Nigeria gets a bad rap in the press. Chances are that the first thing you think of when you hear the country’s name is “internet scams.” In fact back in the day Sony had to pull a PlayStation 3 commercial when fictional CEO Kevin Butler made a wisecrack about being a “Nigerian millionaire” in response to saying you can’t believe everything you read online. Nigeria complained about it and understandably so. Let’s be fair though and say there are two sides to this coin. The country has tried to crack down on 419 scams but because so many people are so gullible (particularly in the United States) and the operations are so profitable, it’s like my mom used to say about swatting flies: “You kill one and two come to the funeral.” They just can’t stop them all so Nigeria’s bad reputation is hard to shake.

Thankfully the artists of Starboy Entertainment, like so many of their Nigerian contemporaries, are just doing what they do without worrying what anybody thinks. That’s why “SoundMan Vol. 1” exists. Listening to the lead single “Blow” featuring Blaq Jerzee (on the beat) and Wizkid, it’s fair to say it’s indistinguishable from similar AutoTune raps Stateside. The accents might be different, but the modulation distorts the vocals to the point you could easily miss it. In fact the only real difference might be the production. There’s a light and breezy feel to the song that’s lacking in a lot of drill, wavy and trap music in the U.S. The violin strings are a really nice touch. “I’m bout to shoot my shot.” They definitely did with the video, nearing eight million views at the time of this review.

Just so it’s perfectly clear before we continue, Starboy is Wizkid’s record label, so if he’s prominently featured on “SoundMan Vol. 1” that’s to be expected. There are also issues with Wizkid that reach far beyond the scope of this review, but the internet is your friend if you’re curious. I don’t think he’s as toxic in Nigeria as Ye is in the U.S., but he’s not drama free either. That’s why I’d rather focus on the music, such as songs like “Mine” featuring Wizkid & Kel-P. Some sources describe Wizkid as “afrobeat” and some as “rap/hip-hop,” but to my ear “Mine” is pure reggae.

I’m talking about roots reggae, not the dancehall or slackness reggae, not the rap/reggae boom bap crossover we know here. Wizkid is pitching himself to a potential mate on the track and while it won’t blow you away lyrically, it’s not any worse than any R&B singer doing the same thing. The rock guitar at the end was a nice touch. I also dig the positive jazzy vibes of “Thankful.” Whatever his critics might say about him back home, he doesn’t seem to have that huge egotistical chip on his shoulder Ye does.

I get so many unsolicited requests for reviews that (unfortunately) a great percentage of them end up in the trash, and perhaps unfortunately the Nigerian rap scene gets double dashed by spam filters looking for potential scams to boot. That makes me glad I stumbled across “SoundMan Vol. 1” at random and gave it a chance. It’s not revolutionary or even evolutionary. It’s not strictly rap and it’s not strictly afrobeat. It’s a combination of a whole lot of different things, which makes it interesting all on its own, and proof positive that not everything that comes from Nigeria deserves to be in File 13.

Starboy Entertainment :: SoundMan Vol. 1
6Overall Score