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“Son of the Soil” Review: Not3s Embraces His Cultural Roots and Rhythms on New EP

“Son of the Soil” Review: Not3s Embraces His Cultural Roots and Rhythms on New EP

Son of the Soil cover - Not3s - Afrocritik

Son of the Soil is a refreshing take on Afrobeats, revealing Not3s’ lyrical prowess with sonic elements that deepen his connection to his cultural roots. 

By Emmanuel Okoro

The UK Hip-Hop landscape has produced some of the finest music over the years, with its artistes continually pushing the boundaries of the genre with infusions from diverse influences. In this loaded music scene, several talents, often of Nigerian descent, have risen through the ranks to prominence,  some of which include Skepta, Dave, Ms. Banks, Tinie Tempah, and Tion Wayne. One of such talents on the radar is the championing British-Nigerian rapper, singer, and songwriter Not3s – pronounced as Notes – whose extended play, Son of the Soil, serves up as a contribution to this constantly evolving genre.

Hailing from the vibrant streets of Hackney in East London, Lukman Olanrewaju Odunaike, popularly known as Not3s, has always made music shaped by his surroundings and cultural identity. He initially gained attention on the music scene through Soundcloud, but it was the 2016 viral single, “Addison Lee”, that catapulted him into stardom and caught the attention of music enthusiasts worldwide. Following this breakout moment, Not3s wasted no time in releasing a string of noteworthy projects.

In 2017, he released his debut mixtape, Take Not3s, treating audiences to his ferocious and witty delivery, drawing influences from trap music. He picked up the momentum with the 2018 sophomore mixtape, Take Not3s II. Not3s had no intentions of slowing down as he released his debut album, 3 Th3 Album, solidifying his status as a force to be reckoned with in the UK music industry. He has specifically maintained his position as a go-to collaborator for UK sensations, featuring on Headie One’s 2018 track, “Issa Mode”, AJ Tracey’s 2019 single, “Butterflies”, Tinie Tempah’s 2020’s number “Top Winners”, Nana Rogues’ 2018 tune “To The Max”, and Mabel’s 2018 song, “Fine Line.

Son of the Soil arrives on the heels of leading singles, “Start Me Up” and “So Far Gone” featuring Mayorkun. The EP, with its title, is particularly inspired by a significant trip to Lagos, Nigeria, where Not3s visited the grave site of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. There, he had the pleasure of meeting Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Bankulli, who encouraged him to expand the legacy of Afrobeats as a “son of the soil”. It is this message Not3s conveys through the tracks and its melodies.

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Set against mid-tempo bumpy beats and embellished with sax and electric guitar runs, the project’s opener, “High Fashion”, is partly a homage to the Nigerian fashion designer, Rahman Jago’s eponymous clothing line, while also celebrating his success in the music industry and the allure that comes with it. The track features Hip-Hop artiste, Odumodublvck, who takes the first watch and delivers the chorus with infectious energy. “High Fashion” underscores Not3s’ creative direction for the project.

Son of the Soil tracklist - Not3s - Afrocritik
Son of the Soil tracklist

Not3s questions the place of loyalty amidst challenging financial circumstances on the P.Priime-produced “Who Dey 4 U?”. Backed by lo-fi piano chords and mild kicks, his lyrics sample Nigerian Hip-Hop duo Ruff, Rugged & Raw 2002’s hit single, “Wetin Dey”, providing a glimpse into his humble beginnings and his struggles for fame and fortune. He recognises the supportive persons in his life – his mother, sisters, and friends – as opposed to his fair-weather companions, as he happily croons “When koodi show, dem show/ Na why we gats show dem pepper o.”

“Offering” sees Not3s touching on the transient nature of intimacy over a lively Amapiano backdrop. The track features the distinctive sounds of log drums and delicate flute notes, which, in combination, create an engaging and rhythmic musical canvas. Once again, P.Priime’s composition shines through, delivering a catchy tune tailor-made for dance-floor playlists. Here, Not3s’ sharp lyricism takes centre stage, commanding a lover to show her tricks as he wrestles to remain committed to their union.

Son of the Soil takes an intriguing turn as P.Priime returns for a trifecta production on “Start Me Up”. The track sets an evocative landscape with acoustic guitar plucks and reverberating basslines that complement Not3s’ smooth delivery. He appears more confident and in control as he brushes the subject of intimacy. His lyrical narrative paints a picture of a passionate encounter, where he expresses his prowess and sexual antics. Lines like “Criminally smooth how I handle a beat/ Michelin star when I take her to eat” showcases his cheeky and playful approach to his storytelling which adds a dose of charisma to the song.

Not3s - Afrocritik
Not3s

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On “Take Me Away”, featuring the talented London-born, Kenya-Zambian singer Hamzaa, Not3s embarks on a journey of reflection, nostalgia, and a longing for escape. The song offers a glimpse into his past experiences, often characterised by moments of uncertainty. However, he carries on for the sake of his close ties. The chorus delivered by Hamzaa offers a sense of escapism, of seeking comfort and solace in her embrace. “Take Me Away” explores Not3s’ ability to infuse depth into his music while maintaining a melodic composition. It is also an attempt to connect with the audience on a personal and emotional level.

The sonic trajectory of Son of the Soil shifts once again with “So Far Gone”, a track that seamlessly fuses Amapiano and Afrobeats elements. It is backed by percussive 808s and a steady groove that keeps audiences engaged from start to finish. While Not3s delivers a smooth and easy-going verse, it is Mayorkun’s vocal range on the infectious chorus that elevates the appeal of the song. The accompanying music video, shot in Nigeria, showcases colourful shots of young individuals displaying arm wrestling with children as spectators. This video, in more ways than one, reflects how Not3s embraces his cultural identity. 

The EP closes on a high note with “Unexplainable”, produced by Saszy. The song finds Not3s in a reflective mood, contemplating his rise to mainstream success and the surreal feelings that accompany it. The song also carries a sense of wonder and awe at the inexplicable aspects of his journey. While “Unexplainable” offers less in terms of intricate lyricism, it makes up for it with its stellar production that makes it an enjoyable listen. 

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Son of the Soil is a refreshing take on Afrobeats, revealing Not3s’ lyrical prowess with sonic elements that deepen his connection to his cultural roots. A high note of the project is the selection of seasoned producers who contribute their expertise to craft a meticulously composed project from start to finish. His choice of collaborators also demonstrates his unique knack for enhancing the depth and enriching the sonic tapestry of the project. 

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While the EP is not poised to disrupt the Afrobeats ecosystem, it is a celebration of the genre’s expansive dominance, a reflection of Not3s’ journey, and a testament to his flexibility to ride different sonic elements.

Lyricism – 1.4

Tracklisting – 1.4

Sound Engineering – 1.6

Vocalisation – 1.3

Listening Experience – 1.5

Rating – 7.2/10

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde

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