Unlike the 2016 Best Picture Oscar award-winning movie ‘Spotlight’ (written and directed by Tom McCarthy), which gave light to certain grey areas of the Vatican, Reekado Banks’ album of the same name has its triumphs but didn’t bring anything new to the musical table as far as Nigerian music is concern. But we have to applaud his musicianship and efforts in building a body of work shortly after coming to limelight. This is in reference to artists who tour the world on the strength of one single or a hit. Of course you know like do, they will crash – probably without cashing out! To have an album is to make a statement about artistry, fearlessness and musical maturity. Though Reekado Banks could have hidden behind other Mavin Records’ crew collaborations like the ground-breaking ‘Dorobucci’, ‘Adaobi’ and Looku Looku,’ before his debut; he dug into his arsenal and came up with personal hits like ‘Katapot’, ‘Sugar Baby’, ‘Oluwa Ni’, and the recent ‘Standard’. Those could speaks for him, the album ‘Spotlight’ also solidifies his place in the industry. And with the latest development for supremacy among other artists like Adekunle Gold, Kiss Daniel among others, it is right to look at the engagements of the album putting in mind its promises, shortcomings and success.
The album art on the cover with Bank’s silhouette as highlighted by the moon is both symbolic of its title and aesthetic.
1. Hey Stranger – This is the most experimental song on the track, makes a grand opening. It has that European vibe to it that one could unmistakable feel a remaking of Justin Bieber’s 2015 hit song ‘What Do You mean?’ produced by MdL, which was included in his fourth studio album ‘Purpose’. The mid-tempo or tropical house appeal of the song will make it a success during performance and the Afro-pop infusion killed it! Like the title of the song, the track is a stranger to the album’s track-list, entirely different. It’s a ballad apologising for the wrong done to a lover with the hope she forgives and not walk away from the relationship. We hear Banks soulfully pleading to her saying; ‘Baby don’t you say bye-bye.’ The hybrid beat makes the track memorable.
2. Killa Whyna ft. Patroranking – The suggestive dance-hall title didn’t deliver as expected despite having Patroranking on it. Surprised? Sh*t happens, get over it. ‘The way your body go/ The way your body roll, killing the show,’ still couldn’t summon the energy that should be associated with the track. Though the self-proclaimed dance-hall king did his bid, he didn’t come alive on it; seems not to own it despite being one that would readily come to mind on a track of that extraction.
3. Problem – Before I ask my question, its obvious the song is a remaking of YCee’s Omo Alhaji, or Young 6’s – featuring StoneBoy which could still be traced to the former too. The slick laid-back beats and looped vocals creates a woozy atmosphere in the song and could be a good lounging beat and even a party segue used by DJs to transit unto other tracks. Now, my question: What is it with African men or their artist with big behind or backsides!? Anyway, Reekado says its a metaphoric problem they really are in love with it. Banks wants to hold it, feel it, and likes the way she nails it. Let’s not forget the flow is Wande Coal-like (that nostalgic Mushin 2 Mo-Hits vibe).
4. Koloba – I imagine swaying to this track with a glass of wine in my left hand while practicing my two-steps because of the celebratory tone with which it invites mothers and sisters to come and make merry. It’s brevity makes it one to be played again.
5. Biggy Man ft. Falz – This is a song with braggadocio undertone. Here, Reekado is chest-beating about his place, his achievements, and his ability to stay on top as a biggy-man – influential person, or someone resourceful. He goes on to tell how he achieved this saying; ‘See, I’m steady working, me I no play o/ Badman getting money, all day o/ Badman no sen’ anybody.’ Then comes the line that delves into popular culture as heard in dramatic clips of Mark Angel and the young talented Emmanuella (a YouTube sensation), ‘You thinking on me, this is not my real face o!’ That line closes the big man pose as someone untouchable because one never knows who he’s dealing with since he could take other forms (faces).
Of course we were expecting Falz to deliver as usual and I will say taking his comic approach, he did just what was expected of him: ‘Soldier man like this…Who do you know with a swagger that is more militant?/ Many men wan’ finish me/ But I dodge bullet, charged up I won BET.’ This haughty lines combine efforts to bring the Falz in the song ‘Soldier ft. Simi and the 50 Cent we know in real life who survived nine (9) shots to sing about it in ‘Many Men (Wish me Death)’ off the Get Rich Or Die Trying,’ album. Falz also brags about his enemies except he took the wind out their sails to excel at their expense (winning the Black Entertainment Television (BET) award, among other heights).
Falz goes international by generalizing; ‘Omo Naija, I be core indigene/ But them dey feel me abroad; world citizen, We still dey go, we dey push…’ Falz has his pompous rendition of who is in charge but most striking is the growth in Banks having dropped the ‘Oluwa Ni’ hit-single and had then referred to himself as the small boy signed by Mavin boss Don Jazzy, but has now become the acclaimed ‘Biggy Man’ who have come of age; could look at himself and reassert his earlier statement.
6. Ladies & Gentlemen – Its a transit song that sweeps through places. It has that celebratory feel of triumph too. The repetitive nature of Highlife to create musicality is evident in the song and if one has a seasoned ear; King Sunny Ade is lurking not only in the background but in the groove as well. It’s one of the short tracks in the album.
7. Baby Oku – It had the superman approach to loving a woman (Double O Seven ‘007’, if you like). Reekado croons that she will be his number one and makes promises never to leave her. Though the style is definitely Banks’, the refrain in the song sounds very much like Flavour. From ‘Baby you’re killing me softly/ Baby girl, you’re doing me strong thing/ If you leave me na die, I dey be this o/ But if you leave me na marriage things be that…’ we get a picture of the singer yearning for a girls love and making promises lovers at the start of relationships make – promises they can’t keep. The highlife groove makes it memorable and the repetitive pattern that flows along the lines will make a good performance.
8. All Your Love ft. D’Prince – The drum kicks and rising percussion gives the song a vitality that could only be appreciated by head-nodding. It’s a song glorifying the female body, specifically the figure 8. Somehow Wizkidish from the beginning; its rhythms will give party-goers and club-heads something to put their steps to. It explores a sexuality that will be needed on the dance floor thus: ‘Where ya up to mammy/ You stand there dey look me, mammy/ Your biggie something like your mammy/ I want you to meet your dada, mammy.’ The song goes on to suggest the singer’s wish to have intercourse with the fictitious girl and D’Prince’s lyrics came uncoated. D’Prince sounds more direct on the track and wishes he could have the girl’s behind because it bursts his brain. He says; ‘Twist your waist, burst my brain/ I like your waist, I like your face.’ Its a 3:06 song but it doesn’t sound like it.
9. Change – The legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti comes alive or rather, is ‘resurrected’ in this song in both the Afrobeat touch and the thematic concern of the song. The call-and-response pattern of classic African rendition pattern layered alongside social commentary on the struggles or sacrifices of commoners makes the song serious. The talking drums at some point comes off as an adulteration of fuji sounds but has been harmonized to Reekado’s advantage.
10. Skit ft. Kenny Blaq – The invited sister Anyanwu uses what Ken-Saro Wiwa calls ‘rotten English’ but the hilarious interlude makes its case: the impersonated sister comes to make a testimony on behalf of Reekado Banks. We are musically transported to a local church and given an improvised version of Bank’s hits; ‘Katapot’ and ‘Oluwa Ni’ with an Eastern Nigerian accent. Marvelous.
11. Move ft Vanessa Mdee – I thought this beautiful African Beyonce and her Tina-Marie voice should’ve been featured on ‘Love My Baby’ but it’s Reekado Banks’ show. And the song sounds like Korede Bello’s ‘Romantic’ featuring Tiwa Savage, but again; its all family, its all love, its all Mavin! It’s like most songs on the album (I’m beginning to wonder if its the women he’s trying to put in the spotlight), concerns itself with a girl whose love the singer can’t afford to lose and would love her despite what people around are saying. The singer wishes to transcend urban gossip to have the girl of his dream: his truth.
The expected chemistry with Vanessa’s verse only exposes the detachment in the song – subjective here though. I feel if the artist wrote the song together (same studio kind of ish with both artists warming up to each other, who knows?), a different song would’ve been produced. Just saying? Yes, just that. But we have to give it up for the East-African Tanzanian Queen, she still brings her thing because I can’t help repeating her lines – including the ones I needed interpretations to, but good music has no dialect and I enjoyed her part as well.
12. Gbagbe – Again The song is Kuti-ish also! Some would say Banks sounds like Wizkid in this song but he also copied form the aforementioned Afrobeat King himself. I want to believe the sparse lyrics was meant to make the song breathe. More like giving it room so the melody could be enjoyed. Banks bemoans individuals that have been lost and like the ‘Dangote’ track, wishes good things will happen to these persons. He craves for ‘albarka’ the Hausa word for blessings and no ‘wahala’, no problem.
13. Love My Baby – The triumph of this song is in its lyricism: ‘Love my baby so bad/ You gonna be a soldier/ From now till we die/ Come lean on my shoulder/ My sexy lover, I go buy Range Rover/ I will never say its over/ You deserve it baby, you’r my heartbeat,’ These opening which doubles as the chorus rendered on a higher pitch indulges the listener. Banks again is heard promising this fictitious vixen everlasting love and goes the extra-mile of saying he would never deceive her because her love had outshone that of other ladies competing for his affection.
14. Na Ya Boy – This song comes with the energy of a street hustler fighting everyday vicissitudes. The die-hard hustler despite his struggles entrusts everything to God. There’s a progression in the song in the sense that this same street hustler (Banks personified?) goes on his knees and prays daily for a change of situation, he recounts when he was just an ordinary boy and wasn’t even given any attention till Don Jazzy signs him, and begs the question: can you see what God can do?
We can get a sense of gratitude from Banks’ lyricism here as the persona in the songs alludes every achievement to the Almighty. That humility is bound to resonate through the streets. But I’ll be quick to say the song sounds like Vanessa’s ‘Nobody But Me’ featuring South African rap-star K.O.
15. Ola Oluwa – Of course Don Jazzy ‘finish work for here o!’ Yes, I said it. We will be dancing to this in several Gbedus’ and ‘Owanbes’ to come. The song has that Yoruba gospel flavour but with a folkloric twist. Its the most level-headed song in the album.
16. Today – Its a tribute to beautiful girls while nodding to the vixens in UniLag. The track is a kind of body-worship song for the opposite sex the singer finds fascinating thus: ‘Like your body shape o/ Makes me suffocate o/ Wait o, are you from Soweto?’ The desperation in the crooner’s voice suggests he couldn’t wait for the beauty till tomorrow. The song pays tribute to the big-bottomed ladies of not just Southern African but South Africa too and specifically, the those in the ghettos of Soweto. The occasional trumpet flourishing over the back-kicks gives melody to the whole song. Most importantly, is the jazzy appeal of the song; groovy if you like.
17. Dangote – As the name implies is a song directed at success and wealth. It comes as a wishful prayer and the musicality drawn from repetition makes it one to listen to again and again. To wishes of becoming president, governor, footballer and minister, the joyous prayer-pattern answering to Banks answer ‘Ah Amin!’ but when the doomed professions like becoming a ritualist, aristo, armed-robber and kidnapper was mentioned, it was revoked with ‘God forbid!’
The strength of the song lies in the chorus; almost epigrammatic; ‘We dey hustle everyday/ E don they when we don dey pray/ Anything them like them say/ We go make ‘am like Dangote.’ Banks prays for lavish lifestyle and affluence and kicks against any form of poverty and sickness. He really wishes blessings wouldn’t bid him goodbye as the trumpets throws the listener into a chorister’s glee.
18. Turn The Lights On – This is a motivational track. It is courageous and alludes to that Biblical notion of not being worried about tomorrow. The song rides on the tides of humility and is the most emotional on the album. Banks sings; ‘Remember when I always broke down in tears/ Filled with sadness, sorrow and tears/ Been think sey road no clear/ Now I’m here, now I’m here.’ Though some of its its lyrics are/were borrowed from unacknowledged sour ces; sign of victory, history is being made, big dreams, big things I own it, and started from the bottom, there’s not point acting lyrics’ police. So what? Aren’t we going to defend him with no idea is original? I think the song will garner love from its fearlessness and its blunt submission to the will of God which above anything at the end is meant to save.
19. Katapot and 20. Oluwa Ni could be tied together because of their thematic preoccupation: the place of the divine and his mysterious designs. Both songs look at defiance, endurance in the face of difficulty and also of imaginary enemies and fair-weather friends who wait in the wings of success to make their presence felt. The singles wouldn’t need much attention other than the ones they have long enjoyed before the album. Except for a few elevations Sarkodie tries to insert into the songs and as usual, he masters the art of rhythm and it shines through in his recollections of how time have changed; ‘E be like sey you dey envy, cos my money dey plenty/ But where you dey by the time I dey walker’ and ‘We used to be the boys for the backstage…/ Now we dey cruise Panamera, you dey talk sh***’ Banks croons about God’s blessings and the overnight new friends and girls that comes with success when even one was once abandoned by the Nigerian Electric Power Authorities.
21. Standard, has been done justice to on this site
‘Spotlight’ is a wonderful album but not groundbreaking. It fits in as a collection but not cohesive enough. When art works are referred to as a body of work, it follows if not a sequence, chronology if you like; it has certain degree of synergy that runs through its length. By extension it is said to have a head, stomach and legs: beginning, middle and end (to borrow from Aristotle’s Poetics). 21 tracks, wow!!! Knuckles up despite a few 2 minutes plus songs. Without much ado about the strength of the producers behind the album, the mastering and mixing is ‘Aight’. Except I’m worried there’s no definite sound to which you can truly attribute to Reekado Banks as he tries to have an omnibus of styles and trying his chords on techniques geared towards versatility. What is ‘Spotlight’ specifically about? Self-glorification, triumphs, survival, new status or faith? Banks was enjoying time fox-trotting on these forms, probably he will come to his distinctive signature on another album. And let me be quick to say with not so definite exception of Falz, Reekado Banks could’ve still given us this album without his collaborations. Not much was brought to the table by the featured and I’m happy he didn’t rely on his Mavin’s industry-heavyweights. You know them.
I think its a commercial success – bankable as Banks himself? It will make it to shows and will enjoy airplay. I strongly feel its a collection that will grow on the listener with time. I’m already putting some of the songs on repeat. Lol, of course I will not be the only one. Se clare? Oui!