Rappers who make albums that are widely considered underwhelming- from Mode nine to Reminisce- are quick to go on the defensive, eager to excuse themselves from complicity in the churning out of subpar material.
‘’We gave the people what they want’’ they say with all the condescension worthy of their talent. ‘’We wanted to go commercial’’ their noisiest trumpeters holler before going on a mostly pointless, usually long winded rant about how compromises have to be made on the long journey to fame. As if the very idea of popular music and quality are mutually exclusive.
Stories that touch.
They must have never heard of Taylor Swift.
It is against this backdrop that Falz (born Folarin Falana) drops his sophomore album, a red hot light on its feet accomplishment that floats like a butterfly but stings like a bee. His debut disc, Whazup Guy released last year was a painfully underrated, perhaps premature product that nevertheless introduced him properly to an accepting audience, thanks in no part to breakout songs like Marry me with Yemi Alade and Poe.
But it was with comedy that Falz found mainstream success as he leveraged on his comic talents and social media clout to penetrate the music market further. His alter ego, created in the mould of Funke Akindele’s Jenifa is that of an unrefined Yoruba demon who manages to ride the crest of whatever pop culture phenomenon is hot at the moment. Ello bae was the perfect mix of music, comedy and social media light bulb moment. With major visibility going for him, a follow up album was a no brainer.
Stories that touch opens smartly with Kabiyesi featuring the ululating drama soul of Oyinkansola. It goes down easy and sets the stage for finer things to come. Of these, few are better than Soft work produced by Sess (who does the bulk of the album’s work), a bright bubbly rap single featuring breezy wordplay and punchlines that come across so effortlessly yet hit their mark with precision. Exhibit 1: Even real talent gan still need promo/ If you fake your own death you fit still no blow. Skibii probably dies a little more every time this song comes on.
The eargasm continues with the previously released Karishika where Falz and Phyno put in effort to outperform the other with lines that stick. It is an aural delight this one. The piano strings that begin Soldier are deceptively mellow as Simi launches into a stunning chorus that is far from demure. She proves a more than formidable match for Falz’ bullying soldier and gives as good as she gets. Airing their frustrations with the other, both make up the one of the strongest collaborative teams heard on record in a while.
Clap with Reminisce is a venture into trap music that plays well. It is in similar territory with Reminisce’s innuendo heavy Tesojue and Skilashi and the laviscious rapper is all too happy to dish out lines like Oya spread your legs like a rumour. Chardonnay music is almost perfect, boasting a superior verse about Lagos from Falz’ regular collaborator Poe that should be ingested, digested and regurgitated again for its sheer awesomeness.
Falz may be born of privilege (his father is prominent lawyer, Femi Falana) but the working man theme runs deep in his work. His regular Joe appearance, relatable lyrics and alter ego all identify with the common man.
Workaholic, heavily inspired by Fela’s Afrobeat sounds sharply reminds why it important to remember to catch up on much needed rest despite gruelling schedules. On Soft work, he traces the importance of working smart as opposed to working hard.
My People is more upscale in ambitions, as Falz casts himself in the role of the jet setting lover boy with a paramore in every part of the country. He also finds time to recognise the ambition and industry of the average Nigerian. Celebrity girlfriend is a fun, harmless fantasia of dating above one’s means using every popular Nollywood actress as a reference point.
The downers here are Kawosoke, a party starter that doesn’t quite get the party started and a midway skit that isn’t as funny as Falz fancies. He falls into the trap of making a wedding song and deceives Bez into slumming it on a pseudo highlife Love you pass.
Falz succeeds in making a sophomore record that is more accessible than his debut without exactly dumbing down his material. Stories that touch is welcoming, witty and does not fall into the trap of taking itself too seriously. It is what popular music should be; fun and enjoyable with no paid PR guru lurking in the shadows at every turn to explain reasons for the selection of songs that made the final cut.
No one cares sir.
Just give us music to entertain and inspire. Falz gets that.
- Wilfred Okiche (@DrWill20)