Our first impressions of Falz’ ‘B A H D’
Features Tiwa Savage, Boy Spyce, Chike and more.
Features Tiwa Savage, Boy Spyce, Chike and more.
Three years between albums is a long wait in Falz terms. After debuting with ‘Wazup Guy: The Album’ in 2014, Folarin Falana spent the half-decade filling up his discography with new projects. During that period, he not only scaled great commercial heights, he also expanded his persona. Within years, the Nigerian public came to appreciate the full breadth of his entertainment-based skillset, including being a rap artist, a comic and an actor, and while that played a key role in his prominence, it’s how he’s adapted those abilities into being a slyly complex personality.
Specifically on the music side of things, Falz is a deceptively rangy rap artist, with the ability to craft pop-rap hit songs and also effortlessly lace his way through a cypher verse. His thematic range is also admirable, as he’s capable of turning in straightforward dancefloor fillers, socially resonant songs, confident personal statements, and fiery—if heavy-handed—political tirades. During that prolific run of projects, even during the brief controversial times, Falz’s willingness to make music that cuts across different facets of the human (and Nigerian) experience consistently made him one of the more relatable rap-fusion artists around.
In the three years since the politically-charged ‘Moral Instruction’, Falz hasn’t been idle. There’s been new hit songs, while he’s increased his stock as an actor and has been very vocal about the social injustices Nigerians face. Today sees the release of his fifth solo studio LP, ‘B A H D’, named after part of his (previous) full moniker and part of that infamous 2015 hit song with Davido and Olamide. The 12-song project is briskier than his first three albums, and it has more features than his last album, including guest spots from Tiwa Savage, Timaya, BNXN, The Cavemen. and more.
The NATIVE’s editorial staff has gone about its first few listens to ‘B A H D’, and here are our first impressions.
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Tela: “All Night” has to be the song that stands out for me. The upbeat tempo and Falz’ soft delivery complements the love song directed towards his muse. Definitely a dancefloor number the song is hypnotic from the first key and he serves the best opener, “…Raindrops falling on me.” The honeyed chorus has a magnetic effect that is undeniable.
Moore: B A H D is an album that is filled with great songs, but the song that takes the number one spot for me has to be “Gentleman.” The opening guitar riffs immediately give an incredibly upbeat feeling. The repeating riffs throughout makes the rhythm feel quickly familiar and catchy. The lyrics are sweet in their directness, as they’re aimed towards someone Falz is trying to court. Overall it’s a song that is pleasantly simple in a lot of ways, and a wonderful song to listen to.
Emmanuel: Falz does a very admirable job throughout this album. Its considerable number of 12 songs renders every song levity, making you want to listen with all you’ve got. That said, a number of songs on here can easily challenge as the best song but right now I’m leaning towards “Knee Down.” The title phrase has strong connotations in the average Nigerian’s mind and Falz along with guest Chike impressively parlays its dramatic qualities into a song bearing the pomp of a romantic thriller. Falz’s rapping is some of his most experimental yet, fully succumbing to the Western references he’s channeled throughout his career. Chike on hook duties must be a cheat code for rappers; between A-Q’s “Breathe” and this, his price ought to have tripled.
Dennis: I like the final verse on “Gentleman.” Falz has never really come off as the type of rap artist that focuses too much on technical brilliance, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There’s the obvious end rhyme scheme on this verse, which doesn’t get in the way of stacking devotional quips. There’s a few internal rhymes there as well, but beyond my nerdy brain digging into all of those semantic, there’s an alluring simplicity to how the whole thing plays, which is a perfect encapsulation of Falz at his very best.
Chibuzo: While brilliant penmanship is a thread that’s woven across the project, I think Falz’ verse on “Woman” is something special. It’s not just about how vivid and palpable the lyrics are or how witty the lines are, it is a culmination of all these factors, coupled with how his verse fits snugly with the rest of the song. Shout-out to The Cavemen. for that super duper hook.
Tela: Falz has amazing penmanship and it shines all through his verses in the album. The second verse of “Knee Down” has sterling delivery and writing. Portraying the dark sides of relationships—“you don’t have to curse I’ll back off”—Falz explores the challenges of relationships. Lines such as, “Please don’t throw that bag, it costs way too much,” has me smirking cause no one wants their expensive stuff mismanaged.
Emmanuel: The production on this album is wonderfully executed. Falz’s natural role as executive producer gives a credible account of his curatorial talents. One aspect he’s really successful is the combination of several producers who’ve made notable contributions to the current soundscape of Afropop. Among many, Dukktor Sett on “Inside” does something to me. His signature neo-Highlife flourishes are matched with glistening vocals reminiscent of Fela Kuti. The vibe is immediately distinct, setting the musicians for memorable performances which is lyrically inspired by the romantic suggestions of the beat. It’s likely to be the song that grows on its own terms, slowly but almost surely.
Chibuzo: The trifecta spanning from the album’s opening track to the third track boasts of sterling production. I was so taken aback on my first listen, I’ve spun the album a couple of times now and I’m still enraptured by the quality of the production and by effect the songs in general. These songs check all the boxes for what makes a brilliantly produced record — incredible melodies, a healthy dose of experimentation, clean post production, amongst others. But I’d say “Beautiful Sunflower” scores the home run. The beat is insane, ethereal melodies layered on a luxuriantly expansive primordial 80s RnB beat. It captures a palpable nostalgia for the breezy ethos of the 80s. The mixing of the vocals is incredible. On all fronts the production of that song pulls its weight. Amazing amazing record. Given a commercial nudge, I see this record taking off the same way Adekunle Gold’s “Something Different” coloured the summer of 2020.
Dennis: I’m going with Boy Spyce on “Inside.” This is probably the most arresting on-wax performance I’ve heard from him yet—and, yes, that includes his debut EP. There’s the whimsical rhyming that’s central to songwriting in Nigerian pop on his verse, there’s spots where he’s harmonising beneath Falz’ vocals, and his melodic phrasing is preppy in the way several acclaimed, new school, male Nigerian pop singers have used to gain prominence. Boy Spyce is still working his way into a singular skill set, but this feature shows there’s a uniquely cut diamond beneath all the major label gloss.
Emmanuel: This is actually a hard choice, everyone came correct. Hold a plastic gun to my head though, and the choice is between Boy Spyce on “Inside” and Chike on “Knee Down.” The former makes a Kendrick Lamar-esque “Control” showing, dazzling his older co-stars with his exuberance and lyrical precision. It’s the kind of verse which announces the arrival of a major talent, something Spyce has been working towards since being unveiled by Mavin Records. What more can I say about the Chike bit? Simply phenomenal.
Tela: To be honest , I love all the songs in the album. They each show you Falz duality as an artist as he traverses different soundscapes and experiments on different sounds. The whole album is a rollercoaster of joy.
Chibuzo: Honestly, I have no skips. The project is a cohesively strung stream of consonant sounds. I’ve listened twice without skipping. So, as it stands, I can’t bring myself to pick any skip.
Dennis: Weirdly, for me, it’s the opener. It doesn’t rope me into the project the way I would have liked, which is a shame because that beat is great. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I revisit.
Chibuzo: What strikes me the most about Falz is his unrelenting commitment to evolution. Every Falz project marks a major career inflexion point for him. He caught the public’s eye as a deft rapper with a knack for peppering his music with whimsical lyrics, then he shed that layer and morphed into an introspective bard, spinning politically charged pop anthems, he continued on this arc in the lockdown when he unveiled his new personality as a bubbly dandy with tracks like “Bop Daddy”, a personality that served as an apt harbinger to his present musical persona. Now, on ‘B A H D’, he’s Falz the effusive romantic.
While I think the Pop records on this project could have used more oomph, I have nothing but unflinching praise for this project. Falz is in a meadow thronged with unfamiliar sounds—lots of R&B, splotches of Rock and Soul music—yet he surfs these sounds with immaculate nimbleness while still treating us to a healthy dose of OG Afropop. Incredible! I could rave about the songwriting, cohesiveness and the overall listening experience, but I’d just sound like a broken record.
Tela: I am in awe of Falz as I listen to ‘B A H D’. Each song is a deeper cut into him as he showcases his musical and creative range. From “Another Me,” where he is rightfully braggadocious and acknowledging his talent, to “Beautiful Sunflower,” where he employs Tiwa Savage on a love-centred single, Falz has proved the three year wait to the album was worth it. A perfect balance of club bangers and introspective numbers, the album is an emotive journey towards love, greatness and success.
Emmanuel: I truly wasn’t expecting an album like this from Falz. It’s a beautiful showcase of his pop credentials, finding new ways to stretch his voice into sounds we never noticed prior. Having emerged into the game as a rapper then cutting into a broader figure as a pop star, Falz has shown the ability to adapt. Now more than ever, the mainstream sound has slowed to a recognizable pace and Falz is again transitioning. Even better, his well-established bad boy image effortlessly plays into the suave quality of the album. His background in rap offers him an assortment of songwriting structures, while he taps up the best producers around to build a cohesive sound underneath. Without a shred of exaggeration, ‘B A H D’ just might be one of the best albums we hear from a mainstream act all year.