Jeriq’s development is crystal clear as the deluxe additions are steps in the right direction, avoiding the inconsistency that is present on the original project…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Jeriq’s fourth body of work comes as a deluxe version of his 2022 debut album, Billion Dollar Dream. Ani Jeremiah Chukwuebuka is clearly a hard worker. The young rapper grew up in Nkpor, Onitsha, Anambra State. He began exploring his musical side at the age of 15, navigating a difficult upbringing that featured street crime and gang activity, to unveil his hood single “Iyoo.”
A few years on, he was turning heads and pricking ears with his debut EP, Hood Boy Dreams. Not one to sit back on his haunches, Jeriq capitalised on rising interest and acclaim from his peers by teaming up with DMW’s Dremo for a joint 5-track EP titled Eas$t N We$t.
The reception of that project helped set the stage, and even the theme, for Billion Dollar Dream. And now, less than a pregnancy’s term after the chart-topping album, Jeriq decided that we needed a bit more. Considering the fact that the original album flew under my radar, this deluxe edition finally presented an opportunity for me to experience what all the Jeriq buzz is about.
(Read also: Bisa Kdei Sounds Soulful and Fresh on Original LP)
I must admit that my first impression was not a strong one. The title track, “Billion Dollar Dream,” made for a discouraging introduction. I was pleasantly surprised by the old school Hip-Hop feel of the drums right away, but then Jeriq enters with his frankly unrefined vocals. I was initially struck by the flatness and rawness of the delivery, lacking in any evident flair or musicality.
Non-speakers of the Igbo language might be put off a bit further by the prevalence of his use of the language. However, Good music has the ability to transcend the language barrier as music is a language in and of itself. As such, it seemed like there might be a disconnect between Jeriq and I.
Until “Chukwuebuka” started. The Jayswaarg-produced beat pulled me in with its rattling hats and bold 808s. To an unfocused ear, it may sound like Jeriq returns with the same deadpan flow and brash delivery that I complained about previously, but something is different here. The pockets of his cadence complement the rhythms of the beat, and he comes up with a number of lines that might appear unremarkable on paper, but become highlights of the song because of how he delivers them. These are lines such as “Running from the popon’ime c400.
Never die poor bu the eleventh Commandment,” or “Bu obelenwa I’m not kidding with you…You feeling me but I am not feeling you, Before you kill me I am done killing you, Abiam for the mullaabialom for you.” The message of Jeriq’s music breaks through the language barrier on songs like this one.
Considering the title of album and the songs on it, you can deduce that Jeriq embodies the dreams, aspirations, and experiences of his life on the streets. The lyrics, themes, and energy he brings to all his songs strike as unfiltered Hip-Hop. The problem I ran into with the album was the consistency. As you progress through the album, you realise that Jeriq’s style is pretty much set in stone. Therefore, it seems like the biggest determinant of how the songs felt was what else was around Jeriq.
In light of that, the songs that come in at the lower end of the quality spectrum are more often than not, plagued by unexciting, uninspired, and unimpactful production. The worst offenders are “Cartel Business,” with its misplaced flutes, limp drill drums, and straightforward feature by Kofi Jamar; and “Financial Conji,” which features stock-sounding production, devoid of any creative or distinctive touch. On these cuts, Jeriq’s unique style is detracted from, making the blandness of the whole package painfully evident. So even though he has moments that are ear-catching in isolation, the instrumentals let him down greatly.
In stark contrast, the better songs like the aforementioned “Chukwuebuka,” feature production that prop up the boundary-pushing sonic styling that Jeriq has cemented himself in. “#1” has a simple but effective beat that is a serviceable platform for Jeriq and previous collaborator Dremo, to dazzle with their fundamental rap skills. Dremo especially delivers a fantastic cameo, stealing the spotlight with boisterous trap flow and well-written wordplay.
“Trapping” is one of the very best Billion Dollar Dream Deluxe has to offer. Another track produced by Dr Jayswaarg (who seems to have provided a lot of gems on this project), “Trapping” is brought to life by energetic 808s and fast-paced drums, supported by emphatic organ blasts and chords.
Jeriq rides this beat with skillful dexterity, taking the hook in a manner that could see it being shouted back at him during a live performance. However, the icing on this song’s cake is the show-stealing appearance by PsychoYP. He brings an experience and smoothness that contrasts interestingly against Jeriq’s rawness.
“True Life Story” is another show of strength from Jeriq. He espouses one of the pillars of his artistry on this song saying, “This is my true life story telling it to you in rap and flows,” and you believe that. One thing Jeriq brings in spades is authenticity. He sounds like what he says he is, and it is very easy to believe the experiences he raps about.
The instrumental of this track is very sparse but well put together. It features light drill elements but leaves a lot of space for Jeriq’s lyrics and storytelling to be the focus of the song. As a testament to his storytelling ability, even the parts of the song that are obscured behind language differences are still sonically pleasant to listen to.
Jeriq definitely has something unique to offer. It takes a while to get used to the way he comes across in terms of his rugged vocal character and almost spoken delivery. Where it synchronises well with the instrumentals, we get very interesting and surprisingly catchy songs. Where it doesn’t, the resulting songs can be a bit grating or difficult to listen to.
Many songs also fall into a nebulous middle ground where they’re just okay; inoffensive but nothing to particularly write home about. This is where the title track falls, as well as a few others like “DND,” “Backdoor,” and “Stepping Up,” which tries unsuccessfully to incorporate the Apple ringtone into its instrumental.
Speaking of “Stepping Up,” it is the first of the new deluxe additions I’m bringing up. After all, this is the deluxe version. How does Billion Dollar Dream Deluxe fare in that regard? Amazingly well, to be honest.
It seems that Jeriq took the time between projects to expand his horizons as an artiste. Perhaps for fear of being placed in a sonic box, Jeriq used the opportunity to put his versatility on a pedestal for all to see. He displayed a bit of it previously on “Oluoma,” another excellent track which is a Highlife offering featuring Igbo sensation, Flavour and courtesy of Jayswaarg again. Atop typical Highlife guitars and drums, Flavour croons sweetly while Jeriq makes his brash delivery comfortable amid cheery brass and bright pianos.
Admittedly, Highlife might not be a long way off many people’s expectation for a loudly proudly Igbo artiste. So Jeriq took his inspiration much further South, taking advantage of the recent Amapiano trend to throw his hat in that ring and succeeding greatly with the engrossing anthem, “Payment Slip,” and the playfully naughty “Akpofegom.”
Other additions include “Active,” which is a straightforward rap track that samples Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop,” as well as two heavily Drill-tinged tracks, “Bondage,” and the honest “My Bro,” featuring a great cameo from another Igbo titan, Phyno.
All the songs added in the deluxe version are firmly better than average, and this gives me great hope for Jeriq’s future as it demonstrates visible growth in terms of understanding his artistry and how to complement it with sound production and influential features.
At the end of it all, Billion Dollar Dream (Deluxe Version) is still a mixed bag of a listen. Jeriq’s development is crystal clear as the deluxe additions are steps in the right direction, avoiding the inconsistency that is present on the original project. However, these faulty songs are still present and they drag down the quality of the whole.
Jeriq himself is an interesting prospect. He sounds older than he is, and I attribute that to the lifestyle and experience that is at the thematic centre of the project. He also sounds quite unrefined, but almost as if it is by design. The mixing and engineering can be quite abrasive at times with Jeriq coming across too loud in the mix.
He doesn’t do much by way of flexing musicality or acrobatic flows, but it is also clear that this is not a part of what he sees for his artistic persona. The whole point of Jeriq is being unapologetically and boldly himself; accent, stories, experiences, and all. Part of that means being prepared to be disliked just as much as you are liked, and I can see Jeriq being a very divisive artist whereby some people “just don’t get it,” and some just won’t be able to get into it.
Personally, it took some time, but I think I’m sold on what Jeriq brings to the table and I look forward to him further exploring his unique approach to trap, hip-hop, and rap in general.
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1.2
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 1
Listening Experience – 1.3
Rating – 5.5/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.