ALBUM REVIEW: Jesse Jagz’ ROYAL NIGER COMPANY
“…my full name be Jesse Garba Abaga/ feelin’ my vibe/ jukun my tribe/ hail from Taraba/my dada didn’t...”
Remember those lines, eh? That was the first time we all met Jesse Jagz and I bet you’d agree that since he first dropped those heart thumping rhymes on us, he has grown geometrically to become quite the bulwark in the Naija Hip hop scene. His newest album- Jagz Nation Vol.2: Royal Niger Company is his second project since he nebulously left Chocolate City. It’s an 11-song album lasting for about an hour, four minutes and features artists like Tesh Carter, Jumar, DUGOD, SDC, Tupac, Fela amongst others. Production credit goes to Jesse Jagz, Ezone, Shady Bizniz and a host of other top notch producers.
‘Louis’ is a good intro to the album. Complete with a cheering audience, church bells, easy kicks, soulful singing praying for “wisdom to see that freedom isn’t free” and “…to see the lion in a G”. Jesse flows incredibly on this song with “bars more evil than Lucifer’s kind” that stirs your sense of wonder, curiosity and anticipation for the rest of the album. Without speaking on a central theme he goes ahead to display King-size bars that only truly cerebral emcees can put together- “apostle of flow/ gospel for the poor/...when emcees are spreading the fake gospel of dough/ I come through to the door/ ….the rhymes to the bones and cartilage glow…” The song finishes with a sampled impassionate charge imploring you to be charged. Oh boy! That track was quite the appetizer.
The second song ‘Jargo’ features Tesh Carter & contains samples of the Chaka Khan & Rufus 1983 hit song ‘Ain’t Nobody’ it also contains a funny & befuddling sample from the 2008 Liberian movie ‘Johnny Mad Dog’ in the beginning. It’s an Ode to the ladies with Tesh Carter calling on ladies to “…drop ,wiggle your waist and stop…” and Jesse rapping “sweet loving but she didn’t want more/ shawty we at war/ this house is dafur/ …it’s no lie, its love & hate/ shrugs & aches…”
‘Oceans & Lakes’ is an easy love song. It features Sarah Mitaru & DUGOD (a producer on the project) and he delivers some ‘Thug mansion’ type bars not aligned with the love-inclined theme of the song. It’s spiced with guitars, electric bass and trumpets.
Any artist that samples properly is one that understands a certain level of musical history, and anyone that samples Fela (May his Soul R.I.P) is a brave artist. ‘Sunshine’ is a decent fusion of Hip Hop and Afrobeat. It makes it difficult to combine tapping your feet, bobbing your head with listening to Jesse’s impeccable rhyming, showing that he is indeed in “another league” spitting fire flows for the “verbally verified”. A massive hip hop song with impressive internal rhyming.
‘The Search (Radio)’ is a lovely song from start to finish. Beautiful from the live percussions, electric guitars, bass, drums to the sultry chorus by Jumar, who does really well again. DUGOD also drops a few nice bars on this. Classic tune!
‘Supply and Demand’ is OMG, Hip-Hop!!! Someone wake Tupac and Gangstarr up!! Reverbs, arresting kicks, samples (“uhn!!, muddaf***kers peep da game”) and of course heavy flows – “…his body is his spirit, his health/ & knowledge is the key to his riches, his wealth/….they wanna scare u with brands & big names/ the whole industry’s just trying to resist change /I spit games, uglier than Ving Rhames/… Respect for the art form, u niggas don’t show/y’all niggas shine but don’t glow…” I’ve just had to hold myself back from quoting the ENTIRE song. Jesse has enough “epistles... to heal cripples” and amaze healthy listeners. Just 8 bars into the joint and it was already my instant favorite.
‘High Life’ is arguably the best marriage of Hip hop and High life ever attempted. A Hip Hop head will love this one just as much as an Olisadebe or Victor Uwaifo lover would. It’s complete with the guitars, drums, horns, Rexx singing in an almost wailing voice and Jesse’s delicious flow. This song is the poster-child of the Nigerian disposition Jesse intends the album to embody. It starts off with a funny yet serious soliloquy in Igbo. This number is also one of my personal favorites of the album. Watching a live rendition of this song would give me exquisite pleasure.
‘Sunrise (shine on)’ has the feel of a late ‘90s action movie sound track. You’ll snap your fingers as you listen to Jesse spit “...still trying to get your ears, to listen with ur soul nigga/catch the flow quicker/….so Biggie, so Pac, and it’s so Jigga / … Shine on for the galaxy /we turnin’& we spinnin’ on wheel of Alchemy”. The song ends (as it started) with engaging Tony Montana (From the 1983 classic movie Scarface) sample that you would want to echo and give an approving nod to.
The mood on ‘The Case’ is laidback. The beat is so laidback it’s a boring listen. It takes nothing from the heaviness of the flow though- Topnotch. “SDC/ JagzNation??!! Mehn, what a pairing!”. Jesse features S.D.C, two of the finest emcees in the country, on this song but he still leads the pack. He was colossal on this reminding us that “he speaks the truth when u might believe in fables/ do u believe in angels/or fake names and labels” While singing “u running when no one is chasing you/...above me only God can judge me”. Ghost was angry on this song and Tec also dropped anvil bars too – “the ways of the sheep can never make sense to the lion…”
‘The Window’ made me look out my window. And no, not to wonder as Jesse asks on the song, but to look for the ‘mumu’ Rooster crowing in broad daylight--bizarre start to a nice song. Jumar’s singing laced with bongo drums, trumpets combines with Jesse’s rhymes to give the song an Amazon feel. Jesse also tried to maintain a particular rhyme (-air/-ere) all through but jettisoned it in the final verse (thank God, he was starting to get boring).
Another favorite, ‘How We Do’ is a befitting end to the entire album. Contains claps, kicks, flutes and a Tupac sample as powerful as a preacher’s sermon (brings Freestyle’s ‘Braggin’ Rights’ ft Blaise, back to mind). The hook is simple and encourages you to sing along. Jesse splatters amazing lyricism on this song, as usual- “and this how we learn to fly/...u’re d eagle, am d hawk with d raven’s eye/ …we taking off in the humid heat/ wing span’s about 300cubic feet/...what’s that thing coming down thru the stratosphere/ ...ur chest cavity & back just adapt just to air/ ...it’s so Retro/ Jagz wrote d memo/ whole albums can’t step to my Demo/…my flows tactical/ mathematical/ and practical too/ radical jew…” Phew!!!!!
His sophomore album, Jagz Nations Vol. 1: Thy Nation Come revealed Jesse’s depth as a Rapper but had too much ‘Selassie/reggae’ influence and hence divided opinions. Jagz Nation Vol.2: Royal Niger Company however is an exceptional expression of art and shows Jesse indeed as a prodigious musician who wants to make, and more importantly, share music from his heart without any restrain on his artistic direction. The album isn’t an appropriate soundtrack for our national life as Jesse hoped it would turn out. It doesn’t describe our collective challenges (corruption, greed, hypocrisy, Boko Haram etc) neither does it proffer solutions to them. It is however an excellent oeuvre and indeed “a testament to hard work and artistry”. I say it without any fear of contradiction-- this is one of the best Hip Hop albums out of Nigeria.
Considering all the “tungba-tungba” music currently rocking our airwaves, I can’t help but wonder- Will this obviously formidable work get the appeal it deserves? Is it marketable in Nigeria? Well, I’m afraid that once again only time will tell.
RATING 4.5 Stars!
RATING 4.5 Stars!
Download some of the songs here:
About the AuthorThe Writer, Cheyni (@itscheyniright) is a music enthusiast and writes from Abuja.