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Modenine Throws It Way Back Masterfully on “Popkorn!”

Modenine Throws It Way Back Masterfully on “Popkorn!”

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In Popkorn! The Album, Modenine relies on his wide polymathic knowledge and thoughtful song-writing to disperse knowledge, craft clever metaphors, tell specific stories, and draw insightful parallels …

By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku

In a musical landscape that is currently dominated by new, young, and emergent acts, it seems that the veterans’ hold on the industry seems to have loosened. However, there is no substitute for experience, and Nigerian rap legend, Modenine, demonstrates this fiercely on Popkorn! The Album.

Modenine is an undeniable pillar of Nigerian hip-hop. Debuting in 2004 with his Malcolm IX project, The London-born Babatunde Olusegun Adewale would go on to have an illustrious career comprised of over 8 solo studio albums, multiple collaborative albums, a bevy of hard-hitting mixtapes, and a repertoire of memorable verses. The self-proclaimed polymath, who credits the likes of Grandmaster Flash for his love of hip-hop, eventually etched his own name into the annals of Nigerian rap and would go on to inspire many others as well. With a firm understanding of his legacy and positioning, Modenine decided to sport his old-school influences boldly across this project.

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The project begins with “Show Me Love,” a track that is centred around industry relationships. The song is kicked off with a voice recording of Davido appreciating Modenine who was there for him at the beginning of his career, and that underscores the theme of the song. Modenine reminisces on significant contributions various people and places made to his career over a heartfelt boom-bap beat. The simple call-and-response hook sees Modenine espousing that he owes love to anyone who shows him the same.

The title track, “Popkorn,” is next, allowing Modenine to explain why the album is so named with the line “My life is a movie, grab your popcorn.” He proceeds to outline some of the highlights of this storied life over a bubbly bassline and soft keys that underscore classic hip-hop drums. A sweeping synth is introduced in the chorus that is anchored by dreamy vocals from Sista Dada.

“All Time Great” is a braggadocious cut that sees Modenine make a case for his greatness over another classic hip-hop beat built over wavy pads. Modenine explores speedy flows and aggressive cadences over the laid-back beat that sometimes feel a bit misplaced. The chorus is extremely nostalgic, made up of simple vocals chopped and scratched the way hip-hop DJs were famed to do with their turntables.

“Nkrumah’s Voice” follows and starts of with the voice of the first Ghanaian president, Kwame Nkrumah. Over straight-laced drums and soft guitars, Modenine flexes his broad historical and socio-economic knowledge with pro-African sentiments that preach the pride and wealth of Africa while also chastising her exploitation by the Western powers.

“Breathe” continues along the socially-relevant tracks with Modenine dropping words of wisdom concerning life, money, and protecting self-peace over funky boom-bap drums and sparkling phased chords. He leans on his life experiences to deliver thoughtful and insightful bars.

“Flowers” is an authoritative jam that finds Modenine demanding his flowers and acclaim for the impact he has had on earth and in the industry. Modenine demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of flowers symbolically and metaphorically, spinning bars centred around popular flowers and what they represent in our society.

“It’s True” comes next, and its smooth electric pianos provide a backdrop for Modenine to vent, criticising various aspects of the Nigerian society; from police and insurgency, to the rampant corruption and celebration of fraudulent wealth. Modenine peppers a series of archived public addresses made by the governmentinto the track to add real world historical context that lends extra weight to the commentary of the track.

“Good Vibes” provides a break from the heavy subject matter prior to deliver a feel-good song that focuses on living well and enjoying the pleasures life has to offer. Amuta Stone makes excellent use of the chorus with spacious, relaxed vocals that perfectly complement the funky bassline and simple swinging drums.

“Cap Fits” is a brief festival of hard bars over a straightforward piano-driven beat that acts as a sort of interlude to break the project up.

“Layers of the Mind” is a soft-spoken testament to the increasing awareness around mental health. Modenine enlists Toni Blackman, Elom Vince, and Didi to wax poetic about the complexities of the human mindscape. Over a sparse instrumental, and in multiple languages, we get stories, insights, and advice concerning protecting and maintaining a healthy state of mind. The song is bookended by sampled voiceovers, which appear to be a common thread throughout the project.

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Modenine

Amuta Stone features amazingly again on “Family,” a song that takes a close look at the relationships we form, the expectations and disappointments they come with, and what it means to be family. Modenine dips into his deep bag of anecdotal experiences to profile what family means to him.

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“Griot” allows Modenine to play the role of an eponymous griot; an African traditional storyteller and musician (he even includes voiceovers that explain the cultural importance of griots). Thus, he glides over a synth-heavy beat to delve into a historical account of the great figures and kingdoms of Africa, orally immortalising them in his art as was the duty of the griots.

Next is “Shiatsu Massage” featuring the soft and s onorous vocals of Maleiva. As has become typical of the project, the song begins with a voice over that explicitly addresses the topic of the song before Modenine delves into the theme with sharp topical focus, using clever wordplay to expose parallels and metaphors.

Then comes “Super Star,” which is built on lighter drums and sparse pianos with hints of brass in the background. Modenine tells tales of limelight craving, and the lengths people can go to for the satisfaction of those lofty desires. Divy Reign’s emotionally-poignant singing on the chorus drives home the sadness that can follow the situations Modenine describes.

“Jah Flow” returns to braggadocious Modenine as he raps aggressively about his pedigree and his rise through the ranks of the industry. The instrumental of this song leans slightly towards dancehall with its energetic drum pattern, and this dancehall tinge is cemented by the sampled vocals that make up the chorus.

“A Hero Has Come 2” features playful deliveries that Modenine employ to recount his impact on the growth and revitalisation of rap. He does this by painting the picture of an action movie’s hero working his way through a number of villains that represent the aspects of rap that he seems to believe detract from the artform.

“Keep My Name Out Your Mouth” is a song as direct as the title claims. Modenine rides an uncomplicated boom-bap beat with bold bars that serve as warnings to other rappers. The gist of the song is that Modenine is not to be tested, based on his pedigree, accomplishments, and ability. The song ends with recorded clips from radio shows where people gave shoutouts to the legend Modenine is. It also includes a clip of Modenine himself going on a lyrical tirade some time in the past.

“Invicta” translates from Latin to mean “Undefeated,” and that is exactly the energy Modo approaches the song with. While not as topically focused as many of the other songs on the project, this track maintains a certain king-of-the-mountain energy as Modenine drops bars on ranging topics. The song also does sounds like a closing track, with Modenine reiterating the theme and title of the project, and concluding with shoutouts to various people that were assumedly instrumental in the realisation of the project. However, this song ends up only being the penultimate one.

The actual final song is an interesting one, “Arsenal Anthem,” and that is exactly what it is. Beginning with more voiceovers, this song is a passionate love song to Arsenal football club. While it is probably the most trivial topic on the album, Modenine approaches it with the exact same amount of passion and depth as any other song, spitting bars and punchlines that exude a deep knowledge of the subject matter at hand.

(Read also: Afrocritik Top 15 Rap Albums of 2022)

One of the most amazing things about Popkorn! The Album is the consistency and cohesiveness of the project as a whole. Modenine sits on a throne of experience and wisdom to speak on various topics and shed light on his thoughts and opinions about society at large. Stylistically, Modenine relies on his wide polymathic knowledge and thoughtful song-writing to disperse knowledge, craft clever metaphors, tell specific stories, and draw insightful parallels, all backed up by contextually supplementary voiceovers and audio clips. This style lends a ton of weight and gravitas to each song and fits with the credentials that Modenine leans on as talking points throughout the project.  Sonically, there is a thorough commitment to the throwback old-school G-rap boom-bap style, and it is a style that suits Modenine’s flow and lyricism to a tee. However, in this one department, the consistency detracts a bit from the overall project as the instrumentals don’t vary much from each other and they tend to blend together, meaning that each song doesn’t really stand out sonically and the tracks can get muddled up in the whole. The instrumental palette is sparse, typically made up of keys, bass, and a light sprinkling of brass. The drums barely deviate from the rudiments of hip-hop drum sequencing. The project could have benefitted from a more diverse selection of instrumentals and tempos, even if the sonic style was to be adhered to strictly.

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However, the draw of Modenine’s lyricism and delivery is significant enough to overcome any gripes one might have with the similarity of majority of the instrumentals. Modenine delivers a masterclass lesson on the fundamentals of rap. It’s a shame the album was released when it did because it would have definitely secured a premium spot on our Top 15 Rap Albums list as Popkorn! The Album is a rap project that every rap fan, Nigerian or otherwise, would be sure to mine a lot of enjoyment from.


Lyricism – 1.9

Tracklisting – 1.5

Sound Engineering – 1.5

Vocalisation – 1.5

Listening Experience – 1.6

Rating – 8/10


Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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