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Ruger And BNXN Forge A Sonic Alliance To Be Reckoned With On ‘RnB’ [Album Review]

Weeks back, when BNXN shared an image of himself and Ruger with a caption that was the title of a song, it sent the internet into a frenzy and generated a lot of traction. We knew getting a song between rivals-turned-foes would be monumental. Little did we know an EP was on the way.

Ruger and BNXN 'RnB' cover art
Ruger and BNXN ‘RnB’ cover art

This writer really likes Romeo Must Die and it’s one of his favorite pop songs in a year, that has so far had a lot of underwhelming pop songs. The production adequately blends the bounce of a dancehall beat, with one of a pop template and it features both artists—belting out deliveries at full pelt, that occupies most of the pockets on said beat. Sure, it’s mostly geared towards the soundscape of BNXN and Ruger doesn’t get to shine as much as he should, but the result is great nonetheless and both of them come out triumphant.

So this writer went into RnB with moderate expectations, because whilst making a good song between two artists with differing profiles is a commendable feat, making an EP is another demon entirely. An herculean task that is levels above making a good song. So the question beckons? Did they excel? Well, it depends on what you want and where your expectations are.

If you were expecting some groundbreaking project that would tap deep into the strengths of both artists to create something so special, that it couldn’t be created by some other duo, then you might be disappointed. However, if you were expecting a decent offering with some potent pop bops and emotive RnB cuts, then you have come to the right place. It’s a good EP, not phenomenal but good. It also gets better with subsequent listens.

Tracklist

Bae Bae is a fitting opener for the project. A confessional RnB record with enough outlandish declarations of love, sprinkled some raunchiness to elevate the intimacy of the song. It’s at this point, you’ll realize just how fortuitous the fact that the first letters of Ruger and BNXN’s name, spells ‘RnB’ to make for such a befitting title on a wordplay and even soundscape level for the project.

Since, last year the mainstream sounds have been shifting back to stronger traditional African elements, with Blaisebeatz at the forefront of that movement—producing songs like Lonely At The Top and Twe Twe, two smash hits that pile on the formular of infusing fundamental Nigerian genres like Juju, Highlife and Tungba.

Poe follows the same route and infuses those grounded, African percussion and thank goodness BNXN understands the assignment and interpolates a nursery rhyme that triggers nostalgia to complete the pathos. Ruger’s delivery on the song is also his best on the entire album, as he reminds us why he’s arguably the best at pure flows and delivery in the mainstream at large. This song is well primed to take off and become a hit.

Calculate Love aims to hit the same heights Bae Bae hit and it almost does, because it also has contagious melodies and moving vocal performances but it doesn’t quite come off because the chorus is the weakest on the joint and after a great build up to it, it comes off as anticlimactic. It’s also on these pure RnB records, that BNXN really comes alive and you remember he’s an RnB artist disguising as a mainstream pop artist. While Ruger is also a competent RnB artist, who dabbles more on the dancehall side—he’s more versatile.

Ilashe is produced by Sarz and so you’ll automatically expect greatness. It’s usually this sort of ratchet, high octane Afrobeats record that Ruger goes into his bag and totally does something dynamic—think Kukbeatz’s All Of Us or his own Asiwaju—but for some reason, on this song he is stuck in gear one and plays it safe. Whether it’s an intentional decision or not, he’s the least impressive on this song as BNXN shines even more by varying his delivery a bit and having the better written verse. Nonetheless, this writer won’t be surprised if the song takes off also. The hook has enough quality and resonance to create a moment.

Kukbeatz went off on Party Monster with a beat that incorporates konto-esque arrangements over visceral percussion drum rolls. This is the closest we get to the Ruger that’s a sonic swashbuckling menace that we get on his severely underappreciated debut LP. BNXN is underwhelming on this song and it’s quite clear once again, that he isn’t as malleable as Ruger and doesn’t excel on templates that venture beyond RnB and garage music.

Ruger returns to familiar territory on Not Done, but once again his usual suave and dynamism isn’t here. Even the writing isn’t as good, and the repetitive chorus makes for a near monotonous listening experience. BNXN doesn’t do anything different either, as they’re basically feeding off each other’s flows. This is probably the weakest song on the project and is a sorry way to end it.

RnB offers enough to be enjoyable, but the problem is that we don’t see either artists at their respective bests doing what we know they do best. Ruger isn’t the defiant, melodic rapping menace he usually is and BNXN doesn’t replicate the best of hooks and infectious melodies, that makes him one of the industry’s go-to for crafting excellent choruses.

Both artists didn’t dig deep enough to make a synergy that is greater than the sum of their equal parts and you know what? It might be enough and go on to produce hits. Especially putting into contexts that their albums, that mostly have them at their best (at least, on Ruger’s part) wasn’t well received.

Final Verdict:

Sonic Cohesion: 1.4/2
Unharried Transitions: 1.4/2
Expansive Production: 1.5/2
Songwriting & Delivery: 1.3/2
Optimal Track Sequencing: 1.4/2

Total: 7.0/10

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