A strong review of Nigerian (Naija) albums
GENRE: RnB/African Pop
LABEL: Kennis Music
Year of release: 2010
Star Quest is probably Nigeria’s biggest annual Musical Talent Show! Since its inception in 2002, it has had some of today’s huge stars (Asa and Furious BV Bracket) audition on it without taking away the grand prize. It has also helped to make the winners go on and become big in the music industry (KC Presh) while others have gone into obscurity just because they didn’t know how to make use of their “awoof” opportunity. It doesn’t get bigger than Star Quest for the winners – the grand prize of N3.6 million; a N7.5 million music recording contract with a major label such as Kennis Music; a minivan; 1 year accommodation in Lagos for all members; immediate enlistment to perform @ 2 of Nigeria’s most popular music events – Star Trek and Star Mega Jam.
It was on this National Talent Platform in 2009 that The Pulse was born, formed, performed and won with style. In probably the most watched edition (didn’t get the viewership info on the 2010), they beat the next band by over 80,000 votes to show just how much they wowed the crowd with their God given talents and voices.
The Pulse is made up of 6 unique individuals – Dubem ‘Dubie Love’ Ochokwu, lead vocalist & group lead; Obianuju ‘Switch’ Udeh, a vocalist, DJ & femCee & also the group’s only female; Samson ‘Sammyjazz’ Charles, drummer; Moses ‘Mozyphils’ Philips, saxophonist; Asuquo ‘Accurate’ Edet, bass guitarist and Tunde ‘Spirit fingers’ Omommeji, keyboardist. Someone call SWAT Rapid Response cos I’m about to submit my intel on the “State of Emergency”
Mozyphils’ saxophone intro (imitation a flat-line kicking back to a normal heart rate on a cardiac monitor) starts off the album and transcends into heavy breathing like someone with a fast rate pulse. “Sote”, the hit lead single released early 2009 (and one of the reasons for the band’s increasing fame) is still one of the illest tracks on rotation right now. The intro samples the beginning of one of my favourite Notorious BIG’s track – “F*@<ing U Tonite”. Dubie, the lead vocalist kills this satire of a song with his picturesque painting of words to display the oddities of times, offering playful sarcasm and ridicule to criticize faults in present day 9ja. All this BTW is over the other members’ background instrumental play – ‘(Listen) Na so we go dey/ We go sit down 24/7, no racket, no pay/ Our children dey play, on top, empty belle! Oh Lord! show us the way (chei)/ We go send our pikin go skool, they go fail/they go go blend, they go end up in jail/ Power holding na our best friend, becos na only dem remember send us mail/ Naija, I dey hail o!/ Una no dey fail o!…’. It celebrates the resilient Nigerian Spirit in her abilities to overcome/contain/bear all obstacles and adversities and is my favourite track on the album.
Next is the heavy Highlife influenced “Tailor” which uses the popular adage “Cut your coat according to your size” that has a similar meaning to “all fingers are not equal” continues to showcase the immense creativity that won the Band the talent show. It’s a chilled out number whose reality check message the masses can relate to and I can see our mamas and papas dancing to this track @ owambes. On “Tinini Tonono”, Dubie shows us why he was chosen as the lead vocalist. I can almost visualize a village scene from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart with all the flute sounding tunes floating in the background. Track has a throwback feel.
Things speed up from here with Sunny Nweke’s smartly crafted and produced braggadocios “Got Paid”. Switch (Obianuju) spits some tight ass bars as she flaunts on some of the finer things in life that the band enjoys now. Homegirl got her own unique style of wordplay and even tpains @ some point. Yes and they did just get paid. The Pro-T-Jay produced “Uno Familia” as the name suggests is very Latino sounding. It sounds fresh like some Fugees track on “Blunted on Reality/The Score” fresh; I must confess when I first heard this on radio, I thot it was a new Wyclef jam until I started hearing some pidgin in it. The guitar riffs and keyboards synths glide effortlessly on the track to give it that Cuban Mexican/Puerto Rican/Spanish feel; I’m pretty sure all the Nigerians hooked on salsa dancing will step to this one. A funny skit featuring label-mate Femi which makes fun of quack doctors comes in to slowdown (or did it cos I couldn’t stop laughing) our pulse rate.
Not really feeling “Rest Abeg (I Dey Your Side)”.Can’t really put a finger on the reason why though, maybe the choice of lyrics and their apparent need to talk over the tracks. They sound at home, but do little to add any artistic value to the track as the musical instruments sound way better than their vocals. “www.thePulse” is about MaryJ and its addictions, again I’m not feeling this one. I give them an A for effort.
Uncle Cobhams fast paced produced “Party Till Dawn” will get your pulse racing. Me LIKE! It moulds mainstream music with Hip-Hop and Naija elements. Dubie sounds a bit like Will.I.Am on this one and Switch’s shouts remind me of the hook on Spice Girl’s “Tell Me What U What”. The arrangement is as close to perfection as a track can be and experiments with all types of sounds. I can imagine dancing to this in the clubs. Hope they release this as a 2nd single.
“Fadowo” even though it sounds more like “Farowo”, is your typical Naija House-Party song and the message is just that …grind your bodies together, rock the party. K-Solo puts his signature on the album with “By Hook or by Crook” with horns blaring on the track. ‘say your lyrics are poor/dem dey run from us like craw-craw’. Track is insane and should get u on the floor attempting to galala to the beats. Still unsure on “Gbedu”. Might grow on me with repeated radio play, but for now, I’ll pass.
Next up is the ground-breaking and one of the biggest collaborations done by any Nigerian based artist with an International Hip-Hop Super-Star. The Pulse teams up with Rap maestro Busta Rhymes to give us the “Sote(remix)”. Busta Rhymes busts sick rhymes (no pun) over the already wonderful track to give it more punch. Every time I see the video I get goose-bumps
According to the Compass Newspapers, Mr Bust-a-Bust was quoted to have said, “I love the record. Not only is the sound of the song – amazing. But the subject the song is based upon. It is a record that is very inspiring. Before I could put my lyrics on the song, I showed it to some of my friends, they thought it was my song. The song is so tight that sometimes when I take a look at it, I say to myself dam: I didn’t make that record. I don’t want to sound disrespectful, if I had the opportunity I would have kept the song for myself, it would have been next single coming out from me.”
The heartfelt “10 Naira” sang over the soft riffs of a guitar closes out the album. Switch & Dubie show the band’s sincere appreciation to their fans with a thank u tribute about how it was their text messages that got them here. They narrate tales of their struggles before they won the show. Nice track.
Production of “State of Emergency” was handled by experts – Sunny Nweke, Pro-T-Jay, Cobhams & K-Solo (Ifok & The Pulse did “10 Naira”). The album is definitely different. One can hear so much creativity that it makes it refreshing. It should push the band into the mainstream if the promotion is handled properly (Please Kennis). The CD is a collaboration of highlife, pop, RnB, funk, rhymes, vocals instrumental sounds, beats & riffs. The CD does lose steam at several points with all the experimental creativity that just seems to be all over the place; good thing is that there are so many ideas on it that there’s something for almost everyone.
Outstanding Tracks: Sote + remix, Uno familia, tinini tonono, Party til dawn, Hook or by crook
Disappointing Tracks: Rest Abeg (I Dey Your Side), thewww.thePulse
VOCAL DROPS Rating System
OPINION (Personal): 6/10
SKIP FACTOR: 7/10
I actually wished Kennis music had pushed this band and their album more than their other artists (maybe along with Jaywon & Femi, but common guys u know who I’m talking about). They are a Band to watch. I hope that when their contract expires with Kennis, they will get a new 1 secured with them quickly or with another label that might manage them better; but hey, ain’t no label big as Kennis. I would also like to see extended solos of the other Band members doing their own thing …like Mozyphils playing the sax for minutes non-stop like the legend Fela.
“State of Emergency” maybe the take off point for the Pulse but regardless of what’s released next, this is a solid outing. Even Hip-Hop heads can still have their street cred while bumping this.
I go pray sote that, “May they not become a ‘1 hit wonder’ and they stay together and become stronger musically”. The international scene awaits them.
BUY this album & SUPPORT THE ARTIST