The album “Alternate Ending” from its very beginning feels like stepping into a Pandora box – expecting the unexpected like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland. It has a surrealist quality to it. The listener is being teleported into an alternate reality amidst a chorus in the background. The Portal has this storytelling voice-over with a meta-narrative twist, in the sense that the narrator is conscious of his prowess as being in charge of the story. The magical realist curve in the story occurs when a bird is fed and it starts to glow and its bright light takes the artists before a tree with a door with an inscription: “Come through and become; step inside as the greatest” and they all walked through the door.
Paybac and Boogey have succeeded in juxtaposing traditional hip hop with science fiction amidst classical allusions and the deliberate deconstruction of everyday realities to create a sublime picture of a postmodernist existence: A Spartan Leonidas in a spaceship, P-Diddy in the Matrix, a Yale scholar, to the neurosurgery wizardry of Ben Carson; to being a case study for great promises and not payolas trying to influence the rise of their music. The voice at the opening in the true spirit of postmodernist expression already warns everything experienced before is void and nothing is new as all reality has been lived before; so one needs to seek an alternate reality. These say it best: “As I alternate reality, my reality alters me, /alternate in between good and evil call to people,” likewise “change the game and I raise the bar.’ Paybac rapped as though he is a paradox in a box of rhymes.
The electric delivery on the album is reminiscent of Bonethugs N Harmony especially in tracks “What They Said”, and “Memories” ft. Lynn who also brought her fire to match the pressure on strings and soft cords percolating on the baseline. The lines are almost breathless as the lost love being professed. It’s a love letter shared by two lovers who have become restless from missing each other and are now struck by amnesia. Similar argument is raised in the socio-politically conscious song “Uwaka,”. The track as the name exemplifies is provocative- being a profane word in Hausa. Though it has a crunk beat and it’s sang in a low key, it is very serious.Danladi, the guest on the track croons in Hausa: “Dole ne katashi, dole ne in chashe/ senior man maikudinduniya, dukkudinkasaikabashi/ In kahadani da kasha, dole ne zaka ci kasha/ Munafukida bakinciki, in nasugozaka ci uwaka!’
Roughly translated as:
“It’s necessary to rise/ It’s necessary to party/ Senior man with the world’s riches, all the money is given to him/ If you treat me like shit, then you’ll take shit/ A killjoy with mischief, when I arrive you’ll eff your mother’s cunt.”
“Alternate Ending” flips the script on the industry in the sense that it deconstructs the linguistic approaches used in making hits or currying popularity through the fusion of local dialect and English. The album could be mistaken for a foreign or American album in both its thematic concerns, its rendition and references. It’s choice of beats, also buttresses this foreign feel, as though opposing tracks tooled to sooth local appetites.
90’s hip hop is ignited on “Hard II Kill” ft. Mon Lee, it’s as though TalibKweli and Hi-Tek’sReflection Eternalwere the guiding light to the background of the song. There are tributes to the late Notorious B.I G in the opening line ‘Damn, niggas try to kill me for my paper!’ which alludes to Biggie’s “Warning’ off that Ready to Die album (‘Damn, niggas wanna stick me for my paper’). The multiple styles and techniques displayed on the album resurrects that ancient manifested hip hop off the block as Nas reminisces on “Going Down Memory Lane” in Illmatic.
A depth buried in popular culture and lore springs from reference to Gladiators, Spactacus, to Dalai Lama in “Paybac Time.” It ticks a street-hustling mien that tells the rappers’ go-getter attitude’ and brings to mind, Eminem and D12’s “40 Oz” track from the D12 World album – especially its hook, leading to the solemnity in “More to Reach” ft. Maka which expatiates on dreams wished for despite previous accomplishment. ‘Gotta up my level, gotta up my game,” Maka croons on the chorus.
“Shun Sir’ is very Nigerian in its choice of street-smart lingo that motorists use to escape tipping policemen at road blocks. It’s a grass to grace success narrative levelling up the edges of humble beginning to international recognition. Having achieved success, the duo didn’t hesitate to bask in it euphoria of their achievement by living the life off tracks. The track lends weight to the last track “Don’t Wake Me Up,” which is the narrative of someone who is living his dreams and doesn’t wish to be taken backwards, or awaken from his slumber – because even those at sea-level can’t see their level. It is a humble song as Paybac quips;“I’m a student, not a scholar (ironically, a student is a scholar). It’s about making up one’s mind and doing what one wishes with the believe that whatever happens, happens and can’t be reversed. “Violate the game and ignore the whistle” Boogey says, and that’s how to be the best in the game, creating new expressions and and becoming legendary. The duo strikes one as Havoc and Prodigy (Mobb Deep) from Queens Bridge, New York.
“Alternative Ending” might be paying tribute to Jamaica with the color of its album cover; but it has a certain correlation with Alternative Boogie, an American blues musician who has recorded songs from 1948-1952and hasa hit like “Come Back Baby.” Still, this didn’t make it lose its local flavor. Few tracks mirror the indigenization of their everyday crucibles, but they were able to deliver the prototype of what a true hip hop album should sound like. The deliberate featuring that has negated mainstream A-list artists is both a curse and a blessing in the sense that first; the album didn’t have the overwhelming reception that accompany debut albums; especially by a duo. On another plain, they could have bragging rights to having succeeded in pulling an undiluted album of this capacity without the assistance of prominent names in the industry. It’s obvious that years from now, the album will be to referred to as a paradigm-shifter – trying to cut off popular appeal to do the wishes of the rappers; but posterity is there to judge it as one of the great albums of that year or a masterpiece.