The video for Heya! Lead single from BrymO’s sixth album, Oso (Yoruba for Wizard) was an immediate internet sensation. And why wouldn’t it be?
BrymO, clad in nothing but a loin cloth, his gluteal region magnificently displayed, was the hard focus. Directed by Ayomikun Oludoyi for NVMB3R production, the video is composed mostly of close up shots of BrymO, working a piano and performing against the backdrop of a fast-moving Lagos city.
There was the excitement of a bare-assed BrymO, visible for all to see, but there was also subtext. The lyrics, just like the song’s stripped-to-bare-minimum arrangement, allowed for a lot of inference. In just under five minutes, BrymO managed to comment on colonialism, capitalism and consumerism.
Heya! isn’t one of BrymO’s best songs, not buy a mile. The lyrics are too uninvolved, the melody too slight to stand the test of time. But the video will be remembered for a long time. If for nothing else, as the one in which BrymO went naked for the sake of art.
Naturally, the reactions were divided. Profound artistic expression or crass exhibitionism, the Internet couldn’t quite agree. But at least for an entire day, on Twitter and on Facebook, BrymO, and his art, were not just trending topics, but center of attention.
It is a trick BrymO has had to master in the promotion of art. The unrelenting demands of show business sometimes will demand an arm and a leg from entertainers and even when BrymO has always been supremely confident in his abilities as a musician, he isn’t directly responsible for how audiences respond to his work. So, in addition to making peerless music, BrymO has learnt to shrewdly market himself and his work.
He has gone about this by aiming for shock value. Exhibit A: The title of his last album is Klitoris. Exhibit B: His occasional streams of pronouncements on Twitter (‘’I am the best thing to ever happen to the Nigerian music industry,’’) that keep him on the proper side of controversial.
There is an argument to be had about the functionality of these means of expression but BrymO as an artiste has always stayed within the fields of relevancy, even when a legal avalanche threatened to sink his career. Oso sustains a stretch that has had BrymO make four introspective classics in as many number of years.
2016’s Klitoris was the closest post-Chocolate City BrymO came to embracing some form of looseness in his work but on Oso, he is wound up tight once again. Not as cynical as on the break up record, Merchant, Dealers & Slaves but this is to be expected. BrymO is in a different space creatively. He remains ambitious but his aggression these days is directed into creating his own legacy. He has a voice to speak, has earned the right to, and is armed with enough self-awareness to recognize that no one will set out this agenda for him.
Oso goes straight to business with No Be Me, a melodious but affecting snapshot of the way we are. In a single verse, BrymO jumps from broken love to thieving politicians and then ties it all together with a collective indictment that is a scathing as it is subtle. He gets bolder as he goes on. The acoustic interlude Mama argues that the world is still as cruel and unyielding as it was the year BrymO was born and the sneaky title instantly elevates Patience and Goodluck from its preachy origins into a double edged sword.
It wouldn’t be a BrymO record without some mystery and on tracks like God is on Your Mind, Entropy and Money Launderers and Heartbreakers, BrymO digs deep within himself to pen evocative lyrics that deal on various human conditions while leaning toward existentialism; from faith in self to the concept of infinity. Even at his weak spots, it is hard to think of a more interesting songwriter working today. BrymO doubles down on the mysticism in the album’s back end with stunners like Olanrewaju and Olumo gloriously expressing his folk and traditional roots.
Oso is excellent for the most part. Impeccably arranged and exquisitely produced, it carries all of BrymO’s strengths and little of his weaknesses. Which is to say that it isn’t totally self-absorbed and does not take itself too seriously.