Rap Song of the Week: Anti World Gangstars refresh street-rap tropes on “Men Soji”

An ultra-groovy jam featuring Alpha Ojini alongside AWG squad members; Reeplay, Odomodublvck and Fatboy E (fka Ekizzy J)

Anti World Gangstars are as much of a collective as they are a motley crew. Comprising five Rap artists and Cross, the team’s producer/engineer, the Abuja-based squad is bonded by a communal sense of irreverence, devoted to making music that’s in conversation with popular trends, rather than being dictated by it. On their impressive 2019 debut album, ‘Gang Business’, the rebellious ethos of Anti World Gangstars takes centre stage, guided by a bruising soundscape ranging from gleeful Trap to sinister Drill, and a commitment to friendly one-upmanship.

On their fairly new single, “Men Soji”, featuring Alpha Ojini alongside squad members, Fatboy E (fka Ekizzy J), Reeplay and Odomodublvck, the camaraderie is cranked up a notch, as all participating parties combine for a street-rap banger that fits squarely within the current scope of dance-ready Rap music in Nigeria. As familiar as it sounds, though, what’s riveting about the song is its lyrical content, as each rapper injects their own personal perspectives to refresh the tropes typically associated with this style of Rap music. In place of straightforward boasts, the quartet hone in on years of knowledge accrued from moving and manoeuvring, each bragging about the individual make-up of his sharp street OT (read as orientation), and altogether flaunting their knack for keeping their eyes constantly peeled.

The defining element of Anti World Gangstars lies in how well a common ground is found without the need for individual personas to be tamped down. In fact, with very little interplay on songs, the emphasis is on these personas to snowball into something overwhelming. “Men Soji” is a great collective song for this particular reason, because there’s Fatboy E’s playful self-seriousness, Reeplay’s effervescence, Odomodu’s ever-present self-mythologising, and Alpha Ojini’s canny hand for vivid storytelling. All of this is underlined by a collective dedication to writing instantly memorable bars:

“Yo, Fatboy E, pass the chicken sauce/you can take it all, I’m not eating much/I’m observing table manners, I’m not talking much/unless na money you dey talk, then I’m talking (kmt!)” – Fatboy E

“Don tey wey I don enter streets/dem go chop your eye like meat, if you no come legit” – Reeplay

“My luger no dey pump/e dey shoot, e dey cough” – Odomodublvck

“SARS pull up like six for the bus/soji men, them no fit police us/gbege dey but we still position” – Alpha Ojini

These raps are delivered in agile, loose flows, with each rapper bouncing off Cross’ ultra-groovy and slightly lush beat in varying degrees of approach. With a stunning, irresistible hook – referencing the infamous pastor/street preacher from last year who immortalised “600 years” and “I go comot your teeth just now” into Nigerian pop culture – “Men Soji” is a remarkable feat of popular music craft. It’s a reiteration that Anti World Gangstars aren’t just versatile enough to try out a wide range of sounds; at their best, they have the wherewithal to transform what’s modish into a striking reflection of their unique mentality.

Listen to “Men Soji” here.

Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter