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Ajebo Hustlers Remind Us That Simplicity Can Be Profound [EP Review]


When there is discourse pertaining to the greatest of music albums, movies, literature or just art in general—body of works with grand and abstract concepts, thematic and sonic cohesion and stylistic variety would always be cited as the benchmarks of greatness, because of how large their scales are and most importantly, how well they break down complex and dense themes into simple, resonant art.

'Bad Boy Etiquette 101' cover art.
‘Bad Boy Etiquette 101’ cover art.

As an artist and novelist himself, this writer appreciates the true ingenuity of such grand concepts and enjoys unpacking them, bit by bit. However, in rare cases—especially where music is concerned—some albums manage to clinch such exceptional heights, despite having simple premises. Every true art connoisseur knows that the greatness of a body of work is in its execution, not in its themes.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, simply because it has dense and socio-political commentary. It is an exceptional body of work due to how well it executes political commentary, simplifies it and most of all, personalizes each experience to every listener—immersing them in the lens of the protagonist in question. A true simulating experience indeed.

2022 has seen some albums with grand concepts and brilliant execution. Obongjayar’s Some Nights I Dream Of Doors, A-Q and Brymo’s Ethos and even Omah Lay’s Boy Alone to some extent. We’ve also gotten albums with simple concepts, but even more profound execution like Asake’s Mr. Money With The Vibe that should notch the Album Of The Year award in an ideal world. Some other albums with grand concepts like Cruel Santino’s Subaru Boys don’t exactly execute their themes quite well. Ajebo Hustlers’ Bad Boy Etiquette 101 belongs to the simplistic, yet profound spectrum Asake’s MMWTV falls in.

EP tracklist.

On Dreams, the EP opener—Piego sings over a minimalistic Niphkeys beat, with a high pitched vocal chop. The singer sings about his motivation being “making bastard money” and Knowledge backs it up with even more wit and cadence in his rap, dropping lines like “drunk in success, until i pass out” and how fake sentiments are propagated with the line, “Them go tell you love and light even for blackout.” It’s the same unique artistic tendencies of wit, unadulterated Nigerianism and slangs that echo of their Port Harcourt roots and even kaleidoscopic, vibe tendencies that made their debut project, Kpos Lifestyle Vol. 1 one of the best albums of last year.

In Love ft. Fave isn’t trying to be more than simple, relatable music that’s profound. It’s telling of the same classic sentiment of love being a transformative experience in one’s life and how it can alter one’s mannerisms for both good and better. Fave supplies her lush vocals on the hook, and Piego and Knowledge take turns in their respective verses, confessing about how strong their lover’s vice has on them. It’s heartfelt and intimate. Yeah, you’ve probably heard numerous songs with the same topic, but the unique way the duo documents their experience, makes sure they leave an indelible mark on you.

Kisses has the same topical progression, but it deviates into jaded alley. Piego opens the song, wailing how sour his love has become and how it’s now disenchanting and not as magical as before. Knowledge on the other hand is even more bitter, likening his lover’s sexual antics to being as accessible as “general market.” Apparently, the lover in question is quite promiscuous and the duo have all but given up on her vices. The beat is incorporated with some beautiful electric-acoustic guitar instrumentation, that serve as a great sonic backdrop to Piego’s vocals.

No Love (18 Plus) follows the same template as the duo’s biggest mainstream moment in Loyalty. Upbeat tempo, visceral bass beats and warm piano keys. They seem to be creating a similar moment on here and with the help of Mayorkun, there is some much needed diversity and dynamism that raises the potential of the song. It’s this writer’s favorite song on the project and he hopes it takes off in the mainstream.

Knowledge (left) and Piego (right) of Ajebo Hustlers.
Knowledge (left) and Piego (right) of Ajebo Hustlers.

No Peace (Violence) is the most ratchet song on the project and reminds the listener of the duo’s tendencies to be a vibe-machine. It’s not the most coherent song, but the swagger at which they deliver said incoherent lyrics and follow them up with more coherent ones—is where the appeal lies. When the curtains fall on Burn My Cable, an Afro-Drill track with highlife-esque guitar synth pads, they glide smoothly like surfers surfing over wide torrents of water. It’s another stereotypical story of a love interest being more hassle than they should be, but the appeal is once again in the dynamism.

The Nigerian pop scene needs divergent acts like Ajebo Hustlers that are unconventional in their delivery, yet relatable and resonant in their sentiment and it’s good to see that the level of artistry on display from both artists is brilliant. It’s not just about talent on the part of the artists and concepts, as regards the album themes. It’s all about the execution and this pop duo execute thoroughly well.

Final Verdict:

Sonic Cohesion: 1.6/2
Seamless Transitions: 1.3/2
Pristine & Expansive Production: 1.3/2
Songwriting: 1.8/2
Optimal Track Sequencing/Topical Progression: 1.5/2

Total: 7.5/10.

This review is written by T.J. Martins, an Album Talks Writer.

Listen to ‘Bad Boy Etiquette 101’ here:

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