Prior to the January 1, 2016 Headies, Lil Kesh (real name Keshinro Ololade) was another rapper on the verge. With a string of hit singles behind him, an affiliation with Olamide’s trendy YBNL label and a penchant for innuendo laced lyrics spewing forth from a deceptively innocent enough face, Lil Kesh was definitely young and getting it.
But the controversial events of the Headies placed him on another level entirely. Voting audiences and the Headies may have conspired to deny him the Next Rated title, but that night, due to events beyond his own control, only one star emerged from the looming shadows of their more famous mentor. And that person wasn’t Reekado Banks.
The debut album, YAGI (short for young and getting it,) is exactly what one would expect from both Lil Kesh and the label that raised him. Lil Kesh sticks to what he knows best and mines his experiences, influences and mileu for the bulk of his material. He has been marketed as a child of the streets and it is to these streets that he falls back on to sate fans who have decided that the market is ready for his collective.
Of the previously released singles, the career defining but endlessly overplayed Shoki and the raunchy Gbese do not make final cut. Lyrically may not have been a club hit upon release but it is the record that got him the right notices as it displayed a raw, precocious talent sorely in need of a vessel to direct all the awesomeness within. On YAGI, the single serves as both a fitting closer and reminder of what the fuss was all about in the first place.
Lil Kesh’s two biggest mainstream hits outside of Shoki and its remix, are the playful Is it because I love you? (with dancehall sensation Patoranking) and the compulsorily danceable Efejoku (with label mate Viktoh) and they both still pack their freshly released punch.
When he is serving autobiographical material, Lil Kesh shines the most. He boasts the manic energy and enthusiasm characteristic of youngsters seeking to upend an existing order and on the album opener, FSU, which manages to rise above its shoddy mixing, he makes his intentions perfectly clear. They say Kesh is our next rated/ Fuck that I kind of feel like I’m the best rated, he boasts.
Ishe is another narrative of his lowly beginnings wrapped in a maternal appreciation package, disguised as a love song. Kesh is the undeniable star of his story but he finds room to appreciate his mother whom he claims, is his original ride or die chick. It is the kind of rags to riches narrative that Nigerians love to rally around. The standout Semilore with its mix of Fuji gyration, throbbing drums and sweet sing song melody is a hit song waiting to happen, exactly the kind of song Olamide has made a lucrative career from.
Production is handled by usual suspects, Pheelz and Young John the wicked producer and their familiarity with their star is palpable on the record. There is the occasional weird result like the Drake Xeroxing that is Itunmo and the Davido assisted Yayo oyoyo.
He dabbles into love songs at some point but the naughty Lil Kesh of caddish fare like Gbese does not quite gel with the passive lover and subdued, lethargic tone of For you, even when the melody is just as catchy as anything he has done.
The disc slumps about midway in and Kesh’s efforts at introspection fail to amount to anything of interest. Problem child is a bore, Life of a star, a duet with Adekunle Gold sounds like a rework of Gold’s Sade (itself a One Direction remake) with country music pretensions. Igba Iponju slips by unnoticed and things only pick up when Kesh heads back to the dancefloor for Ibile. Certainly not his best call to party but a welcome respite considering the tediousness of what comes just before.
The title of YAGI states its intentions clearly and Lil Kish does not depart from it at all. He puffs and boasts and brags and tires himself all too soon, preaching the gospel of his young and fabulous life. What you see is exactly what you get and Y.A.G.I plays like the fun, cool, imperfect vanity project you knew it would be. Olamide has put out similar stuff in the past but Kesh packs enough heat to redo the material without sounding like a clone of the original YBNL.
At its best, Y.A.G.I is heady, juvenile, occasionally sparkles with impressive lyricism and constantly reeks of the impulsiveness of youth but thanks to Lil Kesh’s infectious delivery, we aren’t too old to remember what young and getting it feels like.
– Wilfred Okiche (@DrWill20)