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A Pulse review of Zoro’s ‘Sound Check’

Multi-talented indigenous rapper Zoro needs no introduction. Over the years, he has shown what he can do and how impressively he can do it. With a brilliant fusion of genres grounded in hip-hop driven by his Igbo heritage, Zoro has won the hearts of listeners in the Southeast and beyond.

The time it took Zoro to put out his debut project and the current Afrobeats’ commercial rush makes the music in ‘Sound Check’ and the artist behind it feel fresh. It’s almost as if Zoro is a new act attempting to add spice to the Afrobeats through an exploration of mainstream genres that showcase his Igbo roots.

Zoro’s cultural roots shine on this project as he feels more comfortable painting exotic pictures in Igbo while adding the required urban touch to give the album a universal outlook. When he thumps his chest by referring to himself as a deity (Alusi) in the Swing record ‘Alusi In Balmain’, he adds an urban touch through Pop cultural references. When he raps about his desire to lead a life of pleasure in ‘Good Life’, he recruits Mayorkun to lay a universally relatable chorus.

It’s this stress-free approach to life that informs some of his romantic actions as he reveals in the R&B record ‘FOAF (Friend of a Friend), where he doesn’t hesitate to own up to cheating in a song many would agree captures some of the trials of modern romance.

If he shows the making of a rapper in ‘Young Wild, and Taken’ where he restates his Playboy tendencies, and in ‘Easy’ where he rolls out the superlatives in an attempt to wow, he shows the making of a Popstar in ‘Hold Me Down’ where he moulds melody in his relentless flirtatious attempts.

The Uptempo ‘M.A.D (Medicine After Death)’ plays to mainstream demands as Deyaaso infuses Lod drums while Zoro deploys catchy lines that perfectly compliment Mohbad‘s irresistible chorus. The record is a favourite to connect with fans both for its topical relatability, sonic appeal, and the profile of the guest artist.

The impressive guest performances peak with Ajebo Hustlers who replicated on the Swing record ‘Enroute’ the brilliance that distinguishes their music.

Zoro favours the Dancehall bounce of Swing on ‘Sound Check’. The choice of Swing works easily as its strong kick allows Zoro to flourish as a rapper while the mid-tempo arrangement makes it easy to lay melodies over them.

The closing 3 tracks highlight the ease with which Zoro creates on Swing bounce while also creatively infusing sonic diversity like the use of orchestra vocals in ‘Pray’ and Superboy Cheque‘s Trap flows in ‘Vacay’.

If Zoro intended to make music for listeners that transcends his local base, then ‘Sound Check’ excels in this as it packs easily enjoyable and minimalistic mainstream appeal that doesn’t demand much from consumers. It’s also a compliment to Zoro that he’s able to achieve this without having to shed every part of his artistry.

Although the Igbo element that defined his Ogene style of music is missing on this album, he retains his cultural elements through the predominant use of the Igbo language.

While he delivers a good chunk of his verses in Igbo, Zoro occasionally switches to English and Pidgin while also deliberately delivering the chorus in English to ensure every listener can get a general idea of what he’s talking about.

In ‘Sound Check,’ there are brilliant flashes of creative depth Zoro’s music can reach, and this is highlighted by his decision to add Terry Apala‘s vocals to ‘Alusi In Balmain’ and the creative duality he shows on ‘Pray’.

Overall, ‘Sound Check’ seems crafted to remind listeners that Zoro is still good at what he does and to prepare them for the run he intends to have.

Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.5/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.5/2

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