African hip hop is on the rise, with improving standards from both those relocated from the motherland to Europe and North America (such as the A-Boyz) and musicians coming straight from all over the continent. The latest example to head your way is Nigerian rap star Terry Tha Rapman as he makes his attempt to infiltrate the market on â€œTha Rapman Beginzâ€ â€“ with “Rapman” apparently being short for “Rap Manifesto”. With an ear for a street hit, relatively successful stabs at the commercial radio market, and an affable personality, he’s certainly got a shot.
After a short intro, a strong single in the shape of “Na Beanz” kicks off proceedings â€“ a song that encapsulates what the majority of the album is about: solid lyrics from a charming MC, a catchy chorus and, unfortunately, slightly dated production. The music on the album tends to sound at least 4 years old, in particular a few songs imitating the Neptunes-era â€“ not a bad era to replicate, of course… The beats may be melodically catchy but they sound unoriginal â€“ efforts such as the excellent “My P.H. Girl” featuring the superb guest Babyrella, are more up-to-date, relocating dirty South 808’s; “Guess Whoz Back” switches up the pitch of a pretty annoying nursery rhyme style delivery, time-stretching its way (circa 2002) into your head. Where is Terry’s sound, or at least a representation of his environment?
Well, there is one song â€“ “Only 4 Naija”, which is one of the best on the album, stepping out of the musical and lyrical boundaries Terry seems to have placed upon himself. Elsewhere, the vocal production is up-to-standard â€“ a fact that only serves to demonstrate the musical deficencies. It may seem harsh, considering that everyone borrows styles from one another nowadays, but Terry genuinely has a shot at stardom within his chosen market â€“ ergo, he should be a leader, not a follower. Maybe with time, that will come. At least the MC himself and his guests all deliver witty lines unrelentingly â€“ sure, much of it has been rehashed over the years, but that isn’t his fault. Conceptually, he flits between 1988 Slick Rick-style positivity, and present day capitalism gone mad (if America ever needs reminding of how far and wide its reach extends, pick up a copy of this album) with the ideas more or less working throughout, although hopefully Terry can grow more into his own boots next time round.
By the end of this hour-long LP, to a certain extent an accurate representation of the state of hip hop coming directly from Africa, it is easy to see that MC’s have improved steadily over a number of years â€“ and whilst still influenced heavily by their American and European counterparts, artists such as Terry are managing to combine taking hip hop back to its Golden Age roots, alongside gradually forging their own identity. The production values aren’t outstanding, but the African artists I’ve heard that have outstanding production tend to be marketable products of major labels. Terry Tha Rapman is genuinely battling against the system, and he’s doing pretty well so far. The album is pretty much a showcase of his various skills, which makes perfect sense â€“ however, his personality manages to shine across IN SPITE of this diffraction. Perhaps the next outing from him could be a more focussed offering, unafraid to delve DEEP into whatever he sets his mind to. Right now, he has his foot in the door â€“ next time, he should shut out any influences and see what he is really made of. The “Rap Manifesto” is promising.