This quality has aided his mainstream success and continues to underline his evolution.
His latest album ‘Emeka Must Shine’ encompasses different sides of his evolutionary stages. In a career that has spanned nearly a decade, Blaqbonez has explored Reggaeton and Dancehall flows while also switching to Pop melodies on demand, and it’s these sides of his artistry that he combines with his unique rap style for an album he says is crafted with his fans in mind.
After releasing his 4th LP ‘Young Preacher’ in 2022, Blaqbonez is following up 12 months later with another 14-track album. While Nigerian mainstream music has seen a reduction in the distance of album releases, Blaqbonez is having a moment with his “Emeka must shine” mantra and perhaps he choose to tie an album to it.
Like Drake who ceaselessly releases projects that have him occasionally stepping away from hip-hop, Blaqbonez’s latest offering takes a couple of steps away from the Hip Hop realm and leans more towards a Pop tied together by Dancehall, Reggaeton, and Highlife Gyration infusions.
The “Emeka Must Shine” moment has been underlined by notable events where Blaqbonez has proven his mettle as a leader in Nigeria’s Hip Hop. Whether it be insisting that Hip Hop wasn’t dead, picking up his first Headies award, taking part in Hennessy’s 2023 Cypher, and delivering memorable guest verses.
Even on his widely acclaimed guest appearances on CKay‘s ‘Halleluyah’ and Minz‘s ‘Wowo’, Blaqbonez celebrated his success through a flambouyant display of his prized cars and fancy houses. It’s his time to shine and he doesn’t intend to do that alone. He not only aims to offer parts of himself that his fans will enjoy but also partner up with colleagues to co-create and clink glasses.
While his last project ‘Young Preacher’ was underlined by his skepticism towards romantic love, ‘Emeka Must Shine’ takes on a celebratory tone with less gloating. This time, Blaqbonez seems to intend to enjoy himself and showcase his success without feeling the quintessential rapper’s urge to rub it in the face of less successful colleagues and detractors.
Whether it be highlighting his preoccupation with chasing his bag in the Garage bounce of ‘6 Business Days’ or the Gyration driven flows of ‘Nyem Ego’, or crafting a sensual record on ‘Cinderella Girl’, Blaqbonez focuses on having a good time rather than showing off.
As is common with Pop infused projects, the thematic preoccupation in ‘Emeka Must Shine’ are paper thin and straightforward. If Blaqbonez isn’t talking about his success motivated by years of struggle, he’s finding comfort in the arms of beautiful women and pleasure in psychedelics.
His Reggaeton and Dancehall flows are on display in ‘Kilo’ where he casually talks up his ability to purchase choice designers and also in ‘Like Ice Spice’ where that kicked off the “Emeka Must Shine” moment.
He infused Dancehall Gyration in ‘Nyem Ego’ where he settles for second best against Jeriq‘s baritone flows that elevate the record and make it stand out on the album.
For his international explorations, Blaqbonez collaborates with Jamaican artist Projexx, UK rapper M24, and American rapper Ludacris on records that packs Dancehall, Swing, and Boom Bap elements. These records offer different sides of Blaqbonez in what is a display of his range and ambition.
Although it’s Emeka’s time to shine, it’s the guest artists who shine the most on the album with Blaqbonez playing second fiddle. Black Sheriff levitated on ‘Road Runners’ while Victony ran circles around him on ‘Naija Shawty’. He couldn’t match Zlatan‘s panache on ‘Bad Till Eternity’ neither could he replicate Young Jonn‘s Pop star cadences on ‘No Sleep’.
Even on ‘Dollerz’ ODUMODUBLVCK‘s melodic maneuvers and Don Jazzy‘s backup vocals in ‘Kilo’ were the protagonists. These guest artists down to the interpolated vocals combine to uplift the album and ensure that Emeka does shine.
Credit must be given to Blaqbonez who seamlessly blends with the guest artists and to his A&Rs who made fitting picks of each song.
Some Hip Hop fans might not fancy Blaqbonez’s attempt at making a Pop project but they might find some satisfaction in Blaqbonez’s cadences that shine through his lines, Pop culture references, and in hip-hop tracks like ‘Shine Forever’ and ‘Bad Till Eternity’.
For listeners who have adjusted to the modernist takes on Hip Hop that continues to see more Pop explorations, ‘Emeka Must Shine’ makes for an easily digestible album.
While this album is an impressive sonic adventure by a rapper who continues to push creative boundaries, it also seems to be inspired by a desire to tie an album to a moment. There are tracks on the project that neither offer the best of either the Pop world or the Hip Hop realm. Tracks like ‘Like Ice Spice’, ‘Bezos’, ‘Dollerz’, and even ‘Shine Forever’ are sonically repetitive and gimmicky in their approach.
However, there are standout songs like ‘Nyem Ego’, ‘Road Runners,’ and ‘Naija Shawty’ where Blaqbonez combines with guest artists to deliver mind-blowing records.
‘Emeka Must Shine’ shows Blaqbonez’s impressive range, but it doesn’t offer the best version of either side of him. While the project might not make for a compelling listen, it makes for an enjoyable one, and this, we can say, is the purpose of a Pop leaning album.
Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.4/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.5/2