Across his latest project, Family Time, we hear a man who has gone beyond struggling to make it out of the hood, a man who values his mental health, and a man who has made peace with his demons…
By Hope Ibiale
On the art cover of Erigga’s sixth studio album, Family Time, he tries to replicate the mural of The Last Supper. But in contrast to a table set before Jesus and his disciples, Erigga’s multiple personalities are in view. He is dining on a table full of money, with a plaque hanging behind him, engraved with the words “Street Certified”. This insignia is a stamp that best describes his artistry, one that revolves around telling authentic stories from the streets of Warri, his hometown in southern Nigeria.
Over the years, Erigga has worked his way through the underground, telling his true and relatable stories: his rough childhood, his community, the state of the country, and his determination to claw his way out of mediocrity. Across his latest project, Family Time, we hear a man who has gone beyond struggling to make it out of the hood, a man who values his mental health, and a man who has made peace with his demons. It is his first full-length project since 2022’s The Lost Boy, and in the 17-track album, Erigga features his daughter, Kyla, Nigerian artistes, Victor AD, Zlatan, Corizo, Gee Baller, Savage, Krista, and Yung6ix. His grass-to-grace tales still take eminence, and so is the need to bury his pain in sex and drugs. But he offers these songs from a new cup of inspiration, repositioning himself as a sage for listeners to draw insights from. A young man from Warri would tune in to Family Time and find inspiration to break free from the trappings of his hometown and strive for a better future.
The project opener, “Broken in Two” starts with the lyrics, “I just feel like the game is missing something. It keeps missing a little bit of Erigga paper boi, too much of lost boy I gat to go back to paper. Paper boi I’m back again lost boy better take a chill pill”. He lets listeners in on the personality he embodies on this album. Throughout the three-minute run time, Erigga swiftly discusses a range of topics; from the politics in the music industry to bad governance in Warri, moral decadence, Nigeria’s deplorable health system, poor security, and unemployment. Erigga’s daughter, Kyla, makes an appearance on the record and reminds listeners that children also bear the brunt of unfulfilled promises. She sings, “Divide and rule no be the maths when dem teach us for school. They make promises they won’t fulfil”. Overall, “Broken in Two” is a commentary on the poor state of the country, and an introduction to the thought process behind Family Time. Once again Erigga’s ability to tell a compelling story in a short time proves to be his strongest trait.
In the next track, Erigga enlists Victor AD and Zlatan to deliver the titular “Family Time”. The song’s chorus, led by Victor AD, sees the artiste pleading for blessings from God as he echoes, “This year oh lord say this year as you do for me do am for my guys na family time.” The synergy between the artistes is evident, as they seamlessly combine their unique artistry and energy. Victor AD’s serenading vocals serve as the solemn bridge connecting Erigga and Zlatan’s stories. Each artiste paints a vivid picture of their struggles and future aspirations, with each verse while offering hope to listeners. “Family Time” is an anthem that will resonate with individuals who have faced life’s hurdles and are striving for a brighter future.
“Wide Awake” featuring Corizo, Gee Baller, and Yung6ix, pays tribute to diligent working individuals. Here, the artistes sing about the value of hard work while sharing their experiences with fake friends. Despite the gems in the record, the song’s production doesn’t add any form of excitement to the track. After several listens, it appears the producer left all the work to the artistes, while the production merely played in the background.
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Listeners take a peek into Erigga’s deepest desires in “Pot of Stew”. In the solo track, Erigga raps about his struggles with his faith and maintaining a sober state of mind. At a runtime of one minute, he demonstrates, once again, his storytelling expertise, as he navigates topics such as unemployment, faith, fake news, and the misconceptions tied to his art. The song’s sombre production merges perfectly with the level of vulnerability Erigga unveils.
With the assistance of Savage, Erigga paints a horrid image of his childhood home in “El Classico”. Here, his authentic delivery draws listeners into his background, with the violence that surrounds him. With each line, listeners are made privy to Erigga’s unresolved childhood trauma. Like several records in The Lost Boy, “El Classico” portrays a boy who still struggles with separating himself from the past.
The predictable production evident on previous records takes a break as “Too Fresh” moves up the pace. Here, the artiste takes a trip down memory lane. From reminiscing about patronising local bukas to choosing money over love and being at peace with inner demons, Erigga tells old stories with new and refreshing plots.
“Good Girl No Dey Pay,” sees Erigga confident in expressing his sexual needs. On one hand, he criticises his partner’s materialism but turns around to declare himself as a supporter with lyrics like, “We no dey Supreme Court why I go judge you?/Be yourself/ who no get hand no fit flog you”.
“Glasses in the Air” deviates from Erigga’s lewd commentary. He makes a celebratory toast to his survival and achievements. This track takes a sit among records like “El Classico”, and “Pot of Stew”. A true purveyor of storytelling, Erigga uses his grass-to-grace story as a tool to encourage others like him and instil the power of a positive mindset in his listeners.
In “Tinke”, Erigga shields his heart from love. Instead, he turns to sexual relationships that bring momentary pleasures. But when the escapades are over, one wonders where Erigga finds happiness. With “Tinke”, he reiterates his non-judgemental stance formerly expressed in “Good Girl No Dey Pay”. However, the artiste’s decision to not judge is borne out of fear of rejection rather than nobility.
Erigga continues to share personal tales in “Saddest Days”. In this track, he recollects the sad events that plagued his Saturdays. For most parts of the world, especially Nigeria, Saturdays are for parties and different celebrations, but this day is different for Erigga. On this day, he has experienced the loss of a friend, enjoyed intimate moments with his companions, and stirred up chaos in his community. The artiste doesn’t pass up the chance to take a swipe at rappers with fake survival stories. He raps, “Leave all these rappers/ na mouth dem no get receipt. For all those their war stories, dem just dey find retweet”. He resumes preaching the gospel of honest toil in “First Taking”. Here, he uses call-and-response to advise listeners to always focus on creating wealth.
With “Bad Persin”, he raps about the disloyalty of men and the excuses humans make for their incompetence. The artiste further makes comments about mental health and the value of education. He raps, “Erigga that one bad persin,” choosing to identify himself as a “bad person” if it means restricting selfish relationships. The lyrics touch on themes of gratitude and unrequited goodwill, as well as ingratitude and entitlement from those around him. The next record, “My Entitled Brother”, is a recorded conversation with an entitled friend. The self-centredness mentioned in “Bad Persin” is put on full display in this song. The dialogue spills into the next song, “Area and Entitlement”, where Erigga continues the narratives explored in the two previous tracks.
In “God”, Erigga motivates listeners to never abandon their dreams. He raps, “The dream too big no fear say e scary guy. We fit achieve am lock up God dey hear we guy”. Drawing inferences from his hustle story, he encourages listeners to dream big.
Erigga is joined by Krista on the penultimate track, “Assumptions”. Here, the artistes assert their determination never to fail. Overall, “Assumptions” delivers a positive message of resilience in the face of adversity.
Family Time finishes strong with “Strong Warning”. Here, Erigga is more confrontational as he reminds his opponents of his strength. The monologue positioned at certain parts of the song echoes the dominance that resounds throughout. “Strong Warning” is a good fit to wrap up the album, as it sums up the theme of resilience and determination visible in the project.
Family Time is another proper encapsulation of what it means to boldly tell your stories, the kind of stories that match Erigga’s authentic personality. With each track, he tells a different story, revealing another layer of the rapper’s storytelling skills. Some of the stories are inspirational, some vulgar, and others are downright comical, but they are all told from the standpoint of an artiste who has seen it all. The project is an anchor that pulls listeners in to witness the rapper’s lived experience and draw from the knowledge that is sprinkled in his undiluted reality rap.
However, this great storytelling doesn’t cover the shortcomings of the album’s overall production. There is no doubt that Erigga’s message flows easily over the simple production, but with the 12 different producers that worked on the album, it leaves me baffled that there is a lack of variety in the production. The album progresses in an almost predictable manner. For such a lineup of producers, and with the confidence with which Erigga approaches each song, one would expect thumping bass lines and twinkling keys. Instead, listeners are offered a bland production that buries itself in the background of the song. The only significant difference between the songs is the stories. Most importantly, Erigga is in total control while making peace with his demons and offering hope to everyone who listens. In its assuredness, Family Time is a show of excellent storytelling.
Lyricism – 1.9
Tracklisting – 1.4
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 1.1
Listening Experience – 0.4
Rating – 5.9/10
Hope Ibiale is a writer and book lover.