Compilation albums are becoming more common in the current musical landscape. Yet, they can be quite tricky to do right. I think the Mavin All-Stars have done it pretty right with Chapter X…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
The “Supreme Mavin Dynasty” was established after the closure of Don Jazzy’s and D’Banj’s prolific Mo’ Hits Records. Mavin Records arrived emphatically on the scene in 2012 with Solar Plexus, a compilation album that catapulted its roster into stardom with quintessential hits like “Oma Ga,” “Why You Over There?”, and “Take Banana.” Boasting the likes of Tiwa Savage, Dr. SID, Wande Coal, and D’Prince, Mavin Records fast-tracked itself to becoming one of the premier record labels in Africa.
10 years on, Mavin Records released the aptly titled Chapter X to, hopefully, launch its new roster of talents (Rema, Ayra Starr, LADIPOE, Bayanni, Crayon, Boy Spyce, Johnny Drille, and Magixx) onto a similar stratospheric trajectory as their forerunners.
(Read also: Runtown’s $igns Album is a Genre-Sliding, Beautiful Work of Art)
Chapter X kicks off with the romantic guitars of the sevn-produced “Alle.” Sweeping strings swim in sweet symphony around strumming guitars and an understated percussion-driven drum pattern. Rema carries the first minute of the song by himself, capping it off with an epic layered chorus. Following Rema, the rest of the roster (bar Johnny Drille) is given a sizeable chunk of space to sing about a lover that makes them thankful to God. Each artiste brings something unique to their section, displaying their individual melodic gifts over the beautiful instrumentals.
Boy Spyce’s soft falsetto set him apart and Magixx plays around with an interpolation of Rema’s “Calm Down.” The highlights are Rema’s anchorage of the song, LADIPOE’s rap swagger amidst a bevy of crooners, and Ayra Starr’s handling of the soft bridge she is given, as well as her angelic backing vocals in the final chorus.
Next up is “All I’m Saying,” also produced by sevn. This song is driven by stronger drums while gentle pads, guitar accents, and piano chords form the instrumental backdrop. Crayon takes the first verse and does alright with it, before Johnny Drille seizes the song with his heartfelt command of the chorus. “Kpodikpo kpodikpo,” he sings beautifully with strong harmonies by himself and Don Jazzy. Don Jazzy then continues in his typical playful fashion.
Don Jazzy’s imprint as an artiste has remained consistent for so long and it still works. LADIPOE comes next and impresses with his ability to rap but in such a melodious manner that it still blends with the singing. Boy Spyce takes the last verse, and I find myself excited for his section. The timbre of his voice is so unique and sharp that it stands out pronouncedly every time you hear him.
Track 3 is “Ogini Na Fio” produced by Jvxn. This song is the Crayon vehicle. He is given sufficient space and time to shine on this R&B-flavoured cut. Crayon flexes his vocal chops and delivers loving melodies over an instrumental comprised of bright sparkling pads, electric piano chords, and a steady midtempo Afrobeat drumline.
Don Jazzy appears on the second verse, and while his delivery still services the song decently, his technical singing isn’t strong enough for the sweetness the song is aiming for, leaving the autotune support for his vocals a bit too obvious here. As the only rapper on the roster, there seems to be a heavy reliance on LADIPOE to shift the direction on each song, and so far I have no complaints. He comes through again with smart, relevant lyrics that paint a clear picture.
The fourth track is the powerhouse single, “Won Da Mo.” Produced by Andrevibez, the track is rife with the kind of infectious energy that was the signature of Don Jazzy’s production style. The drums are fast-paced, with pulsing kick drums, and numerous rolls and flourishes sprinkled throughout the song. Weeping strings and angelic pads supplement the drums with a grand epic atmosphere. The whole roster is given a slot on this song, bar Don Jazzy.
They all do well to enhance the bounce provided by the instrumental. Rema is given the lead once again, as well as the lead vocals in the catchy pre-chorus. The group then chimes in together to create a powerful choir feeling in the chorus. LADIPOE on this track doesn’t quite deliver as strongly as the other artistes simply because his part turns the energy down a lot.
However, it is an admittedly welcome break, allowing the song to have crests and troughs that keep it thundering along its hefty 4-minute runtime. Rema, Magixx, and Ayra Starr are the highlights of this track for me. Johnny Drille is given the outro to handle, and it fits him perfectly as it loses the drums and goes in a softer soulful direction.
Andrevibez returns on “Amina” with an Amapiano beat, built on shakers, a steady pulsing beat, sprinkled log drums, and trance-like synths. The trance aesthetic is cemented by Rema’s dreamy vocals. The melodies he employs on this chorus are so delightful that you don’t initially notice the sexual context of the song.
Ayra Starr delves into braggadocio on her verse, singing “Big bag, big vibes, big cheques, I kon wear knickers, I wear my Jimmy Choo, drink booze with my goons and sip on liquor, Pull up in a Rover, So fine dem go shout Jehovah,” with palpable confidence in her delivery. Bayanni comes in after her with his strongest cameo so far, using complex rhythms to make his verse playful and catchy. Crayon’s verse goes a bit under the radar but only because of the others around it. Mavin’s in-house DJ Big N finishes the song off with a shout out to the ladies.
Next up is the other monster hit single, “Overloading (Overdose)” produced by Don Jazzy himself. This song is compilation album perfection. Every single verse stands on its own in the memory of the listener as Crayon, Ayra Starr, LADIPOE, Magixx, and Boy Spyce each deliver sticky melodies and catchy lyrics over the luscious instrumentals. Not only do they make the most of their individual sections, they also provide masterful ad-libs and backing vocals for each other.
(Read also: Fridayy Tells an Impressive Story in Lost in Melody)
“Losing You” begins with Johnny Drille right up his alley; singing heartfelt lyrics in his reassuring soft timbre over emotive guitars, twinkling pianos, and expansive strings courtesy of Andrevibez. The instrumentals here take a backseat to the R&B talents of Drille, Crayon, and Magixx as they lament the slow loss of their partner’s affection. “I dedicated my time to give you love, Be that guy wey go make everything right, I fit to mental walahi, Abi to love sef na crime.”
Their voices carry the song sensationally, effectively communicating the emotion and sentiment of the song. The writing in Magixx’s and Crayon’s verses leaves a bit to be desired, but they also were not given much room to really make a lyrical mark so they do a good job with the space they are given. The power of the instrumentals as well as the vocal performances more than makes up for what is lacking lyrically.
Next up is “Won Le Le,” a song that find the Mavins reflecting on their journey, grind, and success. Prestige arms them with a groovy beat made up of bouncy Afroswing drums sitting atop smooth guitar chords and sliding 808 basses. LADIPOE sets the pace, reminiscing on his ascension in the industry. Magixx and Don Jazzy are on chorus duties, and together they give the song a sufficient hook. It ties the song together but I don’t find it remarkably memorable.
Crayon and Rema hit similar marks on their verses; and this is an odd thing to say about Rema going by his other appearances on Chapter X. Bayanni is the standout performer for me on this one. His vocals and melodies are ear candy, sweetening the track. Boy Spyce also gets an honourable mention due to the varied energetic delivery he attacked his verse with. Altogether, though, this song is the first so far that didn’t quite pull its weight.
“Jara” is the second such song. Right off the bat, something about the drums Andrevibez chooses for the beat doesn’t quite sit right with me. They seem to stick out of the beat. The production also makes use of a number of synths that also feel a bit plastic (such as this one recurring synthetic brass line that could have sounded much better with live brass).
Bayanni is given the anchor role on this song, and he just doesn’t quite hit it out of the park. He does nothing wrong per se, but his part doesn’t really make an impact the way other anchors have (like Rema on “Amina” or Johnny Drille on “Losing You.”) The same can be said for Don Jazzy who even ends his verse saying, “I no know where dem dey for this track oh, Oya come sing make I go back oh.” Magixx brings a spark to the song with interesting lyrics and a fitting vocal performance. DJ Big N makes another appearance on the outro.
Funny enough, the final track of Chapter X, “You,” produced by Jvxn, is the tenth one. . Jvxn assembles a lively instrumental with muted guitar licks, boisterous bass guitar, brass stabs, and simple percussion-assisted drums. Boy Spyce takes the lead and owns it impressively. I am a staunch fan of his voice and the things he does with it.
Johnny Drille follows up with a short but sweet stint, rounding off his appearances without putting a foot wrong all through the project. Don Jazzy and Magixx are next with enjoyable verses of their own, keeping the energy of the song high. LADIPOE gives us another typical verse of his. However, at this point, I find myself a bit disinterested as he really doesn’t do much differently in terms of flow, energy, or delivery. The song ends with a slightly clumsy transition to an outro that features the roster saying “Mavin” and their signature vocal tags.
(Read also: Modenine Throws It Way Back Masterfully on Popkorn!)
Compilation albums are becoming more common in the current musical landscape. Yet, they can be quite tricky to do right. I think the Mavin All-Stars have done it pretty right with Chapter X.
Firstly, it avoids the pitfall of sounding too samey. While you have pretty much the same line-up of artistes, Chapter X makes sure to include a number of styles and genres. Although limited by the prevalent Afropop style of the artistes, each of them is talented enough to approach the various songs differently while ensuring that they inject their unique artistry on each track. Greater variation would have been appreciated, though, as the songs generally lend themselves to Afropop with various influences peppered in from time to time.
This would also hopefully allow the tracklist to be more comprehensive, in turn needing fewer artistes on each track for the sake of their verses. Having to pack so many artistes on some songs meant that they were given barely eight bars to express themselves, greatly stifling the song-writing potential. Perhaps, the record label is in a position to take more risks by diversifying the kind of artiste they sign so that the next compilation is broader and deeper.
Secondly, a compilation album is intended to highlight the artistes in the compilation. Chapter X strives for this by giving each artiste one or two songs where they can contribute significantly. While not every artiste fully capitalised on their leading moment, the structure of the album ensured that they all got multiple chances to make their mark. Rema and Ayra Starr are undoubtedly the flag bearers of this generation of Mavins, but Magixx and Boy Spyce demonstrate flashes of brilliance that could have them not far behind. Johnny Drille and LADIPOE are the more experienced niche artistes and the role they play in the collective is fairly obvious.
However, I feel LADIPOE was a bit overused and considering his delivery isn’t very varied across the album, it almost does him a disservice. Crayon and Bayanni had bright spots, but they also tended to get lost in the crowd in a few places. This shows them that there is still room for improvement in terms of finding the melodic and stylistic idiosyncrasies that will set them apart from their peers. It’s is also commendable that new in-house producers were given similar opportunity to display their talent. The pedigree of the production and engineering was mostly stellar.
All in all, Chapter X suffices as a showcase of the current Mavin class. While I could personally have done without “Jara,” the album as a whole is a vastly enjoyable listening experience. It doesn’t soar to grand heights or sink below expectations, but it features a host of songs that will penetrate their intended markets and sit on the public consciousness for a while. It is an efficient canvas for the young Mavins to show the world their colours.
Lyricism – 0.9
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 1.8
Vocalisation – 1.4
Listening Experience – 1.4
Rating – 6.5/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.