Essentials: Smallgod Is Bringing Africa Together on ‘Connecting the Dots’
a well curated project with great promise
a well curated project with great promise
Smallgod has not hidden his intent to connect Africa. While this vision runs the risk of being interpreted simply, this is no easy task. With Afropop moving at the pace it does, pinning down talented music stars is hard enough. Not to talk of them executing a concept album, which is one of the reason why veterans like Larry Gaaga and Basketmouth are so heralded in recent times. Their decades of background experience is parlayed into the creative role of A&Rs, creating full projects of their own and more importantly, bringing their ideas of music making to life.
In 2021, the Ghanaian-Dutch multidisciplinary creative showed his first inclination towards a body of work. Between March and April, his monkey symbol visualised collaborations with Harmonize (“Marry Me”) and R2Bees (“Simple Instruction”), setting the bubbly undertone for his latter musical choices. Halfway into the year, his debut album ‘Building Bridges’ was released, threaded by a concept of Smallgod hosting the ultimate pan-African music festival. Skits from British-Congolese comedian Eddie Kadi polishes the narrative, and Smallgod connects musicians in the diaspora with the continent’s major genres like Highlife, Bongo, Kwaito and Nigerian Pop.
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Afropop continues to witness its defining moment within the bubble of global culture over the past year. Commercial success has trickled to previously unseen spaces, with qualities like good music and deliberate marketing in place. With the zeitgeist on his side, it makes sense that Smallgod is furthering his exploration of the soundscape. His sophomore album, ‘Connecting The Dots’, was released last weekend, stacked with features from artists from around the continent. The hallmarks of diverse genres are embedded in single tracks, and it is credit to Smallgod’s curation that the album’s execution isn’t bloated.
The beats are tapped into the root of their interests while the musicians combine purposefully. Each record moves with real intent, much like “Holy F4k”, the hypnotic Drill affair which preceded album drop. Black Sherif might be everywhere right now, but manages to sound fresh each time he turns up; his Twi-laced hook sets the template for international rappers Ivorian Doll and Vic Mensa to deliver excitingly. “Falling” sees KiDi and Darkoo lace saccharine lyrics over warm production, their vocals alert with professions of love. It’s decidedly the most-covered subject across the album, though the myriad approaches colours ‘Connecting the Dots’ with the prospects of a mixtape.
This means that most people will probably have their own favourites; however, there are unquestionable bops which will resonate with more people than not. “Tried & Tried” pairs spritzy Highlife-esque guitars with an Afro Bashment bounce, while NSG and Darkovibes sketch the flamboyant details of their soft lifestyles, held against the pained gaze of naysayers. Here and elsewhere, the choice of features map internal stories of their own.
Being Ghanaian, Smallgod plays more regularly to coastal sounds. Breezy elements occupy the centre of his sonic vision, moving ‘Connecting the Dots’ with the progressive pacing of a friends’ time out at the beach, going through the motions of the day with an unchanging sense of calm and triumph. “Do You” most captures this vibe, helmed by Nonso Amadi on hook duties and further vivified by vocal contributions from Stonebwoy, Teezee and Acebergtm. On personal favourite “2000”, the energy builds even stronger as rippling Amapiano drums and trademark chants dreamily propels a hook which is sung in Yoruba.
Such cross-cultural references showcase the overlapping nature of most African genres. Smallgod’s vision, therefore, doesn’t stake out on commercial gains but rather having a deep connection with one’s roots, matching their flourish with your experiences in the wider world. Having come this far, dabbling in fields as diverse as fashion and hospitality, Smallgod is imprinting his name in the creative aspect of music making. Two good albums in successive years confirms he’s doing well in that regard.
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