Reekado Banks, the young man who would come to represent Don Jazzy’s continuous relevance in an industry that is fast changing has not exactly received a warm embrace by the ever fickle market. The talent has never been in doubt, immediately obvious since he made gibberish sound so sweet on Dorobucci back in 2014.
But a mix of not so smart marketing, competing interests and sub-par singles have kept him just shy of breaking big. You know, big like Korede Bello’s Godwin, Dr Sid’s Surulere or Wande Coal circa Mushin 2 Mo’Hits.
Banks’ controversial Headies win, ahead of buzzier (Lil Kesh, Cynthia Morgan) and better disciplined (Kiss Daniel) acts helped put him out there just when people were beginning to query whatever happened and he struck gold with a warmly received single, Oluwa Ni shortly after.
Interest in the singer was piqued once more and his debut album Spotlight arrives at an opportune moment in his budding career.
As debut albums go, Spotlight is a mixed bag. Coming in at 21 tracks (over) long, it definitely overstays its welcome mixing sounds that become repetitive with obvious influences and a general lack of focus. Despite production work staying in house with the Mavin trio of Don Jazzy, Babyfresh and Altims doing all the heavy lifting, the record still plays all over the place, packing in everything from Highlife, EDM, Afrobeat and even Juju.
Kicking off proceedings is the swinging Hey Stranger, an apology to an old flame that has Banks adopting his best Justin Bieber improv. Altims combines the Afro-Caribbean feel of Bieber’s Sorry with the EDM texture of the Diplo-produced What do you mean.
Determined to prove his versatility, Altims tackles as many genres as he can, leading poor Reekado Banks into a bumpy ride of sound aggregation and identity ambiguity. Koloba is more contemporary Afrobeats in outlook, inviting gestures of Shoki while the melodious Ladies and Gentlemen hearkens back to those days when Juju was king and Sunny Ade ruled the dancefloors.
Baby Oku with its familiar title and chants of Nwatawanyi/Omalichanwanyi is taken hook, line and sinker from the Flavour playbook. Move with Tanzanian performer Vanessa Mdee is light and easy on the ear fluff while Gbagbe is another Fela impersonation that nobody really asked for.
In terms of vocal delivery, Reekado Banks has been tagged in some quarters as the budget Wizkid and while he genuinely can’t help how he sounds, he does not make effort to distance himself from fare Wizkid would have easily conquered. The tracks Problem, Bigman (despite Falz’s presence) and Olaoluwa all have in common the high strung vocal inflections of Wizkid and this makes it a tad more difficult for them – and for Reekado Banks – to be assessed on their singular merits.
Don Jazzy, known in the past to take over the albums of his ‘’children’’, from Dr Sid to Tiwa Savage, with his over the top beats, is quite subdued here, which is not necessarily a bad thing. His mini dancehall contribution has its merits but comes nowhere near his best work.
Change plays like it was created for Lai Mohammed’s unpopular ‘’Change begins with me’’ campaign and by the time Na your boy comes along, album fatigue has set in. Don Jazzy is definitely not having his best day creatively when his work on Today appears lifted from Young John’s solid stamp on Kiss Daniel’s Mama.
It is no surprise that Spotlight isn’t quite the sum of its parts. Aside from Tiwa Savage’s R.E.D album, one would have to go back to the hey days of The Entertainer (D’banj) and Mushin 2 Mo’Hits (Wande Coal) to find stellar albums overseen by Don Jazzy.
Mega hit singles are where his strength lies but for an artiste who hasn’t exactly been churning out the hit singles in their numbers and with plenty still to prove, this record should have been dynamite. It isn’t. Far from. Don Jazzy will always be fine but he doesn’t do this particular ‘’child’’ many favours here.