Monday, 17 June 2024
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Bella Shmurda’s ‘R2 Sept 12’ Is A Poignant, Heartfelt Tribute To A Fallen Comrade [REVIEW]

Over seven months after the tragic passing of rising Afrobeats act Mohbad, Bella Shmurda pays tribute with the R2 Sept 12 EP. The project title directly references September 12, 2023, the date of Mohbad’s death.

R2 Sept 12 EP Cover art.
R2 Sept 12 EP Cover art.

Controversy was rife in the wake of Mohbad’s passing, with Bella Shmurda being particularly expressive on X/Twitter. The pair notably collaborated on the 2021 single, ‘Money‘ with Terri and the 2023 single, ‘Pariwo‘. For ardent fans conversant with the close friendship between both artistes, Bella Shmurda’s tribute comes with little surprise. Its cover art is on-the-nose with sobriety. It sees Shmurda dressed in all-black, leaning on a black car parked before a black-painted house.

The five-track project, being the first of two, offers a glimpse into Bella Shmurda’s grief and coping process. An album is expected to follow on the first anniversary of Mohbad’s passing. Three features grace the project, with Bloody Civilian appearing on ‘1999‘, while Zlatan and Jeriq grace ‘Oghene‘. ‘My Brother‘ and ‘Loner‘, the EP’s lead singles, arrived in October 2023 and March 2024 respectively.

Somber instrumentals pervade the first seconds of the opener, ‘Feelings‘. A jarring switch follows, but the rest of the track delivers on the promise of a pensive experience. While fairly upbeat instrumentals make for a more enjoyable mix, the record is by no means a party starter. He lets listeners on the central emotional chord of the EP thus:

I just dey lie if I say I’m fine‘/’I lost some friends along the line‘/’I’ve lost my mind‘/’Such is life

With direct lyricism, Bella Shmurda unlocks an unprecedented level of vulnerability on ‘Feelings‘. He alludes to the grind as a coping mechanism and also reminds listeners that ill-meaning people are rife in life. Shmurda does not directly reference Mohbad on this track—or on any track, bar ‘My Brother‘. Nonetheless, the primary direction of his sentiment is not lost on fans in the know.

The subdued sentiment continues on ‘Loner‘. He begins the track with the lines, ‘Everything different since you left me, oh‘/’I cannot pretend, but I go try my best oh oh oh‘.

One can deduce a switch of focus to the sense of isolation Shmurda experienced following Mohbad’s passing. This receives more heft, given that Shmurda literally references his mother and brothers on the track . He is more soulful on this track as he walks listeners through his state of mind. He references the grind once again as a coping mechanism. However, there is a sense that even that proves hollow to the chasm that a personal loss creates.

Bella Shmurda.

Shmurda has more to say on ‘1999‘, which is comparatively tangential to the focus of the project. It is a relatively laidback track with easy-going lyrics, more suitable for laidback listens. He takes another step further from the dour atmosphere on the groovy ‘Oghene‘, which features guest appearances from Zlatan and Jeriq. There is a sense that Shmurda that opted for a sense of balance in the project, with the middle tracks serving as a temporary respite. While East-West collaborations are always welcome, the track is the least memorable of the project.

My Brother‘, the project’s lead single, closes out the project. The track features the most explicit references to Mohbad. He sings:

For studio where we dey when I met you‘/’I saw you recording and I love you‘/’We like same things, we shared same dreams‘/’You go follow small cigar when I switch Benson

He highlights 2020 as the year he saw a lot (‘2020, oju mi ri‘), and also the year he met Mohbad. The status of the friendship as short-lived adds more depth and tragedy to Mohbad, who Shmurda endearingly describes Mohbad as Imole the legend. Further adulations follow, with Shmurda notably describing Mohbad as a ‘carpenter wey get calibre’, ‘bad man wey get good mind’, and a ‘fine boy wey get plenty stars’. But the records gets even more evocative:

Ah, my brother, my friend
Could this be the end
What is the essence
For the hustle, for the life
What’s my offence?
What have I done?
Wetin I do? You left me in tears
Aje mi

Bella Shmurda.

One can scarcely imagine a better tribute Shmurda could have mustered, or the depth of the grief the artiste had to hold back. Accordingly, in terms of resonance and heft, ‘My Brother‘ is heads and shoulders above the other tracks. The EP fades out, but not without an interpolation of repeated ‘Mohbad!’ chants from the artiste’s candlelight tribute. It is also the only instance where Mohbad’s name is mentioned on the R2 Sept 12 EP.

Bella Shmurda’s R2 Sept 12 EP is yet another poignant tribute to Mohbad. Wielding his signature sound and evocative lyricism, Shmurda pays commendable homage to his fallen comrade. If the project is anything to go by, fans are in for a more layered experience with the album.

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