SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR — PHYNO: TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW

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By Chimdi Asika

For about five years now, Nigerian music lovers have accused hiphopheads like Phyno and Olamide for switching to Afrobeats A.K.A commercial sounds. In response, these musicians told Nigerians that they are “musicians” and not restricted to only rap music. If you are very intentive to rappers like Phyno, you’ll notice that until date, they still have an eighty percent rap project while other Afropop genres like Afrobeats and Urban highlife take the remaining twenty percent. It is anything but their fault that the majority rap track gets overshadowed by the Afropop sounds. A project as this is Phyno’s recent album “Something to Live For” (though in this case, none out of the new tracks has hit the market yet).

“Something to Live For” generally sends home two messages: THE HUSTLE AND ROMANCE (these seem to really be things to live for truly).

“Something to Live For” opens up with a grand piano track where Phyno tells the story of his journey so far. He gives advice to his listeners while The Highlife duo The Cavemen had opened the track with words of prayers for God’s saving grace hence the title “Chizoba”.

The grand piano continues into the second track “Stack it up” for a few seconds before the tempo rises with hard rap percussions. Phyno goes on to give the sound more life with his hustle-themed lyrics. The track which had been released few months ago tells about the downsides of poverty and how he is all about the paper chasing.

Together with Peruzzi, he changes the theme to romance in “Belong to you”. The dancehall love song was rendered in Pidgin English and Igbo.

“Ghetto” has same feel as a track off his last “Deal with It” album: “God’s Willing” (ft. Runtown). He delivers on the title of the track well as he tells of ghetto life in “Abakpa” (a neighborhood in Enugu) and “Pitakwa” (local nickname for Port Harcourt). The lyrics are melancholic.

Phyno goes hardest on “I do this” and outshines American guest rapper D’Smoke on this song. He tells of why he doesn’t stop grinding: family, fans, friends, hustlers, the love of money, his mum, his hood, the trade apprentices, the closed doors, the good women he has met on his life sojourn, the tears, the straight forward guys, his protectors and to “prove its bigger than” his haters. D’Smoke goes on to tell his own reasons of grinding. He shifts from English to Spanish to make the track a sound that I hurt that wouldn’t make it to one of the top sounds of this new decade.

The sixth track takes the sound of the fourth and message of the third as Phyno continues one of the strongest bromance in the history of African music — a song with Olamide. Unlike we would have thought, neither of the two hiphopheads rapped on the song. They were all Romeo’d up in “Do you wrong”.

“Winner” has every bit of highlife: the Ghanaian undertone, the Igbo wise words and utter song praising. He comes back to the hustle theme of the album in this song.

In “All Smoke”, Phyno goes all emotional as he searches for peace of mind. In search of this peaceful energy, sometimes he feels he’d get to by smoking. Other days he wants love while on some occasions he just wants to be left alone.

Phyno’s recent successes has been with his experiment in Amapiano sounds (as seen in DJ Kaywise’s “High Way” and MasterKraft’s “Egbon”). He tries the sound again in Onye Nwa as he gives naughty and suggestive lyrics. The track mischievously admires the body of a fictional woman (Lovina).

The tenth track has a Wizkid-like feel all thank to the pristine vocal texture of the featured upcoming artiste Jay Teazer. Jay Teazer goes dancehall to tell of a bad girl whom he is sensually attracted to. Phyno goes on naughtily as he did in the previous track in this “No Love” love song.

“Paracetamol” should be a wedding banger for this coming season. Phyno continues being a lover boy telling his partner of how important she is to his life. He metaphorically calls her his paracetamol (his medication) and promises to treat her right.

The everyday Eastern collaboration of Phyno and Flavour comes in at number 12 with the track titled “Ike Pentecost”. This song continues their Eastern trend of “Nwanne, if it is a hit, aka anyị dị ya” quick tempo’d highlife sound like “Levels” and “Doings”. Like the other sounds within this trend, this track is all about splurge earnings and showmanship of Ibute ike (getting money quick). The song samples a popular Igbo traditional call-and-response “Iyo oh oh, aya ya oh oh”.

The Voice female talent, J’Dess opens “Love you right” with praises to her partner while Phyno comes in next to do same towards his partner. It’s was still all love in “Ain’t nobody” (ft Anjulie).

Phyno comes back hard again on “Gold Medal” with Ghanaian rapper Pappy Kojo and Onitsha rapster BeePee. “Gold Medal” is all about the achievements they (and their audience) have gotten through the Divine power. Phyno goes on to tell the green-eyed monster that all they can do is look (they can’t touch him) — sounds more like excerpts from the Biblical Psalm “…Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…” In short, the whole track was more of a street hustle remix of Psalm 23.

The project closes with the already popular Thanksgiving song “Bia” which is the first single he did this year. The gospel song prays for open heavens and the heavenly showers.

While repeating the project, this last track seems like it continues into the first (and the first into the second) showing the good quality of cyclic sequencing that characterises the album. In this project, Phyno has been able to introduce us to acts like BeePee and Jay Teazer. He also reintroduces us to The Voice finalist J’Dess and gives Canadian musician Anjulie a bit of exposure in the Nigerian market.

It is quite a pity that even with the level Phyno has gotten to in the industry, he is yet to win the hearts of the mainstream media and gain a strong social media fanbase that could shake up the market and put “Something to Live For” on the charts.


Onitsha, November 20

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