Up To Good may be the best hip-hop project out of Nigeria in 2023. In 2021, a few people witnessed Alter Ego, the first five-track EP from Abuja-based hip-hop artist OG Mage, followed by Welcome to The Capital earlier this year.
Now, the artist has released another EP that highlights his tremendous growth.
Up To No Good is the 7-track release that dropped on October 19. Featuring very talented features, Up To No Good is sonically adept and definitively made out of high-quality materials. If it was a meal, OG Mage made it with ingredients plucked close to the bud and the juiciest fruits and vegetables. Every performance was top-notch; the entire production team—from artist performances to mixing, mastering, and creative direction—brought their best to the fore in every minute of the track.
We find OG Mage hopping through sub-genres of hip hop and afro0fusion, starting from the UK Drill rap, trap, love ballads and finally, a delectable offering that is perhaps the most balanced fusion of amapiano and hip hop.
But don’t just take out word for it. The songs can speak for themselves.
The Man explores hard work and how good it feels to reap the fruits of one’s labour. It is one of the hardest-hitting hooks on the project as OG Mage pulls the house down. The Man is a song that fits very well with the London hip-hop scene, and OG Mage shows he can do it well. One can say definitively that he has this style of rap on lock and we would definitely would enjoy getting more of this in future.
From the second track, Like an OG, we start to understand what being an OG means to OG Mage, and he collaborates with Ill Bliss Goretti on this one. Matching the veteran’s energy, OG Mage speaks on his journey and pays tribute to the people who have helped him come this far. It is a song of gratitude, so it is genuinely intimate, a quality that hangs about OG Mage’s music that is hard to find on the radio. Ill Bliss fills up the track with a warm energy. He must have had the most fun recording this because we are convinced that Ill Bliss would like to become an OG. It is the perfect way to introduce a tremendous talent to the industry.
Okay sees OG Mage hop onto another genre of hip hop. It is a trap song, and the lyrics glide through the beat. The artiste draws us deeper into his story, speaking about his wishes. “Diamonds in the rough, I wanna wear them every day,” the OG diamond-in-the-rough sings on this track. It is the second solo track on the EP, as only OG Mage can tell his story emphatically.
The next stop is at Rhythm and Blues. Beggin’ is the name of the track and OG Mage employs another great talent, Mannie Tseayo, for this task. She arguably renders the best vocal performance on Up To No Good. It was so good that she had to take the bridge. The emotions are palpable in this cut as it is a love song of lovers yearning for each other while they stay apart.
Baby is another stab at Nigerian hip hop. The instrumentals are melodic, tuneful and laden with enjoyable harmonies. To make this easy for you, it carries the same spirit as MI’s One Naira—one of the greatest hip-hop love ballads on the Nigerian scene.
So Good is a proposal. OG Mage runs wild in this track and confesses his dreams and love for his chosen one.
But the best song is saved for last. This amapiano-infused hip-hop track is by far the standout track on the project. It is intimate. Beautiful to listen to. And Ojay Larry knocks it out of the park with a silky smooth vocal performance on the bridge and the chorus, though his diction left something to be desired. The mastering of this track is perfectly weighted. Each instrument carefully layers on the other instruments to produce the atmosphere, which perfectly suits just how deep this cut on the record goes. OG Mage gives us some of the best delivery here; perhaps this song is as close to his heart as it feels when you listen. The lyrics are introspective.
You can hear the drums that are the hallmark of the amapiano genre in the background but are not the track’s focus. There is so much more to discover. However, this is amapiano doing what it does best when it fuses with hip-hop, playing support.
Your Way is a song you can party as it reeks of a night in Abuja, driving down the broad swathes of expressways as you steep yourself in your emotions. It is a song about letting go of lost love.
Up To No Good is like a tunnel. With each succeeding track, we get sucked deeper into the artist’s universe. His thoughts are clear, and you can feel his excitement, drive, and heartbreak, and you end up rooting for him to achieve his dreams. OG Mage adds the soulful element that one may find bleached away from radio-friendly jams yet makes music that will sit on the track rotations of DJs worldwide for a long time. These are timeless songs.
A huge commendation to the production team behind the project as they keep finding the perfect balance between high-quality afro-fusion and afro-swing. Perhaps, this is a slice of what is in store for the future of these subgenres, and OG Mage is the pioneer.
Stream Up To No Good on Spotify