Sunny Neji is an artiste that needs no introduction. He released his first record in 1991 but burst unto national consciousness in 1997 with the now classic ‘Mr Fantastic’ and has remained a relevant part of the industry since, releasing hit single after platinum album on his way to achieving veteran status. Two decades in any industry is no mean feat, more so in the here-today-gone-tomorrow music scene and a listen of ‘Timeless’, his sixth disc, offers a tiny peep as to why the man has been around this long.
The reason is simple really- he does good music and does so consistently. Having said that, the set of songs in this collection do not exactly form a time capsule but they are still head and shoulders above a lot of the other stuff out there.
Mr Neji’s greatest weapon has always been his voice- a rich, seductive powerhouse capable of scaling multiple vocal sprints- and he works it to fine effect here. He is as comfortable belting out smooth ballads as he is zipping through hard-hitting hip-hop beats but his true love has always been the high-life genre which he continuously reinvents for his audience- which by now must span generations.
He may be able to hit the big notes effortlessly but he is also generous enough to accommodate younger guest artistes and allow them shine. He shows aa little bit of his true age and enlists ‘Kuchi kuchi ’crooner J’odie for ‘Lovey, dovey’, one of the best duets of the year so far. Both acts express their frustrations with falling in love and dating in this computer age whence the likes of 2go, BBM and P setting have taken the joy off good old romance.
After some vocal teasing and foreplay, their perfectly matched coupling climaxes with the soaring lines ; computer no fit to touch me/computer no fit to hold me/computer no fit to feel me/like you. he doesn’t quite bring sexy back, but he keeps it coming with ‘Bad as I bad,’ a slinky duet that boasts a sizzling turn from singer, Fragrance. She plays the uninhibited lover that keeps up with him in every way. Yes, your imagination may take off at this point. ‘Nobi Oyibo’ is a message song that urges us to take responsibility for our (mis)actions instead of blaming the white man.
A lady named Kiki attempts to over sing her lines but Mr Neji keeps her in check and makes the song believable. The hip hop heads are attracted with the up tempo, groovy melodies of ‘Awarawa’ and guest Jhybo holds his own perfectly with his vibrant, punchy delivery.
He goes solo on other standouts like ‘Inside pass body’, ‘Talk’ and ‘A somebody’, a fiery gospel number that demands that you get your praise on immediately and let it all hang out. The unnecessary ‘Happy birthday’ and dated ‘Follow me wynnie’ tend to obstruct the smooth digestion of the album and may be bypassed if indicated.
Two remixes of his former hits make the cut here. The first is ‘One more time’ from 2009’s ‘Pin No. 9 10 11’ while the guitar driven high life take of his enduring hit ‘Mr Fantastik’ deftly rounds things up. Fifteen years after, it still sounds fresh and throws up nostalgic feelings. Younger ones can also be introduced to a contemporary Nigerian classic.
The record is in truth, more timely than timeless as it gives us Sunny Neji for a whole new generation of listeners and serves as an example for younger artistes on how to make music that matters 20years after your debut. It may not be as radio-friendly as one would expect but it has it’s pleasures and hopefully would gravitate towards it’s audience.
At the end of ‘Mr Fantastik’, Mr Neji promises us; If you never tire to dance/me I neva tire to sing and we can only reassure him, that as long as the music is this good, we’ll be dancing for a long long time.
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