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Portable makes no effort to appeal to the mainstream in 'Ika of Africa' [Pulse Album Review]

In his new album 'Ika of Africa', Portable makes no effort to appeal to mainstream listeners despite sparking their interest through his rockstar lifestyle.

Portable - 'Ika of Africa'

On 25th November 2022, Street Pop act, Portable, dropped a new album he calls 'Ika of Africa' and the project comes off the back of what has been a successful year.

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Some listeners might have expected Portable to adjust his sound and deliver music that can help sustain the interests of the mainstream audience he has garnered since Olamide Baddo delivered a verse on 'Zazzu Zeh.'

However, Portable opts to stay in familiar territory for reasons this writer believes have more to do with a fundamental inability to go beyond his stomping ground and also an understanding of his primary audience. He has gone to shows across Nigeria and even abroad and he has recognised the class of listeners his music appeals to and it clearly isn't the mainstream.

Portable makes street music which is called street because it carries the markers of the everyday life of a below-average Nigerian. Just like Grime, where the writing (use of street lingo and vulgarities) and delivery (angry and confrontational) convey the life of a particular underserved demographic.

Nigerian street music (South West - Yorubas) is a combination of popular sonic elements (Afrobeats) that are founded on indigenous music - Fuji, Juju, Akpala, and Highlife.

Now, like Grime, where the music conveys raw emotions of anger and confrontation, Fuji music for example carries the unrefined elements of live (street) music which haven't undergone sophisticated sound engineering.

While street acts make a version of popular music, the music carries underlining street elements - rawness, vulgarity, and simplistic composition.

An attentive listener is likely to know what a Portable album would offer just like we know what to expect from Qdot. Portable's music has found a Fuji which is evident in his delivery, vocal manipulation, and even writing. Perhaps, if Afrobeats didn't exist, an artist like Portable would be a Fuji musician.

On his new album, he adorns his street regalia as he delivers songs whose content is fundamentally street. While he recruited street hit producers Rexxie and Shocker Beat, the album mainly consists of relatively unknown street producers.

In the album, he talks about familiar subjects of struggle, success, and individualism while also displaying the belief in God, exploring didacticism, and a level of vulgarity that's not strange to street music.

In 'Apostle', he mocks the experience of a particular pastor based in Kaduna who ascribed his survival of an armed attack from gunmen to God rather than the bulletproof car he rode. The song is another criticism of clerics who don't practise what they preach, given that the security men of the cleric in question were not in bulletproof cars and they lost their lives in the incident.

"Never let your emotion overpower your intelligence," he says in 'Plan B' where he explores individuality and boasts about his ability to work alone. For a troubleshooting artist, Portable offers himself as an example of the success that comes with not caring much about the opinion of others. In 'Agbara' and 'Oluwa Where You Dey' he prays for success while admitting to his imperfection.

He celebrates his success in 'Grateful', 'Wonma', and 'Get Money First' where he echoes his famous "Get money before you love" line. He thumps his chest as a street act in 'Street ti take over' where he interpolates a famous line from Klever Jay's 'Igboro Ti Daru' and track 5 of Saheed Osupa's 'Reliable' album. In the super-charged Amapiano record 'Ji Masun', he celebrates money while boldly singing about online fraud while reminding listeners that he does music for a living.

In 'Kayanmata', he opts for vulgarity as he talks about street sex culture which may be unbearably vulgar for the average listener but on brand for his target audience.

In the street hard record 'Anonymous Eyan Pablo', like a Fuji artist, he sings the praises of some personalities for their generosity.

All through the album, Portable predominantly sings in Yoruba using adages and street slang while his delivery fundamentally carries Fuji melody, flow scheme, and rhyme pattern. This makes for a similar sound that is separated by the beat and topic.

There are times when he muses like a philosopher and delivers lines that suggest he put some thoughts into it. This highlights a more cerebral side of the artist whose music and antics suggest a scatterbrained persona.

In terms of production, the album carries heavy unrefined street elements that might be too "street" for the average listener. His vocals run parallel to the beats and the sound engineering is clearly poor. While the album could have used better sound engineering to better serve a mainstream audience, its rawness wouldn't bother Portable's main base.

Final Points

The title of the album and the tracks basically explain the audience for whom it was crafted.

The sonics doesn't bother to adjust for mainstream appeal and Even though the album has a trending sound in Amapiano, Portable imposed a street cadence that strips it of its mainstream appeal.

There are songs on the album such as 'Woto Woto', 'Agbara', 'Anonymous Eyan Pablo', and 'Ji Masun' that have the quality to become street hits albeit they might not have the social media traction needed for the average listeners to measure its street success.

At any rate, the album isn't curated for the mainstream and an average consumer who wishes to listen to 'Ika of Africa' must be tolerant of the sound and then they might get to understand the music.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequencing: 1.4/2

Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.4/2

Production: 1.3/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2

Execution: 1.3/2

Total: 6.9 - Victory

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