Three things are certain in life; death, taxes, and rappers coming out of retirement. After over a decade in the game, A-Q announced his retirement in March 2020 with God’s Engineering. A solid album with which he notched the Headies Award for the Best Rap Album. It was sad news for hip-hop fans across the country, especially considering the quality of God’s Engineering.
Fortunately, just over a year later, he makes his return – to absolutely no one’s surprise, with the 7-track project, Golden. One that proves itself to be truly what the title suggests. Even though he smartly proclaims, “I don’t rap no more I make statements” on Hardwired, he’s not wrong at all. The entire album is one big statement and an important and timely one at that.
The album is a commentary on everything in the life of A-Q at the moment, from his career to his current place in hip-hop, his family life, social media, and most importantly, the current state of Nigeria. He is proud of the progress he’s making in the industry on the business front – comparing his long-awaited success to Abraham’s Blessings, and on the Chike assisted Breathe – he looks back on how far he’s come whilst dropping some “OG” words of wisdom.
A-Q has never been one to hold his tongue or not spit his raw feelings, and he doesn’t let up on this album. On Read the Room where he comes at social media, cyberbullying, trolling. It is clear he’s neither a fan of cancel culture nor stan culture, and he refuses to compromise his art to appeal to anyone.
This sentiment resonates even more strongly on tracks like System Failure. “There’s too much going on to be making those corny songs” he raps, before going on to speak on essentially everything that can be considered a problem in Nigeria today; insecurity, poverty, unemployment, poor healthcare, classism, disunity, taxes, genderism, the list is endless. It is amazing how he managed to fit it all into roughly three minutes of rapping. Even more ridiculous is that pretty much all he touched on is the reality of the average Nigerian.
He doesn’t sacrifice any technical skills for subject matter as well. In fact, one can argue that his pen is just as good if not better than its ever been. He wittily compares himself to the “immortal” cells of Henrietta Lacks on HeLa, claiming his music will live forever, and frankly, this is the kind of music that stands out in one’s discography.
The most powerful moment on the album is undoubtedly Shoot the Messenger, where he expertly chronicles the events of the #ENDSARS protests that took place last October from the first-person point of view. It is a very chilling and poignant moment on the album, especially as the story ends with him being shot at the toll gate. The sounds of the gunshots at the end of the song remind you of the painful reality of the 20th of October 2020.
The brevity of this project works in favour of its impact. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, every song hits as hard as the previous. A-Q has found a comfortable spot for himself as a veteran who offers his two cents on societal and industry topics.
Golden is a high-quality album, one that can only be made from a place of experience; something A-Q has a fair amount of, both in the hip-hop industry and in life generally.