With Mr Money With The Vibe album, Asake Infects The General Public With A Novel Sound

When the tag “tune into the kings of sounds and blues” was first heard, it was on the 2020 Nobody single by DJ Neptune and his accomplices on the song, Joeboy and his label executive, Mr Eazi. One thing was evident on the song, the use of vibraphone-like sounds. This sound was so unique that it resulted in a lot of music listeners getting stuck to the song Nobody.

Asake has the most unique sound in Nigeria at the moment and it is partly because of Magicsticks, the producer who made Nobody, and also the one whose tag is the “tune into the kings of sounds and blues”.

Three things are dominant, usually, on all of Asake’s songs produced by Magicsticks. The first is the use of the musical instrument known as the violin. Before the rise of Asake and his wizardly sound engineer, Magicsticks, in January, 2022, there’s been a couple of Afrobeats songs to which the violin is deployed. However, Asake and Magicsticks’ partnership ushered in a new era of sounds that’s never been heard before. Thus, the violin became a household instrument on Afrobeats even when the industry is yet to completely explore its full potential.

The second is the artificial choir sound. This technique is used by Afrobeats producers to duplicate a single voice: what a choir of singers would have done. By applying this artificial technique in music production, three things are achieved: cost is saved, the song becomes infectious while the song also has its replay value increased. While it is not clear when this technique began in the history of Afrobeats, the available records shows Zinoleesky’s 2020 single, Ma Pariwo, as the popularizer of the choir technique. Asake, however, has made the best use of it to the point that people now associate it with his sound. Because of this, Asake claims the originality of this sound. It is his trademark, though not registered commercially. However, it is registered in the mind of the world.

The third is the infusion of Fuji with Afrobeats and Amapiano to spark a unique glow that has never been seen before. This makes Asake more original than the lot of his colleagues in the current industry. Although, Asake was unknown at the time Burna Boy described his own sound as Afrofusion because of the same situation (infusing alien and absolutely unrelated sounds with Afrobeats), it is musically correct to define Asake’s sound as Afrofusion too until he will be caring enough to define his sound himself.

Burna Boy and his producer, Kel P, produced unique sounds that will forever be remembered on the African Giant album. Simi and her producer, Oscar, worked together to make timeless sounds that will continue to appeal to every generation of coming listeners. Brymo and Mikky Mee did the same for more than a decade. But, we’ve witnessed both Burna Boy and Brymo depart from their wonderful producers. Simi too, now occasionally changes from Oscar to others. Then we think of Asake and Magicsticks departing.

No one knows what Asake will sound like if he ever attempts to change his producer. We once heard it on Baba God off the Ololade EP. Even if Asake delivered on the Niphkeys produced instrumentals, it was still very different from the familiar Asake that everybody knows.

Asake’s Mr Money With The Vibe album cover.

For the records, Asake has scored eight number 1 entries on the Apple Music NG so far in 2022 with the song Sungba, Omo Ope, Palazzo, Sungba Remix, Bandana, Terminator, Peace Be Unto You and Trabaye. This has never been done before by any artiste in the history Apple Music in Nigeria.

Asake who debuted his record deal with Olamide’s YBNL with an extended playlist (Ololade EP) comprising four tracks in February, 2022, released his debut album in September of the same year. He had only seven months to do all that, including to rake in all the numbers he currently has. Asake is ten million away from recording two hundred million streams on Audiomack. Rema just crossed 200 million all-time streams a week ago, the same time, the newbie, Asake already had one ninety million streams in 7 months.

The fever that welcomed Asake’s debut album on September 8th turned out to worth it. Asake’s 12 tracks titled Mr Money With The Vibe did not fall short of the raised hopes from fans and the direction the album title points towards. Asake fulfills the vibrancy and energy foreshadowed by the album title with songs like Joha, Peace Be Unto You, Sungba, Sunmomi, Dupe and Terminator; and left fans with the unexpected; a takeaway on other tracks.

Asake who is known for uplifting a down-to-earth atmosphere with the energetic Amapiano sounds patched with short lyrics and hooks worth memorizing, becomes a philosopher dishing out advice out of experiences of poverty and struggles on songs like Nzaza, Ototo and Reason. The energy-driven sounds are put to a halt with the aforementioned three tracks. While the percussion-laden-instant-dance songs between track 2 and 7 are quelled, Asake settles into a state of meditation between track 8 and 10. The three tracks, Nzaza, Ototo and Reason are steps after one another, one continuing where the other stops.

Asake, a philosopher on the break within the tracklist, is a lover on songs like Terminator and Muse. And while many are full of praises for him for staying true to himself and his Yoruba-based lyricism, I imagine what the Celestial and the Cherubim and Seraphim church would do with the song Dupe during praise and worship sessions. With “assalam ahalekum” forming the chorus of Peace Be Unto You, Asake has successfully represented the Moslems and the Christians respectively on his project. This is a reflection of the singer above the inhumane religious bigotry that has eaten deep into the heart of a lot of Nigerians.

Joha was the most anticipated song off Asake’s album pre-release. This is because Asake had a former version of the song released in his days at the university. A lot of his colleagues who are alumnus of the Obafemi Awolowo University knew the song. The singer who studied Theater Art in the school used to perform the song at the school amphitheater in his days in school. At the release of the album tracklist, Asake’s colleagues who used to watch him dance to Joha at the amphitheater, published several videos of the moments the singer performed Joha on campus in 2016. I have stayed in Ife and constantly spent time at the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2022, and the reception Asake has amongst the students of the school is a thing of endearment to the heart. Many junior students who know him as an alumni spoke high of him each time I held a conversation about Asake with them.

As much as Magicsticks wants to be wide in his use of musical instruments on this project, Asake on the other hand, wants to be totally unpredictable even when his song titles appear ordinary. Therefore, while Magicsticks runs between gibbering bass guitar notes as a foundation for the percussion laid, and domineering fruity violin riffs, and sometimes, the piano and the lead guitar peeking, Asake simply lays ambush to catch the listeners off guard with his song arrangements.

When Asake is adopting a one-verse song with a repetitive postchorus on Dull, Organise, Peace Be Unto You and Dupe, he is also deploying the conventional two-verse style of song arrangements, however, with a very short first verse made long with a repeated prechorus on Terminator, Joha, Muse, Nzaza, Reason, Ototo and Sungba Remix feat. Burna Boy. When Magicsticks is applying the artificial choir technique on most of the tracks, Asake is daring enough to replicate the energy with a live choir on Dull and Muse. At a point on Dupe and Nzaza, you cannot tell the difference between the live choir and Magicsticks’ artificial one.

Asake completely achieves unpredictability with Sunmomi. The track is the only song devoid of lyrics on the album. Magicsticks set the instrumentals on the traditional Amapiano sound: the use of synths, piano chords, percussions and airy pads with an additional violin and saxophone notes; Asake’s job is to shout “baby sunmomi” (or baby come closer to me) from the beginning to the end. Where that is not applicable, Magicsticks fills in the space with the violin soloing. This song has no lyrics, no verse, no chorus. Just repetitions of the phrase “baby sunmomi” on an Amapiano!

In two different instances, Asake also delivered songs whose meaning is to be decoded with the titles. The first is Muse (a Yoruba slang for wooing a lady). On the song, Asake praises a lady, though the title is not mentioned anywhere on the song. The title is to give meaning to the song as one used in wooing a woman. Reason too is a title referring to the 10th track as a sort of meditation. The word “reason” is famously used by hemp smokers to mean “thoughtfulness”.

A greater percent of Nigerian artistes is always too conscious of the opening tracks of their albums. I noticed a lot of times, this year, how a lot of singers did better on the opening tracks than other songs on their projects, even when, most times, the opening tracks are short.

Asake’s Dull is the same. However, in the history of opening tracks in Nigeria, to the best of my knowledge, only two opening tracks can compete with Dull by Asake. Both opening tracks are from Brymo: Naked, the opening of the Klîtôrîs album and No Be Me, the opening of Osó. Davido’s Intro off A Good Time is close too.

I’m not talking lyrics, I’m talking appeal, musicality, delivery or execution and instrumentation. Hence, the entirety of Mr Money With The Vibe album is an appeal to the ears and a stimulant to the closed mouth to sing.

However, one argument that has constantly disturbed the peace of the general public on the internet is the dabate which places Naira Marley and Asake at a loggerhead. The comparison between Asake and Naira Marley is valid only if the properties of Fuji they infuse with their original sounds are the bases. If not, that comparison is totally and utterly ridiculous.

Although, the street appeal they have almost makes them share the same fanbase, notwithstanding, Asake has a leverage when the class of the society that is not “street” comes into mentioning. Asake has been able to merge both classes of the society together for the virality of his music. In a nutshell, Asake appeals to both classes.

That’s one step above Naira Marley whose major success stems from controversy. If one would be philosophical about the growth of Naira Marley in the industry, anyone who is a wide reader would conclude Naira Marley practiced one of the laws prescribed by Robert Greene in his bestseller, 48 Laws of Power.

So far, Asake has not had the need for a controversy to be heard, known or accepted by the “street” and the reserved. Naira Marley’s 2019 runs, though indubitably iconic, was plagued by series of controversies. Naira Marley needed a shot at Simi, a catch in the net of the EFCC, an advocacy for cybercrime as well as a disrespect for Ruggedman to get relevance. While this is a strategy that is commendable, Asake’s pop in the industry without all these, is even more commendable.

It is worthy of note that Naira Marley also seized the moment of his bop to create a cult-like movement known as the NBG, something Davido did with the 30BG. Naira’s movement was known as No Belt Gang in full. That is a mass of street personas who openly accepted not to fasten or use the belt in support of Naira Marley. Naira Marley was later spotted with a belt fastened around his trousers in a picture. Asake is yet to achieve this even if he is slightly lyrical than Naira Marley and absolutely inexplicit, unlike Naira whose lyrics ranges from the amplifying of lewdness to the promotion of social vices.

Sam George Mac is a music journalist known for the reviews of several music albums and songs. He is a singer and songwriter of Afrobeats, Dancehall, Highlife and RnB with the stage name SGM — a graduate of Mass Communication from The West African Union University, Cotonou.

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