How Good Was Phyno’s No Guts No Glory?
If you’re from the city of Compton or Not, Kendrick Lamar takes you there and back in his Good Kid, Maad City compilation, and if you’re from Enugu or Not, Phyno does the same. Nostalgic to the bone, No holds barred, Phyno takes you through the streets, through the eyes and into the life of young man going through normal teenage-young adult life experiences of friendship, boy-girl interactions and the grounding power of family, while simultaneously trying to hold onto a dream that was astronomically inconceivable to even to him and the astonishment at eventually living it. But as you see from the title of the Album “No Guts, No Glory”, it is entirely certain he knows exactly what he’s talking about.
No Guts, No Glory: Phyno certainly can’t be faulted for it. After several years in the underground scene pursuing an art that is most underappreciated in the industry and overcoming several career jeopardising obstacles, Phyno considers himself proof. And he certainly is, he has put his city on the map.
In the narrative on the Intro track, it’s described by a female voice also accompanied by Phyno’s voice painting landscapes of his youth. The frequent holler of his name “Chibuzor” as the story goes on, is in a sense almost autobiographical. The intensity of this first-person expedition into the formative stages of his teenage to young adult life and the unwavering pursuit of a dream is the albums pivot. He was a popular and charismatic young man, on a leash by his parents, which he didn’t seem entirely delighted about.
“O buro so na Nike Boys, a gakwa m na MIC ebe my guys gwa kwa m na one day mu ga e blow zi ka IC” a reference to his loyal friends that motivated and believed in him during his early days rapping in secondary school. A perfect transition into the next track “Alobam” [translation: My bad man], paying tribute to all the childhood friends from the hood times that stayed true and loyal, as well as newly acquired friends.
In the year leading up to Phyno’s Capital debut, that saw him stake claim as One of the Rookies of the year, and Future of Rap accolades aside, he has impressively gone on to become more like the present. Suddenly finding himself measuring up with MC’s like Modenine, Vector, M.I and Ice Prince, he has earned the right to say he’s the “Man of the Year” or at his most modest feel like one.
Omawunmi lends her most heartfelt performance on the track “Chukwu Na Enye”. She starts of introducing herself “My name na Omawunmi, God dey do” and they did it on this record. She was made for this record, hitting higher and higher notes a feat perfectly fitting for the exaltation of God.
With nineteen (19) tracks its credit to Phyno to keep it from being a drag but the miracle of this album is how it ties straightforward rap thrills– impressive lyrical ability, slick quotables/slangs, pounding beats, and star turns from guest rappers– directly to its plot. When “Parcel” was released, its uncharacteristic subject matter caught on with fans and served up as a monster radio hit. It’s a track that suggests the moment in his career when Phyno starts to reap off of his hard work and he starts to acknowledge the fame and success.
As far as depth, subject matter and thematic structure the album was not direct, rather it was sub par in social commentary without giving a solid and intrinsic guide into a specific subject. He hops around on his started from the bottom storyline and it gets easily stretched thin due to the lack of layers of progression in the build up. When Jermaine Cole dropped his highly anticipated debut album “Cole World: The Sideline Story”, he never neglected the importance to reiterate his struggles getting signed, striving to find a balance between recording and studying to get his college degree and experiences with girls. In finality, the album was a culmination of all the stories that made his previous mixtape releases. Phyno talks about how he never had it and how he’s now there, living his dream. The vacuum between Zero and Hero leaves more work for your imagination than trying to fill in the huge language barrier gaps. The moment of arrival in any artist’s story is always less interesting than their journey and it’s the detailed recant of that voyage that is slightly missing.
However, the artist-feature on this album is testament to the recognition that Phyno’s work is receiving from his peers. Phyno is making a public service announcement on this album and it says Ibo rap is here. All the guest stars put their best foot forward in their performances or an unrelenting Phyno would have easily annihilated them. Flavour had the only lazy performance on “Authe *Authentic*” with his melody jacking of Burna Boy’s chorus on “Gba Gbe” with DJ Spinall. The production was heavy, contemporary and very hip-hop with pulverizing beats, sounding like what you would expect on a Rick Ross album, also some traces of Highlife sounds. And Phyno does absolute justice to all of them.