It cannot be overstated, that Hip Hop is undergoing a Renaissance in Nigeria. Since the past year to the present second, its practicing artistes – both veterans and newly arrived players – have released a myriad of credible works.
While this plays into the unfortunate truism of rappers having to work twice as much as any other genre’s artiste to make it, it can also be viewed with from the perspective that Hip Hop, being a challenging Art form, demands the very best from its performer. And more times than not, this drive for perfection leads the artiste.
PayBac and Boogey are two of such rappers, driven mad by their quest for perfection. As individuals, their careers have taken different tracjectories, although similarly shaped. The former got his first big break on a Reminisce song, the latter was crowned Prince by many critics when he rapped his last lines (“anybody better than me, put your hands up/ I don’t see no hands, so I guess I’m the best hands down) on MI Abaga’s 2012 IMM2 cut “Ridiculous”.
While they’ve had to get traction off the traditional path, their music since then hasn’t. Often, the duo express sadness at the financially unyielding rap game. It has become their side story, a linear narrative they turn to often. Rappers have basically owned the sentiment, their career arcs could be a tweet that goes thus: I should be a bigger artiste tbh, but Hip Hop in Nigeria is shit.
Since the turn of 2018 however, rappers have had to turn inwards, to examine their hearts, and sell their vulnerability. Of three great rap albums on The Self, two was from PayBac and Boogey.
The Biggest Tree, a documentation of a man’s depression, was one of the truest projects of the past decade: there was the real-life factor of PayBac, his obvious humanity. Through references to local Pop Culture items, he manages to assert himself as a Nigerian who shares the struggles of his listeners; he often comes across as a member of the same class of his fans, maybe even lower.
Nouveau Niveau was Boogey’s challenge with his curse of being a victim of his own gift. In the songs, his voice takes on a pitched down tone – as a metaphor, this marks his growing doubt in the world around him; his delivery however, is anything but quiet. The boisterous nature of his raps is still present, but meshed within darker thematic preoccupations, do they manage to reveal the rapper as depicted on the album cover: someone wanting to be seen, someone in need of help.
These projects both became the first of two projects the duo released in 2018. Towards the end of the year, they both updated their status (word to Victor AD) : Boogey reiterated that it was never enough: the consistency needed to be kept, the hunger needed to be piqued by always working. PayBac had come to a good place finally. Surely in one of the songs, he raps “I have seen the light o, energy for life o.” Produced entirely by Charlie X, both Never Enough (Boogey) and Autopilot (PayBac) was the then-latest inter-connected project from the trio.
In March 2016, the duo of rappers had teamed up as “The Lost and Found”. Under the guidance of Charlie X, Sizzle Pro and Black Intelligence, they created “Face off”, a project that is today considered a slept-on classic. On songs off the project, the duo rap about obscure themes, surreal topics are given the flesh of lyricsm. When PayBac raps “I had a dream where I was wide awake, and seven bush babies brought me cake” on ‘Lucid’, you feel hey, he’s just fucking with my mind. And of course, he is; they both are. Deviating (lyrics wise) from what you’ve come to expect from a Nigerian rap song, they seem to prove their ability to take on any topic, and make it listen-worthy.
On rare moments of “Face off” however, there is a succumb to the contemporary. A song like “BBC and Shayo” featuring Highlife sensation Rexx should have been big, the ‘commercial’ offering. You know this, so do PayBac and Boogey. Charlie X (CHx) by way of an interview I did with him, explained why it wasn’t so:
“It costs a lot of money to promote music. We had an extensive media press run in Lagos for and after the release of the project which cost money. We plugged the song on radio but couldn’t raise the budget we required for a video and promoting it (the video).
Also, there was a lot of internet noise that did not translate to sales or streams. So it didn’t make any business to keep spending on the project.” a
That project ends on a mix of high and low. While there’s the positive-sounding production, there was an underlying effect of the rappers’ verses, the bias of the industry hitting deep with every listen. “Ready to Blow” left “Face off” with a looming effect on its listeners – you wanted to hear these people on the other side of Hip Hop. You wanted to hear what their music would sound like when their rich and famous, when they’re ‘blown’.
On some levels, “Alternate Ending” is the album for you. The artistes and producer which make up “Face off” once again turn up for the party.
Following in the long line of starting their projects on a high, “The Portal” opens Alternate Ending, the follow-up to 2016’s Face off. There’s a narrator – Pulse writer Motolani Alake has a superb interpretation in his review – and the tone his voice sets bears semblance to that of a detective horror movie.
The first two songs (“Implode” and “What they said”) introduce the rappers as creatures of technical brilliance – in the latter, there’s a superb rhyme scheme adopted by PayBac that slides effortlessly into the beat – basically they’re just talking their shit.
Danladi-featured “Uwaka” strives at the ingenuity of blending local content with the wider sound of Trap. As far as these kind of songs go, it bangs; the next song “Hard II Kill” will, in multiple listens, become a fan favorite. Mon Lee, who featured on Boogey’s “Never Enough” turns in a hook which many ears would swear by. There’s a steely coldness in his voice as he sings “don’t mess with me, cos I’m hard to kill.”
Female accomplices come through in the next trio of songs, although in different roles. Whereas Lyn proved to have the woah factor on “Memories”, (delivering a dope verse with the Lost and Found’s output on either sides) Aramide’s soulfulness was the springboard for “Hold me down”, a song in which PayBac makes his major Afrobeats debut. His verse then, proved the audacity of every artiste and producer going into every song: the production, the structure of the songs, and its themes. JazzZ completes the trio of females on “Private Jet Conversations”, her serenading voice seeming to descending from above – just perfect, considering the title. The rappers preoccupy themselves with happenings of the country, passing time in the most Nigerian way possible. Below three minutes, the song phases out, its impression that of the calm ambience of an interlude.
On “The Boogeyman” and “Paybac time”, PayBac and Boogey trade places, rapping the other’s persona into reality. Both songs take heavy influences from Pop culture; it’s impossible to miss PayBac’s Nollywood references, or the enunciation of Boogey’s end rhymes on his first verse which mimics a child’s drawl, or the videogame-esque bounciness of the production.
The Monki Bznzz–produced “Shun Sir” features a bass line as thick as butter; this seemingly spreads into the rappers, whose flows are immaculate and wavy. At the end of the song, it is easy to see how PayBac’s twenty thousand-boxer brag plays into the song’s ‘I’m the man’ feel. Boogey making a reference to his closing line on “Ridiculous” was also genius, all these years and there’s hardly a below-par verse from the light skinned basketball-playing rapper.
His spaz-out rap style opens “Don’t wake me up”, the drum-kicks sequenced production proving a worthy sparring partner for his fire-carrying words. Dropping references that range from neurology to football, Boogey, for lack of a better word, spazzes out. The mouth-dropping quality of PayBac’s “I fashion these lines without the label in sight” is the equivalent for the song’s overall brilliance – shoutout to Preach Zagi for the mood-amplifying guitar – and indeed, the entire project.
The “Alternate Ending” album presents a unique perspective into the minds of its five main creators. Three years after “Face off” and experience under the belt, they have corrected the shortcomings of the debut.
Whereas “Face off” was brilliant but yet obscure, “Alternate Ending” is accessible, albeit not pleadingly so. The opener twists the insides of your brain, forcing you to adjust to the intelligence of the successive songs. And it achieves its purpose. Connected with the loose theme of expression, PayBac and Boogey infuse enough of their hearts into every song, and it shows.
On the selling factor, “Alternate Ending” does have some solid songs that would be suitable for radio and TV push. While that might be asking for too much, the litmus test for this album’s greatness should be its compactness and its replay value. That said, the album, as its title suggests, is a mind bending phenomenon, one which can only be experienced with pristine ears.
Come through and become, they said. Become, I did.