A 1-Listen Review of Basketmouth’s ‘Horoscopes’

Basketmouth returns with his sophomore album!

When news started to filter out of Nigerian comedian, Basketmouth’s camp that he was going to drop his debut album in 2020, many people underestimated the much-loved figure who was more popular for his comedy than he was for any form of musicality. That album, ‘Yabasi,’ a deft fusion of Highlife and Hip-Hop produced in conjunction with Duktor Sett, arrived like a tempest, upending conventions about what Nigerian Pop can and should sound like while canonising the much-heralded renaissance of Eastern Nigerian Highlife music. 

The arrival of album two is now being treated as a legitimate occasion by many who are curious to see what direction Basketmouth takes on his new venture. Originally titled ‘The Scorpio Effect,’ this new undertaking, now titled ‘Horoscopes,’ has arrived on the back of months of tweaking and fine-tuning between Basketmouth and his collaborators.

In a chat with Apple Music, Basketmouth admitted as much, confessed that the music he has been making with Duktor Sett is an exercise in bravery, but what stands undoubted is Basketmouth’s inspired curatorial instincts and knack for seamless melodic immersion. It is the sweet ecstasy of discovering Nigerian music re-imagined in tantalising fashion that makes ‘Horoscopes’ such a tantalising proposition, and with the album dropping today, we are about to bear witness to the new arc of Basketmouth unfolding story.  

In Usual 1-Listen Review Fashion, All Reactions Are In Real-Time While The Music Plays. No Pauses, Rewinds, Fast-Forwards Or Skip.

“Love and Life” (ft. Johnny Drille, Simi, and MI Abaga)

I like how this one starts off and the first thing I remember is Dennis’ piece from last year about Johnny Drille and how he’s become such a rounded performer. He’s the soul of the song here if I’m being honest because the way he translates anguish is so exquisite. Simi is in her bag as well and, for all his personal drama, MI Abaga’s pen remains elite, there’s true synergy between all the artists here. I think that’s the magic of Basketmouth, he’s a true A&R, he knows what records need and he just arranges these unions that make the music truly remarkable. We’ve heard that this is a soundtrack album for a movie later in the year and this is truly big screen music. Definitely adding to a couple of playlists. 

“Your Body” (ft. Buju)

Within the context of this album, I think this song comes a little too early. A very rare misstep from Basketmouth but please can we talk about how Buju’s voice is such a delight, a breath of fresh air; this is a virtuoso at work. The percussions barely ascend and according to Basketmouth, this beat had to be remade because Buju’s delivery forced Duktor’s hands. I know we’re not supposed to rewind but I am sorely tempted to, will be revisiting this many times this year. A definite keeper. 

“Listen” (ft. Wande Coal)

These songs are running a little too late and it’s pissing my homegirls. The opening stretch of this song is also why we all know and acknowledge as one of the most influential contemporary Nigerian musicians of the last 15 years. His voice is so evocative, there’s pain, there’s elation and luster in it all. It’s just some twinkling synths and percussion here because I would imagine that they know Wande Coal’s voice is an instrument in a way. Would have loved to see what WC would do with a highlife instrumental but sightings of the legend are so rare that we can’t even be angry. “Love and Life,” however makes it hard for me to truly appreciate this song in this arrangement because the energy is slightly off, but this is a solid jam. 

“Celowi” (ft. Peruzzi)

Okay, ‘Yabasi’ alum in the building, and this is what I expected to follow up “Love and Life.” There’s a refreshing fervour to how Peruzzi is layering his vocals on this track. He was made to make music like this if we’re keeping it a buck. There’s a lounging jazz energy to this track and it’s the perfect centerpiece for an album like this. Again, barely over 2 minutes long but what a song, what a pivot into highlife. Let’s go!

“Money” (ft. Oxlade and Efya)

I think Oxlade fits perfectly within Basketmouth’s musical landscape hence why he was recruited here again, he has such an intoxicating voice that makes it easy to listen to him on loop. Efya’s music is also the perfect response to Oxlade’s opening section, she’s really going into it, getting into the essence of that “If I do mistake get money” line. I’ve noticed that Duktor Sett has really kept things dialled down and generally avoided any complicated flourishes which is a credit to how good he is because his presence is still noticeable on these tracks; he’s basically a metronome here, just keeping things ticking nicely. Great deep cut here. 

“Trouble” (ft.2Baba and Blaqbonez)

I think the first thing that I should say about this record is that this is musical heritage right here. Blaqbonez is joining 2Baba on a record, that’s like the G.OA.T of Nigerian pop music. Just wow, head blown and he doesn’t let himself down. What can I say about 2Baba man, that’s a timeless musicbox, he toys with pockets that he has no business being able to handle and just leaves a sonic pattern for Blaqbonez to basically devour. I also love how Duktor Sett blunts out Blaq’s voice at certain points, it’s exciting having to strain to hear what profanities he’s uttering. This is a tentpole record, I want to hear it at the Crusade on Sunday. 

“The Traveller” (ft. The Cavemen and Kwabena Kwabena)

If there’s any track that shows the scope of Basketmouth ambition, I think it has to be this one. For him to fuse Igbo Highlife and Ghanaian Highlife requires him to be attuned to the pulse of music on both sides and he just about pulls it off even if there is a slight drop somewhere in the interchange. It’s more fluid on the latter end of the track but to even attempt it shows how much of a serious musician he is. Not entirely sure about this, but I’ll revisit.

“Leave Me” (ft. Reekado Banks and Falz)

Reeky’s voice is so sultry and he carries this track so elegantly. I want to play this record for all the people that are stressing me, to be honest, but I’m too mild-mannered so I’ll just be content with jamming it up and laughing along to Falz’s verse. Weirdly, I think this is a song that might not get the attention it deserves for some reason. 

“Assembly of Gods” (ft. Magnito, Illbliss, Dremo, The Cavemen, Falz, and Flavour)

I don’t think I can tell you how pissed I am that this song is just 3 minutes, 15 seconds long. This is the posse cuts of all posse cuts and it’s just such a proficient record in terms of arrangement and structure. Everyone brought their A-games to this record and I like how all the rappers bring a unique signature to the record while The Cavemen and Flavour provide the bridges needed. A lovely, poignant record that only gets better when Basketmouth rounds things up. 

Final thoughts

With ‘Horoscope,’ Basketmouth has created an entirely new soundscape, coming less than 24 months after his last effort. It doesn’t have the frenzied Highlife-adjacent energy of ‘Yabasi,’ but it’s a body of work with its own convictions and messaging. It’s also infinitely more complex than the former record and deals with a myriad of issues without a startling level of clarity that has left me impressed. 

My biggest issue, however, is in its arrangement. Sometimes, it feels like Basketmouth was hyperaware that this is a different type of record and the arrangement reflects that because the clarity that mapped out the journey of ‘Yabasi’ is sorely lacking here. Still, many parts of the project capture the flair of cinema and shows that the Basketmouth train is only just creaking into motion. 

Listen to ‘Horoscopeshere

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