Our First Impressions of Naira Marley’s ‘God’s Timing’s The Best’
the musician's long awaited debut album
the musician's long awaited debut album
Naira Marley ’s position in Afropop is remarkably singular. Packed with boisterous flourishes and hedonist intent his songs take up important space in the extensive sphere of contemporary Street Hop. And in a scene where musicians talk the talk, Marley’s reputation is akin to that of a seasoned veteran.
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Naira Marley has dominated conversations, due to his larger-than-life personality and his salacious song lyrics which flood social media timelines. However, regardless of the polarising conversations that trail his career, it’s difficult to refute the hit making prowess of the London-born, Lagos-based artist, whose trajectory ranks among the most powerful in the music scene today.
His debut album arrives with the pomp and flair that surrounds his inimitable character. On ‘God’s Timing The Best,’ the Marlian Records honcho dons a suit, surrounded by chess pieces and an hourglass. The stylistic features depicted on his album cover helmed by photographer and stylist, Daniel Obasi were indicative of his artistic reach. Across 14 tracks, the “Soapy” singer seamlessly integrates Nigerian pop mainstays such as Lil Kesh and Mayorkun to Busiswa and MHD, into his carefully created world.
Delivering fierce reflections of the tumultuous life on the streets to deep incursions into the body of his lover, Naira Marley delivers a body of work that showcases a unique mixture of versatility and style. Following its release earlier this week, our editorial team at The NATIVE have clocked in their listens of ‘God’s Timing Is The Best’, and here are our first impressions of the project.
Moore: This album is one that is filled with significant verses. For me though, the standout verse has to be the opening verse in Montego Bay, “I decide to runa-runaway, somewhere faraway, go Montego Bay”. It immediately brings up a feeling of longing for escapism, a feeling that comes up throughout the whole song. Each time the verse is repeated, it emphasises this feeling until it comes to a joyful conclusion in the outro.
Chibuzo: I think Zinoleesky’s verse on “O’dun” was the hardest, some other verses are also worthy of being crowned best verse, like Jada Kingdom’s verse on “No Panties”, but Zino’s verse just does it for me. His breezy singing and laidback flows on the track are reminiscent of the songs that dominated the early 2010s era. Nothing too ambitious, just cheeky lyrics and utterly irresistible melodies.
Emmanuel: An endearing quality of Naira Marley’s music is the seamless cohesion between his verses and hooks. He emerges as a unique pop star, not much concerned with the strict songwriting favoured by many of his contemporaries. The times he does go outside that fold though, he’s remarkably exciting. A verse that does that for me is the second verse of “Montego Bay”. Here he adopts a slightly British rap cadence, detailing feelings of detachment and the urge to fly to the famous Jamaican area. It’s one of the more tender moments in an album ravished with pomp and perhaps my favourite song on first listen.
Dennis: I’m going with “Happy” here. Naira and Mayorkun have worked together on a few occasions, but this is probably the best track they’ve pulled off together. Everything just works great: the swing of the percussion, the light and colourful melodies, Mayorkun’s zesty vocals, Naira’s laidback energy. Beat-wise, “Coming” is still the monster on this album, but even though it’s catchy, that song pales to the original template of “KPK,” and it doesn’t have the overall infectious performance of “Happy.” Production is a combo of everything, that’s why I’m going with the Mayorkun-assisted jam.
Maria: My pick for this is “Coming”. Rexxie was clearly trying to make a statement because he went crazy with this. The crescendo at the beginning of the song with Busiswa’s opening chant sets the tone for all the excitement in the rest of the song. There’s drums, cymbals, shakers and many more instruments scattered throughout the track but neither of them overshadow each other. They’re placed so well that even if you focus on just one of them each time you listen, it still sounds great. The energy is at an all time high throughout the song and although it’s not a new release, it’s my favorite off the album.
Tela: “Kojosese” has to be it for me. I don’t know if it’s because I have listened to it repeatedly as it was released late last year but it gets you in a trance from the first second. Combining all the elements that make a Marley hit track, the upbeat synths with a percussive background form the perfect dance floor song. Combining Amapiano and Afrobeats, Marley’s technique seems to have reached its most mastered form yet on this Leobeatz masterpiece soundbed. Perfectly balancing the instrumental filled with drums and whistles with Marley’s voice, the production transcribes positive energy just like the song.
Wonu: Of course the Mayor of Lagos had the best guest verse, I mean who else? LOL. Jokes apart, what Mayorkun did on “Happy” is actually unmatched. He delivered a solid verse, I mean Mayorkun’s features are always very standout and this record wasn’t left untouched. The production of the track was also very uptempo and attention catching so yeah, this is certainly one of my favourite tracks on the 14-tracker.
Tela: MHD’s appearance on this album is what I needed. Delivering his verse in French his fantastic rhythmic cadence and well blended vocals on “Excuse Moi” compliments Naira Marley’s presence over the song. Not being the first time the duo have worked together, his menacing delivery sets a pleasurable eclecticism as the unique and genuine vocals make the song a classic. He gives off a rough, happy energy creating a natural cheer that happens when two cultures interact.
Emmanuel: The features on ‘GTTB’ did well to broaden Naira Marley’s vision. For sheer presence, I’m inclined to choose Busiswa’s verse on “Coming”. But then, you reason that it was a pre-album single and the repeated spins might have influenced its favourability. Jada Kingdom’s verse on “No Panties” was quite evocative, too. Naira turns in one of his most inspired performances on the album and is perfectly complemented by the sweet, cooing vocals of Kingdom. She makes the song well worthy of repeated listens, portending one of Marley’s most complete songs ever.
Chibuzo: This is a really difficult question to grapple with. The songs on the project really fit well together, personally, I wouldn’t skip any track on the project. ‘God’s Timing’s The Best’ is not a flawless project but with regards to the cohesiveness of the record, you can hardly fault Naira. But gun to my head, I’d lose “Modinat Kai”. This was an incredibly hard pick to make because I absolutely love the song.
Moore: The biggest skip for me has to be “Happy”. This is a little surprising since it’s only the second track on the album. While the opening chant that spells out the name of the song lifts my spirits in anticipation of an energising song, any energy quickly dissolves as the song begins properly. I don’t find the rhythm particularly engaging, especially as it follows the same beats as many other tracks on the album.
Dennis: I’m going with that “Modinat Kai” song. Not only is it unremarkable, it’s the worst example of Naira Marley on autopilot.
Tela: It has to be “Coming” featuring Busiswa and honestly there is no debate on that. The upbeat tempo caters to the fast life in the African streets. A definite club banger, the song holds an upper hand as it was released late last year. Busiswa’s appearance in this song catapults the song to a different level as the cross culture interaction brings Amapiano and Afrobeat seamlessly merging them into one sound. Despite my ears gravitating towards “Coming”, “First Time in America” is a great contender. Its simplicity and relative references give the song a familiar feeling. I mean he even throws in a Swahili line “Hakuna maganja” showing his language versatility and acknowledgment of his East African fans.
Moore: While I think the whole album is made of back to back hits in the making, what I think has the biggest potential is “Ayewada”. It’s a song with a very catchy hook that will likely get people playing the song on repeat. It has a very familiar rhythm while still standing out from the rest of the album. This is a song that will become very familiar in clubs over the summer. I also won’t be surprised to see many choreographed dances all over Tiktok in the coming weeks, as is often the case with Naira Marley.
Dennis: I heard there’s been a lot of not-so-kind takes on Twitter about this album, and I get it as much as I don’t. This album is exactly what I expected from a Naira Marley project in 2022: groovy beats, madcap yet quotable humour, raunchy and self-aggrandising themes, and serviceable features. Maybe he could’ve broadened the angles he approached his music from, but there’s good marks for dependability. There’s several new songs on here that will go crazy in the streets and infiltrate dancefloors from Abulegba to Mushin to Awoyaya, which remains priority number one for one of street-pop’s most vital superstars. I’m sure Naira isn’t losing sleep if this album is not good enough to be respected by Nigerian music Twitter, as long as those that fuck with him keep fucking with him.
Wonu: For my overall first impressions, I’ll say ‘God’s Timing is The Best’ is an A-class body of work. I personally feel Naira poured his heart into creating this body of work. It gave me the ability to see the artists’ strengths and weaknesses and I think that was a very special thing, especially Naira. The production and engineering was clean, and although I’m not a fan of the album like that (It’s not something I see myself going back to listen to anytime soon), I think Naira Marley tried his best in terms of putting a project together. Kudos to him and all the collaborators on the album, you really made something special.
Chibuzo: I think Naira could have put together a better project, especially considering how long he made us wait, but in general it’s a pretty solid project. Throughout the project, he’s in his typical element, dishing out bouncy party tunes with countless caption worthy lines. It’s what we love to see from Naira and he pulled his weight in that regard. Another interesting feature of the project is the tempo. By his standards, the project is pretty serene. The mid-tempo cadence of the project makes the project more digestible. In my opinion, it also lends itself to a higher reply value for the project. That, I think, is brilliant!
Emmanuel: As always, a Naira Marley project would have its bops. There is however a bit of a stretch in the pace of the songs. Those bops are far too often, almost obscuring the fine work he does elsewhere on songs like “Montego Bay” and “No Panties”. Still, take them to the dance floors where they’re most likely to fit in, and you’d find an album that does justice to the creator’s reputation. I will revisit a number of its songs but there’s no doubt ‘GTTB’ would have benefited from more lived-in stories. Although Naira Marley has built his legacy off being a kind of troubadour, I think there’s greater potential for growth if he squares up to showing the less flamboyant aspects of his celebrity lifestyle.
Featured image credits/DanielObasi
Words by Emmanuel Esomnofu, Wonu Osikoya, Dennis Ade-Peter, Moore Wright, Maria Ogunnoiki, and Chibuzo Emmanuel