Essentials: Zlatan tells his ‘started from the bottom’ story on debut album, ‘Zanku’

Elevating his knack for compelling storytelling to match his pop sensibilities

Zlatan has grown into a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian music scene since breaking into the mainstream with “Able God” and introducing the now-viral ‘Zanku’ dance. He has since remained in popular music conversation, delivering guest verses and singles to serve dancefloor audiences. While these songs showed him to be a crafty pop star with catchy and innovative Yoruba adlibs, he infused enough personality to establish him as the most entertaining street-inclined rapper. His newly released album debut, ‘Zanku’ however elevates his knack for compelling storytelling to match his pop sensibilities.

Pre-released singles, “Zanku”, “This Year”, “Shotan” featuring Tiwa Savage, “Gbeku” featuring Burna Boy and “Yeye Boyfriend” serve as pop highlights of the 17-track project, while other tracks like “Compulsory Course”, and Davido and Yonda assisted “Super Power” also provide festive moments on the project as Zlatan flexes his renowned mastery of fuji melodies and Yoruba lyrics.

The bass-heavy hip-hop beat Rexxie produced for “Love and Gain” highlights Zlatan’s ability to blend his indigenous and foreign influences as he performs confident and heartfelt Yoruba rap bars over the trap beat. kThe P Prime-produced Indian music influenced instrumentals for 3rd track,  “Sunita” allows Zlatan attempts at some sonic experimentation, and gives him room to show off his range.

“Ko Easy World Wide” also stands out for the mix of Spanish guitar riffs Miraqulous Beatz infuses into the beat, however, most of the tracks on the project stay within the sound of the conventional street-inclined, pop genre with production from other producers like Spells, Kiddominant, Rexxie, Iambeatz and Speroach Beatz.

The Patoranking-assisted “Distracted” is one of the more sultry cuts from ‘Zanku’ as Zlatan channels his thoughts towards a love interest for lyrics that admit his human failings; “Money got me distracted oh baby”. The deeper the album goes, the more serious the themes Zlatan explores.

The 11th track, “If You No Know”, is delivered within the festive ambience of the highlife beat produced by P Prime, but the lyrics describe the traumatic backstories that often come with successful street-pop artists like Zlatan and the featured artists, Papisnoop and Jamo Pyper.

The started from the bottom story is a reoccurring theme on ‘Zanku’ and on “Life” he details some of the hardships he experienced while back in school. With the story arch on ‘Zanku’ centred on Zlatan’s come-up, the project conveniently retains the celebratory mood of his popular songs while still offering a deep dive into the singer’s psyche. It’s not exactly didactic music, but when it comes on you’d know what to do: dance and dream.

Stream Zlatan’s ‘Zanku’ below.

Featured Image Credits: YouTube/ZlatanIbileVEVO
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You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu

ICYMI: Watch the music video for Zlatan’s “Yeye Boyfriend”