Thursday, 23 May 2024

Ajebo Hustlers’ ‘Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment’ Is A Masterclass on Urban Sensibilities [Review]

Ajebo Hustlers have doubled down on their unique brand of conscious music with Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment.

Released on the 3rd of May, 2024, the project serves as the direct follow-up to 2022’s Bad Boy Etiquette 101. Vivid suburban storytelling, cresting on an infectious amalgam of Afrobeats and Hip-Hop, define the project. The project boasts of an impressive feature line-up of Sarkodie, King Promise, Odumodublvck, Zlatan, Blaqbonez, Jeriq and Raebel.

Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment Cover art.
Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment Cover art.
Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment Tracklist.
Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment Tracklist.

Four lead singles notwithstanding, Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment proffers the overall experience of an enjoyable, layered reorientation. Unlike the cover of the preceding project, the duo stands amidst shelves, ready to deliver on the promise. Vices, the grind and self-preservation take center stage as the underlying themes.

The opening track, ‘Dreams II’ sees Ajebo Hustlers, Zlatan and Blaqbonez play to their respective strengths on a stripped-back Hip-Hop instrumental. With pensive lyricism, the artistes reinforce their commitment to bringing their ambitions to life without being sidetracked. Piego drives home the latter sentiment with the lines:

You see this music I dey sing, it is my only calling’/‘Me no wan hear any girl come dey tell me say she love me

Zlatan and Blaqbonez are fitting features. This stems from the long-standing friendship between the duo and their collective ascent to the pinnacle of contemporary Nigerian Hip-Hop. Zlatan’s verse is a fine blend of Yoruba and English, reflecting his devotion to the grind despite setbacks. He also notably references ‘Gelato’, his 2020 hit record with DJ Cuppy (‘Omode tan ni “toba win, a mu ice cream” (gelato)’). While Blaqbonez’s shift is short and the track’s least memorable, ‘Dreams II’ is a solid start to the project.

Ajebo Hustlers.

Taking the baton is the Jeriq-assisted ‘Last Week’, where the first glimmer of storytelling on the project appears. Easy on the ears, the track is an earnest recounting of a relapse. Peigo sings, ‘But this week I’m back’/‘Old habits die hard’/‘Bad habits I fight’/‘Lord knows I try’. The lyrics reflect a futile struggle with the allure of marijuana, even with an accountability partner. While profound songs of this nature are not in short supply (pun intended), ‘Last Week’ musters a distinct earnesty and resignation to fate. Jeriq offers the track’s highlight, sure to raise some eyebrows, emerges in the final lap of the song:

I am a young rich stoner, can’t afford to be sober

Smokers are liable to die young, me, I don’t believe

Snoop Dogg is an old man and can never quit

A wake-up call in ‘You Go Know’ dials up the tempo from ‘Last Week’. There is even more street lingo-fueled poetry to appreciate, with the dynamic duo beckoning to the streetwise and hustle sensibilities of listeners. They address listeners more directly on this track than on the preceding too, thus adding more nuance to the project.

If you no use your head

Them go use am drink garri, drink garri o

If you no hustle for the bread

For this life you go drink garri, drink garri o

Sensuality takes center stage on the fourth track ‘Wicked’, with Ajebo Hustlers dialing back from the introspective gems in the preceding tracks. Unlike the indulgence in ‘Last Week’, the duo craves respite from their female object of obsession on ‘Wicked’. Entertainment value notwithstanding, the track lacks the nuance of – and pales in comparison to the preceding tracks. Undeterred, the sensuality and female fixation doubles down with ‘Celine Dion’, featuring Odumodublvck. Drawing on local slangs to obscure sexual indulgences, Ajebo Hustlers create a more traditional Afrobeats bop. Conversely, Odumodublvck stays in character by opting for vivid descriptions.

Ajebo Hustlers.

Undecided’, which boasts of the only female feature in Raebel, kicks off the second half of Continuous Assessment. Raebel, a rising Dancehall artiste, tenders a standout Reggae-infused verse to open up the track. The female element is a welcome and inevitable one, infused an already balanced project with more quality. Hot on its heels is another standout track, ‘Kisses II’, where the duo re-echo their desire for respite seen in ‘Wicked’. Well-written and delivered, the track puts all doubts to bed as to the memorable nature of refrains on Continuous Assessment. Mavins signee Magixx also delivers a noteworthy feature verse.

As the end begins on the King Promise-assisted ‘Sweet & Sour’, Ajebo Hustlers muster yet another forlorn love song. A relatable storytelling verse by duo member Knowledge meshes with the resonant instrumentals to yield a peak listening experience. The penultimate track, ‘No Wam’ is a cynical take on infidelity, while the Sarkodie-assisted ‘Burn My Cable II’ brings the project to an anticlimactic close.

With Bad Boy Etiquette 102: Continuous Assessment, Ajebo Hustlers further assert their status as leading resonant storytellers. They are able to masterfully deliver their message through apt refrains, striking melodies and overall strong songwriting. It is a cohesive sequel to Bad Boy Etiquette 101, poised to consolidate the duo’s hold on the mainstream and underground alike.

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