Yung L took his time to get into full bloom. Gaining his first bout of attention as one-third of the Jos-hailing collective, Grip Boyz, the singer spent the end of the ‘00s and beginning of the ‘10s as one of the slowly bubbling secrets of Nigerian Pop music. As the synergy between Caribbean Pop and contemporary Afropop started to become more evident, Yung L scored his first huge solo success with 2013’s “S.O.S”, an enduring banger that retains its novel, afro-Caribbean feel till date.
Even with an immediately ubiquitous breakout hit and a few notable follow-up singles, it wasn’t until 2017 that Yung L shared his aptly titled debut album, ‘Better Late Than Never’. A sprawling, 17-track offering, the project made up for the long wait, as the singer tinkered with the Dancehall-inflected Afropop lean of his sound to generally laudable results. In the time since, Mr Marley – as he’s alternately known – has remained quite active, sharing a steady stream of singles, and two EPs, ‘Jollification’ and ‘Juice & Zimm’, in the last two years.
Announced and detailed earlier this year, Yung L has followed up with his newly released sophomore LP, ‘Yaadman Kingsize’. For those who’ve paid attention in the 3-plus years since his debut album, it’s clear that Yung L has taken a few steps as a music maker, doubling down on the Caribbean edge of his sound while tightening his songwriting. Already lauding it as his best project, the new album is an opportunity for a potent showcase of those improved abilities. Let’s see if Yung L’s second full-length takes advantage of those positive strides in craft.
In usual 1-listen review fashion, all reactions are in real time while the music plays. No pauses, rewinds, fast-forwards or skips.
This bass opening makes me want to put a fat joint in my mouth, and I don’t even smoke. I’ve listened to this song every morning since it came out as a single, such a great song to get you hyped for the day. When he enters that double-time flow, my head and shoulders convulse aggressively. This is a great way to start an album. I’m ready!
Chopstix is top ten Nigerian producers of the last decade, don’t @ me abeg. This beat is giving me green-yellow-red vibes, you can visualise a dance floor on a Caribbean island listening to this. “Tonight, I’m eating that vagina,” wow so forthright. The flow of this first verse is great, so plain-stated but it feels apt. The hook could be catchier, but the contrast with the flow of his verses is a great from a structure point of a view. Yung L has gotten better as a Dancehall singer. This is a good cut, might be a keeper after revisiting a few times.
“Womanizer (feat. Tiggs Da Author)”
Choppa tag. I love this already, an anthem for male “ashewos” and prospective ones as well – like myself. A female voice harmonising his slut chant is such a flex. “Girl dem love me and me love dem the same way/they always bring the kitty my way,” haha. I can relate to one half of that sequence, I don’t have the sauce like that (yet). Man, I’m missing the soul I usually associate with Tiggs’ voice; that was more of a serviceable contribution to be honest. Another solid song, keeps things moving pretty seamlessly.
A song titled “Puna” should sound wild, but he’s already referenced female genitalia so it feels normal. This beat is so colourful, Afrobeat within a modern context that doesn’t sound like parody. “Na which kind puna we never see, we never chop…we never fuck?” FFS!!. Add Yung L to the list of Nigerian artists looking to win a Grammy. This song is not even over yet and it’s an instant standout, such a big record in terms of persona. Yung L is showing out with this one, and he got a great beat to do it on. Who produced this record? If it’s not a popular name, I want to hear from her/him for the rest of this year.
Caribbean steelpan drums will always put you in a positive mood, such a lively instrument. “If you no be bro, you be opp,” is a statement. There’s so many intriguing highlights from this first verse, his pen has worked really good on this album so far. “I count my dough and I roll up the loud,” is a sign of good living. The fact this beat doesn’t get unnecessarily complicated is such a great thing, just a delightful percussion pattern and a synth bassline. It makes you focus on every single thing Yung L is saying, which is generally worth hearing.
“Rasta (feat. Seun Kuti)”
This is a nice bounce, Spax always comes with the right sauce for any artist he works with. Another Afrobeat-inspired production done right, a few of your favourite Nigerian artists should be taking notes. Someone needs to do a story on Fela and Afrobeat’s influence on weed culture in Nigeria (don’t steal it, we’ll do it over here). One of my favourite things about Seun Kuti’s horn playing is how rugged it is, but the musical texture always finds a way to sound smooth. This is a really good, short record to have in the middle of your album.
“Bwoy (feat. Shank)”
Been looking forward to this song since Yung L unveiled the tracklist, been too long since we heard from Shank. Okay, I like how he’s playing call-and-response with this vocal sample. Yung L has a deep sense of pride in himself, and you can tell it’s based on feeling secure with his roots and what he’s been able to accomplish. This beat is also delightfully spare, love it. Shank! He doesn’t sound as ferocious as I remember, but there’s that trademark liveliness still in his voice. I like when guests don’t overstay their welcome, because it forces them to leave their mark within quick, allotted space. This is a bit underwhelming, probably because of how much I expected from it. Will have to revisit.
“Eve Bounce (feat. Wizkid) [Remix]”
I wasn’t too enamoured by this song when it came out, but I heard it after ‘Made in Lagos’ came out and I instantly understood why Wizkid jumped on it. The Caribbean Pop meets R&B vibe partly mirrors the sonic tenor of ‘MIL’, very colourful, groovy and somewhat solemn. Wizkid’s voice is such a fascinating tool, and it’s morphed into a monster part of his arsenal – glad Toye expanded on it on WizMag. This is a great showcase for Yung L’s growth as a Pop music songwriter, taking familiar elements and retooling them into a distinct, remarkable song.
“Cool & Ease”
More short albums all 2021, please. “Me affi get that money in a kilogram,” is a mood for this already spinning year. I like how the beats on this album never feel chunky even when they’re composite, it makes this such a leisurely listen. This is one of those wishful, stress-free songs, the type you daydream about lazying around on a beach to. Good record within the context of the album.
“Police & Thief”
Even from the title, you can tell this one will be thematically heavy. These piano keys are so broody, even the percussions are very dirge-like. “And some ah carry broom, some na umbrella” is such a potent lyric. That double bass sneaked up perfectly, great addition to heighten the tension of Yung L’s lyrics. “Police and thief in the streets, but me can’t tell who is who.” Fuck the police, and fucking end SARS and police brutality in Nigeria. Man, this song is so heavy, it’s loaded with so many details. I’m tempted to say this is a perfect piece of socio-political commentary in Nigeria, but I’ll go back before I lay such hefty claims.
“Land of Light (outro) [feat. Abood Khiery, Sammany Hajo & Rashid Omar]”
I don’t know any of the featured artists on this, but whoever is taking this solemn intro is killing. Yung L is quoting a passage from the book of prophet Isaiah, can’t remember the exact chapter and verse – my mum would be so mad if she found out because this is a really popular verse. This is a soothing and reassuring way to close out an album.
Yung L was right to hype this album as his best project yet. Even though it’s a take based on only one full listen, ‘Yaadman Kingsize’ lives up to the speculative weight laid upon it by its creator. This is not an indictment of his previous projects, but an assertion of his artistic growth over the years. The singer’s sophomore is a tightly crafted, constantly entertaining, and personable display of his abilities.
Lasting just under the half-hour mark, ‘Yaadman Kingsize’ pulls and wastes no punches, rendering Yung L in his multidimensionality, as a raunchy gentleman, serial peace seeker, and socio-political observer. The album’s length also ensures that every technical tick and trick is heightened; with no unnecessary filler and zero lag due to run time, his melodies glisten from start to finish, the lyrics stand out positively, and the supple production endlessly delights.
Although it would be farfetched to deem it mould-breaking, ‘Yaadman Kingsize’ thrives off Yung L’s willingness to experiment, matching the improved tone of his singing and writing. As the music industry is only just fully shaking off the grogginess of the holiday, it’s impossible to frame this album within the context of the music from this year. What I can say with some level of definiteness is that, Yung L has set an impressive tone for Nigerian Pop albums for 2021.
Featured Image Credits: Instagram/yunglmrmarley
Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter