’s National Dance Tournament at the age of 15. His journey through various dance groups eventually led him to the Krunk Era, later renamed Blaque, a boy group signed by H.U.G.E Entertainment in 2007.
The year 2010 marked a pivotal moment in Priddy Ugly’s career as he signed with Aviator Management as a solo artiste. His early releases found a place on The Take Off, a compilation album featuring Aviator Management artistes. In 2012, he dropped The Ugly Truth, a mixtape that set the stage for his solo career. From then on, Priddy Ugly’s impact on the Hip-Hop scene – spanning over a decade and a half – might not have been the largest, but it has been consistent.
Though bidding farewell, he emphasises that his journey in music is far from over. The introspective artiste sees music not just as a career but as a spiritual expression, promising to continue creating, writing, developing artistes, styling, directing, and producing. As such, DUST becomes the symbolic conclusion to a chapter, promising to be his most honest and reflective album to date.
“Falling” opens the album, unfolding with an ethereal atmosphere characterised by haunting vocals that pierce through the silence. The instrumentation is sparse, adorned with the delicate plucking of harps to create an intimate sonic space. Priddy Ugly, true to form, navigates this gentle landscape with a steady flow that becomes the leitmotif for the entire album. As the melodic anticipation builds, the tranquillity is shattered by the arrival of hard-hitting Hip-Hop drums and resonant 808s. The sudden shift in tempo catapults listeners into a world where Priddy Ugly’s lyrical prowess takes centre stage. His delivery is a testament to his command over the art of storytelling through rap; a skill that is evident throughout the album’s runtime. Lyrically, “Falling” delves into the complexities of faith and self-confidence.
“Ntja’ka” unfolds with emotional pianos, teasing a change in direction that swiftly switches to energetic Hip-Hop drums. “Going stupid cuz they told me dumb it down”, declares Priddy Ugly, effortlessly blending profound lyricism with a nonchalant swagger. His clever wordplay is strategically woven throughout the verses, eschewing gratuitous punchlines for a nuanced expression of his lyrical finesse. Maglera Doe Boy joins in the latter half of the song, matching Priddy Ugly’s lyrical dexterity with his signature bilingual flow. As a lead single preceding the album, this track is a straight rap and it allows Priddy Ugly to display his more brash aggressive side.
“What’s the Math?” is one of the less impactful tracks, not due to its inherent quality, but rather, its contextual placement within the album. It emerges as a moment of relative restraint, coming off as a filler amidst the album’s powerful narrative. The bilingual flow and simple instrumental fail to sustain the same level of engagement as the songs neighbouring it. The introduction of female vocals on the hook goes some way in varying the sonics of the song but it’s too little too late.
Yet another entry among the lead singles, “So Disrespectful” picks up the pace, unfurling against the backdrop of Shooterkhumz and Herc Cut The Lights’ production. The duo crafts a laid-back, low-fidelity beat characterised by an undeniable bounce. Filtered sampled keys and strategically sparse drums create a canvas where Priddy Ugly and Tyson Sybateli’s lyrical prowess claims the spotlight. Both artistes delve into punchline-laced rap, seamlessly intertwining their narratives. Themes of youthful exuberance, notoriety, assertions of superiority over their peers, and a subtle yet overt declaration of their potentially dangerous personas permeate the verses.
“Piece 4 Peace” is characterised by warbled pianos and aged vocal samples. The instrumental landscape then expands with 808 kicks and a flat smacking snare, providing a fitting canvas for Priddy Ugly to traverse the terrain of defining moments in his life. As he meanders through memories, recounting both the sad and affecting, the beat undergoes a sudden switch, evolving into a sweeter and softer iteration. Within this dynamic soundscape, Priddy Ugly masterfully drops nuggets from his lived experiences, again showcasing his storytelling finesse and lyrical dexterity.
Picking up seamlessly from its predecessor, “I Ain’t Got the Answers” introduces gentle Lo-fi Hip-Hop drums, complemented by soulful vocal samples and flute passages. This track serves as a prime example of Priddy Ugly at his best, seamlessly blending storytelling, personal truths, and wisdom over mildly bouncy beats. Ginger Trill makes a noteworthy appearance, delivering a feature that maintains the bar set by Priddy Ugly. With strong, direct lyricism, smart wordplay, and a straightforward yet convincing conversational flow, Ginger Trill becomes a compelling part of this introspective narrative.
In “No Plans”, Herc Cut The Lights’ production shines brightly, featuring pitched guitar samples, a steady hi-hat pattern, and straightforward Hip-Hop drums. Saxophone accents add a touch of romance to this love-infused track, where Priddy Ugly explores themes of sex, lust, and emotional vulnerability. With soft-spoken delivery, he directs heartfelt words to his lover, promising the best of himself. The chorus, both sing-song-y and semi-rapped, exudes romantic intentions with a blend of confidence and bravado.
Pivoting hard away from the theme of love, “Rest in Power” engages in a contemplative exploration of personal, emotional, and religious facets surrounding death. Addressing a suicide close to him and deaths in his vicinity, Priddy Ugly plunges into introspection and philosophical musings. The understated instrumentals, featuring soft piano chords and a light, airy drum pattern underscored by rattling shakers, create a poignant backdrop for the artiste’s delivery of pain, doubt, confusion, and a myriad of other emotions.
With reversed piano tones ushering in a hard-hitting star-studded rap track, “Mosha” becomes a platform for straight bars and punchlines galore, like when Priddy says “My shoe game is kicking like Drogba”. The catchy chorus, not delivered in English, captivates with its musicality and rhythmic cadence. K.Keed and Blxckie contribute their unique flavours to the track, enhancing its multifaceted appeal. Throughout, Priddy Ugly’s lyricism remains sharp, with clever wordplay that elevates the overall impact of the composition.
A standout in the tracklist, “Profit” unfolds against the backdrop of cinematic strings and strummed guitars. The bouncy beat, infused with soulful vocals sampled into the instrumental, serves as a fitting foundation for Priddy Ugly to espouse his thoughts on money, its pursuit, and the complexities that accompany it. Demonstrating his knack for staying on topic, he explores various angles while dropping gems of wisdom. Children’s gang vocals contribute to the catchy tune, providing mantra-like contributions to the chorus.
Delivering more delightfully soulful production, Shooterkhumz crafts “Soul Food” with Lo-fi guitar chords, sampled vocals, bright brass lines, and a steady Boom-Bap drum arrangement. Here, Priddy Ugly bares his soul, recounting his journey and growth thus far. His engrossing delivery, seemingly simple yet profoundly captivating, draws listeners into his narrative. ZuluMecca delivers an introspective verse, inspired by his ability to encourage featured artistes to dig deep and reveal morsels of their inner selves.
Gentle pianos and jazzy hi-hats set the stage for “Family Man”, where his native-tongued intro seamlessly transitions into light drums. As Priddy switches languages, the focus shifts to the theme of family. Featuring Thato Saul, the track reflects on the idiosyncrasies and struggles that shape family units and underscores the nuanced complexities within familial dynamics. Despite the heartfelt emotion, the auto-tuned delivery in the chorus adds a hint of artificiality and retracts slightly from the possible emotional impact of the song.
The penultimate track, “Broken Home (Afrika’s Prayer)” emerges as a heartfelt composition featuring vocals from Priddy Ugly’s 3-year-old daughter, Afrika. Shooterkhumz once again delivers a fantastic instrumental, with subtle strings backing tropical strummed guitars. Spacious drums provide the rhythmic thrust over which Priddy skates with his bouncy flow. Offering rare freedom in subject matter, Priddy Ugly maintains an air of introspection and emotional openness, creating a poignant piece before we are ushered out by Afrika’s titular prayer.
As the album draws to a close, “Go On (Outro)” leaves listeners with a note of hope and emotional fortification. Priddy Ugly, providing an anchor of support, shares reflections on his perseverance through pain. Against the backdrop of emotional pianos, understated drums, and haunted horns, he imparts nuggets of wisdom on coping, pushing through, and carrying on. The outro culminates in heavenly choral vocals, serving as his final emotional outpouring to cement his legacy.
DUST stands out as a magnificent conclusion to a 17-year journey, encapsulating Priddy Ugly’s evolution, skill, and the wealth of lived experiences amassed over the years. What makes this album truly exceptional is his prowess in storytelling, a skill that takes centre stage throughout the project. Right from the opening track, we are subject to the rapper’s steady flow and powerful lyricism. From the very beginning, it’s evident that Priddy Ugly’s strength lies in the art of narrative, weaving anecdotes and stories that resonate on a profound level.
The former Lyricist of the Year winner showcases exemplary storytelling skills and profoundly introspective lyricism. Many of the album’s tracks breach the 4-minute mark, defying the trend of shorter songs in contemporary music. This deliberate choice allows Priddy Ugly to dive deep into each narrative, creating emotionally convincing and affecting deliveries over softspoken instrumentals. His ability to take his time and explore the intricacies of each story is a testament to his commitment to the art form.
Priddy Ugly’s pen game, a well-known strength, is on full display across the album. Even in tracks where punchlines aren’t the focal point, he injects clever wordplay and dextrous language, showcasing a versatility that goes beyond mere lyrical acrobatics. What sets him apart is his talent for expressing relatable ideas in unique ways, and exploring themes and topics from multiple angles. The thematic cohesiveness, coupled with a broad diversity of subject matter in DUST, is a testament to Priddy Ugly’s ability to topically traverse various facets of life and still tie everything together neatly.
The collaborations on the album further enhance its brilliance. Priddy Ugly is known to be very particular about how he selects features for an album. Expectedly, the featured artistes rise to the occasion, stepping up their game to match the pace set by Priddy Ugly. The synergy between the main artiste and collaborators creates a cohesive and engaging listening experience. Each track becomes a collaborative canvas, with all contributors adding layers of uniqueness to the narrative.
Production emerges as a stellar highlight of DUST. The producers (mostly Shooterkhumz, Herc Cut The Lights, and Mashbeatz) strike a delicate balance, crafting bouncy instrumentals that serve as the perfect canvas for Priddy Ugly’s vivid storytelling without fighting for the spotlight themselves. However, the beats, for the most part, still shine as standalone pieces, offering a relaxing and soulful experience independent of the vocal work. Although a couple of beats can feel slightly undercooked, this is a rare occurrence and only occurs when the vocals don’t carry their weight effectively. Despite these rare moments, the production remains a core strength of the album’s composition. Technical excellence is maintained throughout the project as well, with spotless engineering ensuring a seamless and immersive listening experience. The odd autotune moment on “Family Man” disrupts the perfect record, standing out as a minor glitch in an otherwise flawless execution.
Altogether, DUST marks the end of an era for Priddy Ugly, solidifying his legacy as a storyteller, lyricist, and artiste who dared to be true to himself. It’s not just the last album; it’s a timeless piece of art that captures the essence of a career well-lived. As Priddy Ugly bids farewell to this chapter of his musical journey, the album becomes a landmark, a defining moment not only for him but for the industry. If this is indeed his final offering, it will forever be etched in the annals of his career and the echoes of DUST will linger, resonating with those who appreciate the depth, complexity, and authenticity that he brought to the forefront throughout his illustrious career. The album doesn’t just showcase what Priddy Ugly has been — it provides a glimpse into the vast spectrum of what he can be, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of South African Hip-Hop.
Lyricism – 1.8
Tracklisting – 1.6
Sound Engineering – 1.8
Vocalisation – 1.5
Listening Experience – 1.6
Rating – 8.3/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media. His music can be found across all platforms and he welcomes interaction on his social media @Yinoluu.