A 1-listen review of Blaqbonez’s “Sex > Love”
A solid consolidation of what we've come to know and enjoy about Blaqbonez
A solid consolidation of what we've come to know and enjoy about Blaqbonez
In 2017, Blaqbonez dropped his seventh mixtape, ‘Last Time Under’, arguably the most pivotal creative turning point in his career. In the years prior, Blaq had set himself as a battle-tested rapper with a staunch inclination towards crafting bar-heavy rap music. On that mixtape, he broke from and started his journey towards the more malleable artist he is these days, delivering a vibe-centric project that leaned heavily on a spacey Trap soundscape. It was also a prophetic moment foreshadowing his entrance into mainstream (rap) music conversations in Nigeria.
Since signing to major label Chocolate City, initially via the 100 Crowns imprint, he’s released ‘Bad Boy Blaq’ and its re-up, both Trap-fusion tapes, and ‘Mr Boombastic’, an EP with heavy Dancehall dalliances. These days, Blaq is considered one of the more popular rap/sung hybrids around, owing to the evolution from his willingness to experiment and smart, aggressive self-promotion moves across social media. “I feel like my movement is a wrecking ball,” he told The NATIVE in a 2019 interview. At the moment, it still feels like a bit of an overstatement, but it’s impossible to deny the impact he’s been able to generate for himself, and the increased level of prominence he’s accrued with each new release.
This album is my own gospel, its wild, it’s provoking but its mine.
Here’s the Album cover & Tracklist
‘Sex Over Love’ out this friday! 💨 pic.twitter.com/dCm3lBuRJs
— Emeka The Stallion 🐎 (@BlaqBonez) April 26, 2021
Today, Blaq’s long-teased “debut” album, ‘Sex > Love’, is finally out. He’s already stated that the project will feature all versions of Blaqbonez listeners have come to know, a sign that he’s more comfortable and confident in being a multi-faceted artist. The pre-released singles so far, “Haba” and “Bling”, can be best described as pop-rap hybrids, best suited for dancefloor shenanigans. If he’s bringing all sides of his artistry to bear, there’s way to more to explore on ‘Sex > Love’. Time to strap in and get into the gospel of Blaqbonez.
In usual 1-listen review fashion, all reactions are in real time while the music plays. No pauses, rewinds, fast-forwards or skips.
Bird chips, a glassy guitar and Blaqbonez moaning. Interesting start. We already getting the hedonist talk, nice flow by the way. That drop was a bit underwhelming but the bounce is infectious, heads will bob and shoulders will shimmy to this. “My nigga, this is push to start”, get your brags off, but that following line about weed was corny. Frank Ocean already set the bar for any song named “Novacane”, and this one isn’t anywhere near it. Haha, this is funny, someone remind of the YouTuber who does this hilarious battle rap thing. Serviceable start, never really considered Blaq as a strong intro guy.
“Heartbreaker” (feat. Nasty C)
BeatsbyJayy tag, I’m expecting a lot and I’m already impressed. This bounce is a proper upper body mover, and the pocket Blaqbonez picked is very solid. “Hope this dick is enough for ya, I’m a lover not a heartbreaker”, haha interesting. Nasty C is here, he has such a Teflon flow. A slightly different pocket but the groove is just as entrancing as Blaq’s. Ooof! That helium-voiced switch hit my soul different. These in-song flow switches is one of the reasons Nasty C is ahead of most of his peers. Sounds like a keeper, will revisit.
“Bling” (feat. Amaarae & Buju)
Ah, the single I didn’t really like. The beat is a gentle marvel, though. The slinky Dembow groove, the shimmering keys and soft horn blasts. “She be screaming, I be screaming” is a good picture of great sex, not that I know because I’m a virgin. (My mum reads a lot of the things I write, apparently.) Afropop Amaarae hits different, she makes it sound alluring, but this feature doesn’t sound as effortless as it should be. Buju is a better fit here, I like that his voice keeps things ever so slightly rustic, very distinct tone. Type A brought a good beat, just not sure I’ll ever willingly press play on this.
“Never Been in Love”
Eish, what are these lyrics to start? I thought we agreed to leave the whole “eating pussy like groceries” thing in 2014 where it belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cunnilingus but this description is disturbing abeg. Anyway, this beat is heat, similar in weight to “Bling”. I like the occasional impassioned yelps in Blaq’s voice, adds a nice dimension to the song. Ehh, I’ll check up on this again but it’s not doing too much for me.
I love this guitar, need the producer credit. You know what? Afropop Blaqbonez has a great ear for beats, this is really solid. Rappers wanting that crossover hit should get Blaq to do some A&R work for them. This is Mr. Boombastic Blaq with a bit more elasticity in tone, very playful with a quite catchy melodic flow. That “20 man” line makes me miss old Wiz—‘MIL’ still a classic, though. I need more in this songwriting to reel me in, a memorable line somewhere in there I can quote. Beat switch, sounds very ‘80s new wave but with a Hip-Hop flip to it. Lovestruck Blaqbonez, interesting. I can understand becoming a player if you get heartbroken after all the confessions. Will revisit.
Jayy tag, very oceanic in a way that reminds me of 40. “I will not release before the chose hour”, LOL. Blaq has such a casually animated flow, something like a toddler energetically flailing its arm. That’s the sort of imagery that crosses your mind when you’re around kids all the time. LMFAO, what the fuck is this? “Thank you for that pussy that you gave to me” is wild! I’m actually dying of laughter. There’s actually stuff to unpack here, but I’m tempted to call this a keeper.
This album has moved rather briskly. Jayy gave Blaqbonez the heat pack, as he should because 100 Crowns affiliations. Did he just say something about bitches? This is a 180 switch from the last few songs. “Why I go dey chase person, when any day she fit dey with another person?” Okay, I want to do an interview with this guy where he breaks down his past relationship, there’s so real drama in here and we deserve the backstory. “If you don’t want dick, please get the fuck out of my space.” This boy is running mad, or maybe he’s trying to warn guys to fear women. Okay, this is just toxic but the sort you can enjoy. Will come back.
“Fendi” (feat. Joeboy)
Afropop Blaq with the ear for beats again, I can see this going off at house parties. Blaq know how to find a catchy melodic flow but the songwriting needs work, this hook could’ve been much catchier. Joeboy sounds at home on this, solid contribution. Okay, I take back what I said about the hook earlier. This is pretty solid, not in the way that it will burrow into your head on first listen but I can see it growing on many people with time. Oh, there’s the Emeka the Stallion reference I’ve been looking for. This is a slapper, potential single.
“BBC [Remix]” (feat. Tiwa Savage)
Very few people have Spax’s range amongst Nigerian producers, this sounds different from a lot of his work. I liked this when it came out, both the original and the remix. This hook is golden, but the D-O influence is so loud it can be presence. Tiwa Savage came in with the swagger of Athena, goddess presence. A lot of this album is very fitting for a house party, familiar bodies squishing against each other in a cramped place.
“Faaji” (feat. 1da Banton & Bad Boy Timz)
Shit, someone remind of this intro sample being played on guitar. Fuck. Man, Tuzi is a beast with groovy guitar chords. Did Blaqbonez just say something about spitting lava during Covid? I want to roll my eyes but this jam is slapping, this beat is so good. 1da Banton! Always in the mood to spin out those ear-grabbing melodies, more people should be listening to this man. Heh, this hook isn’t doing too much for me. Timz is always so ebullient. I want to beat that Ice Prince line with slugger bat, but this is a pretty solid. Omo, this hook is sneaking up on me. Is this is a pattern? Find out on the next episode of Dragonball Z.
“Zombie” (feat. Psycho YP & Laycon)
Laycon! He also has an album out today. Oooh, this is groovy Trap, the bounce will compel shoulders to vibrate. I like Blaq’s flow, not so much the lyrics. Okay, I like this hook on first listen. YP! Such a trademark flow that never gets rote, and the confidence is just so intoxicating. He’s water whipping in this pocket, rapping like he caught the Holy Ghost. Why is Laycon’s voice hoarse? LOL. “I don’t laugh with my money, I don’t take no jokes”, but I’m kinda laughing at the flow on this verse. Apt that A-Q follows immediately. Man, I’m so grateful at how much Q’s flow and enunciation has grown over the years, the definition of a rapper getting better with time. I rolled my eyes at that “Face value” line. Yeah, this is like “Lowkey” from ‘Bad Boy Blaq”.
“Best Friend” (feat. Cheque)
I need to confess this now: Trap Cheque does not really appeal to me. Okay now that that’s out of the way, I don’t mind this hook. Wanting the best for someone is how you know you’re in love, which in the context of this album means you’re fucked because Blaq said they’ll walk all over you if they know you have feelings for them. 808s with reverbs on them can never be defeated, it’s like the Chris Paul mid-range jumper of drum packs, extremely reliable even if it’s familiar. I like this Cheque verse a lot more than I did Blaq’s. This might just be a keeper.
Nocturnal keys, sounds fitting for a midnight drive. Blaqbonez is mirroring Yoruba demon behaviour even though he’s Igbo, that’s what happens when you stay in Southwest Nigeria all your life. By the way, Yoruba men don’t cheat, it’s just bad PR. I can see the thematic use of this song in the context of this album, but I can’t promise to not skip it or listen absent-mindedly if it comes on.
Tempoe threw some crack on these intro horn, so addictive. I remember the several videos Blaqbonez made in support of this song, some of the funniest and most wholesome content on the internet in scary times. That first lockdown seems like a lifetime ago, but Corona is still outside o. The noisy promotion of “Haba” is emblematic of both Blaq’s tireless ethic in pushing his music, and a period where everyone was aggressively engaging content in the name of escapism. Unfortunate it had to share space with the “Don’t Rush” challenge, ain’t nobody choosing the “StreamHaba” challenge over binge watching beautiful women aggressively shoving their beauty in our collective faces. Still a slapper, this one.
Blaqbonez’s debut album, ‘Sex> Love’, is several things: pleasure seeking, fun, self-involved, excellently produced, pop-oriented, and more. This is a set by a twenty-something year old trying to convince us—and himself—of his chosen ideals on romantic situationship, a complex topic that often defies easy logic. To do this, he leans on a sonically varied palette that pulls in from slinky, mid-tempo Afropop and blown-out Trap beat, an apt choice that accentuate his vivacious rap flow, restless melodies and sneakily hooky songwriting.
Clearly crafted to catch the attention of a wide range of listeners, ‘Sex > Love’ hedges its bet on the sort of colourful exuberance that dominates dancefloors and local streaming charts. What the album packs in commercial ambition, though, it lacks in an entirely compelling narrative. Instead of proving the theory of his album with some tact and nuance, Blaqbonez regurgitates tropes of jilted men becoming toxic, sex-crazed players. It makes for an album with identifiable thematic points, and the pop sheen positions several songs as potential big singles, but as a whole on first listen, ‘Sex > Love’ is more of a serviceable consolidation than it is a needle-moving project for Blaqbonez as an artist and public persona.
Listen to ‘Sex> Love’ here.
Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter