Nigeria’s Rookie of the Year 2023, Odumodublvck has finally dropped Eziokwu, his first solo project as a signed artiste.
Odumodublvck is that hip-hop sensation from Abuja that put the city on the musical map, inspiring many other acts in the city to continue to hone their craft and achieve their dreams. Odumodu reached a global level of fame through his hit single Declan Rice, a rise that coincides with the continuing international exposure Nigerian music has enjoyed in the recent throuple of years.
So, of course, this project was anticipated. Odumodu has only been glimpsed on features and experienced in a run of successful singles. The singles and features have been very successful, but the true merit of an artist lies in how well he can carry a project. And thus, Eziokwu has come.
The 14-track project explores the eclectic sound that immediately announces Odumodu’s presence. For years, the rapper has stuck with what he knows how to do best, using traditional highlife sounds at the forefront of his production, only backed up with contemporary instrumentals inspired mainly by the Grime subgenre of hip hop. This has earned the name Okporoko Grime (named after the Igbo word for stockfish to denote just how definitively local the influences of this sound are). Eziokwu should naturally explore the abilities of what this new sound can contribute to global music.
Does it do that? We have to listen closely to tell.
It opens up with a saxophone, a punchy bass guitar, a fantastic refrain and Odumodu rapping in his usual way. His voice fills the track. Odumodu will dominate when he wants to. Commend is the classic Odumodu track. It is short. The hook is fantastic and ends when he has finished saying whatever he wants.
Declan Rice is the fan favourite. It is as punchy as any track on the album but maintains the sound of an organ that gives a melodic depth throughout. This is supposed to be a track that puffs the listener up. It carries a vibrant thumping energy through and incorporates sounds novel to the Afro-pop scene, and the lyrics are adapted for Nigeria’s cult scene. It ends before the producer can overdo it.
Kubolor derives most of its rhythm from Igbo Highlife. It incorporates amapiano and contemporary sounds into its instrumentation. It features Amaarae, the queen of the club scene, so this song fits right into that period when the club starts to warm up.
Both artists take one verse each, keeping the artistic goodness potent.
Adamma Beke is a cut right out of the South Eastern bar scene. The track feels like finding treasure. Odumodu knows how to make highlife-inflected hip-hop music that we can dance to. The hook is as addictive as hooks come. It finishes with a flourish, cementing its production as one of the best on the project.
SHOOT AND GO HOME and TESLA BOY
Shoot and Go Home is a cult classic. If you looked hard enough, you could find this on an Anti-World Gangstas album. With the amount of cult paraphernalia scattered across the track, this is one for the boys.
On the surface, Tesla Boy describes the perfect life of a young man in Abuja. Odumodu and Blaqbonez are at that age where they can capture this with vivid imagery. On the downlow, Tesla Boy is about a young man’s anxieties in Nigeria.
MC Oluomo starts with a sample, “Odumodu, On your feet run”, taken from the clip of the artist escaping from assailants at one of his shows in LASU, Lagos State. Odumodu tries to flip the script in this track, talking about his resilience and exploits. It is the shortest track on the project and is deemed an answer to the public’s reactions to how he ran.
Perhaps some context would serve here. Odumodu has dramatically benefited from the image of a swash-buckling confra member. He has drawn the ears of young Nigerian men of this calibre across the country who vibe with the energy of someone who should not be messed with. So naturally, Odumodu running from people is antithetical to what he stands for.
When you get to Saint Obi, you understand how much Odumodu depends on this brand to appeal to his listeners. “When I pull up like Saint Obi, Lights Camera Action Film…” denotes that it could get violent if he is disrespected.
This point is nailed deeper when Reeplay also raps, “I dey like Seun Kuti, Give them like two two slaps…” referring to the event where Seun Kuti assaults police officers who stopped him on the road. This is an unabashed Grime track.
DOG EAT DOG II
Dog Eat Dog II is the deepest cut on this project. This is arguably the best track on the album, featuring Bella Schmurda and one of Alte’s best musicians, Cruel Santino. The production is lush, drawing from Okporoko and grime subgenres, Rock and the Nigerian alte sounds. Ending at precisely 4 minutes, it is the longest cut on the record, with a fantastic video to boot. Each feature on the track delivers a killer verse, reaffirming why they were chosen for this song.
Picanto is another standout track. It has a smooth production, with a good bounce in the instrumentation and could be the gold standard for the novel Okporoko Grime subgenre of hip hop. Picanto also allows us a glimpse into the cult scene that birthed Odumodu.
It is what Odumodublvck does with the Nigerian sound that is addictive. Okporoko music is the sound that calls attention to itself. It is hard to ignore as it is filled with attitude and insists on being heard. This is the robust quality of the subgenre. As such, it is a sound of choice for messages that demand to be heard, even if its pioneer does not know it yet. Odumodu’s music would make the rap champion for Nigerian-influenced rap music, Ruggedman, very proud. This was Michael Ugochukwu’s dream.
The features are solid and make up for what Odumodu lacks in singing. His backup singers and choruses never miss the mark and deserve some credit for their work on the album. There are times when Odumodu allows the artists to completely take over the song, as in Firegun, where he lets Fireboy DML loose for over half the track.
From this music, do we expect deep self-reflective lyricism? Not really. Odumodu is not one to delve deeply into politics. He doesn’t speak revolutionary, but he sounds revolutionary. His insistence on making music the same way throughout the years is a revolution that markets itself already. If anything, he is more about the action than the talking.
Nevertheless, there is space in his musical style for some self-reflection. Odumodu could very well be the champion for whatever he chooses to champion, and what he does in Eziokwu is champion the idea of what strength and power look like to a specific kind of Nigerian male; i.e. when he is not talking about cult violence and using lyrics that hinge on borderline disrespect for women. It makes him a hero for the disenfranchised young men, who feel seen and represented by his music.