When it comes to the Abagas it is unquestioned the talent the brothers possess as rappers. However it has been one shining the torch for the family and the entire nation. M.I had dropped two critically acclaimed albums, both produced mostly by brother Jesse Jagz. The result was that M.I would go on to earn the title of hottest MC and Africa Rapper No1 while Jesse was regarded one of the top producers in the country, seeming like he had been easily excluded from the rap panorama.
When his time with Chocolate City records came to an end, most presumed that was the end and he would disappear soundlessly. He had failed to become a pop star or smuggle his social consciousness into the rap mainstream or reach the heights attained by label-mate, close rival and brother M.I. But instead of disappearing Jesse Jagz launched his Jagz Nation project and has not looked back ever since.
Much of the intrigue surrounding Jesse’s 1st album under the Jagz Nation imprint “Thy Nation Come” fixated on his voice; intense, eager, raw and emotive, influenced of both a Rasta man vibe and a slick rap superciliousness radiating conviction.
Thy Nation Come’s great success was in shining new light on Jesse’s identity as a rap artist, his lyricism and production virtuosity. At the time, his highest point was the Jagz of All Trade album. “Intoxicated”, “Wetin Dey” and “Pump it up” had almost faded from memory.
The album collected those cuts for good measure, but otherwise it dispensed with the man on the fence shit, reintroducing Jesse Jagz as an introspective socially aware rapper. The transition was not the most groundbreaking rather it was conscious intended ploy from rapping to being a rapper, smoothed out by tenaciously thought-out thematic and poetic structures, lyrical personification in flow deliveries and more explorative production.
The gambit worked, Jagz, as an artist is a transcendent genius. Barely 12 months since thumping the airwaves with some big hits, harvesting the genie in Wizkid on “Bad Girl”, and his solo efforts “Mamacita”, “Redemption” and “Sex & Scotch”, Jesse Jagz is here again with his second Jagz Nation album, “Jagz Nation, Vol.2: Royal Niger Company”.
Evolution is extremely rare in music, and Jesse’s now got a notably greater command of his art following “Thy Nation Come”, and to that end, much of the Tom reverb that occasionally gave most of the first album’s tracks a consonant tone have been scrubbed. You can say the training wheels are off now.
As the opening track “Louis” comes to an end there is a speech excerpt from the character David Beale, a TV anchor in the movie “Network”, an American satirical film about a fictional television network and its struggle with poor rating. It is an empowering piece that sets the tone for the album and fusing perfectly with Jesse’s attitude towards the mediocrity and his conceived state of depression in music and the society.
More of the rhetoric filtered into “Jargo” (in its third installment) featuring Tesh Carter with a sample of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”, hard to go wrong and he delivered. Jesse employs guests to do some of the heavy lifting in this one; Rexx is one of such whose contribution on “High Life” makes it a remarkable collaboration and one for the ages. Show Dem Camp come in on the hard-hitting “The Case” to perform one of the best rap collaborations in recent times.
The underlying biggie flow fused within Jesse’s delivery on his verse is testament to the over-pouring self-confidence rather than style jacking.
“Royal Niger Company” lets go of some of the romantic proclivities of its predecessor; its expression of personal feelings is ambiguously intertwined with references to music and weed.
Categorically speaking, there are no love songs on the album, although tracks like “Oceans and Lakes” and “The Window” teem with an eerie feeling of a yearn for an ideal. The album chooses to buck expectations by steamrolling through tracks with deep cutting bars, slick wordplay and wit intended for the pure rap ears.
“Don’t support the phonies, support the Real” Tupac speaks in the opening seconds of “How We Do”, culminates the album. It so vehemently clings onto the theme of the project, serving as the spine that sustains Jesse Jagz’ conviction in his music and the solace he finds in being true to his art.
Prior the release of “Thy Nation Come”, the silent presence of Jesse Jagz was almost proof of the struggle to maintain footing in an industry notorious for feeding on club hit sensations and casting them aside once the hits dry up. But “Royal Niger Company” surges with the self-assurance of an artist finally coming into his own.
The production spectrum relentlessly toy’s with invention and convention, and Jesse’s heightened ease with both makes Thy Nation Come look like a transitional album in retrospect, the build-up for this, the actual takeover.He produced the entire project, testing his limits and pushing boundaries.
However, working with some of Nigeria’s top producers would be interesting to see the extent of his versatility and how he elevates himself to varying pieces of work with their diverse creative demands.