The Nigerian alte crowd is misunderstood.They’re a generation with different ideals in ways that make them a paradigm in Nigerian conversations. They are idealistically creative and confident with tribe mentality and allegiance to each other.
For those reasons, they have problems with the Nigerian mainstream that struggles to understand them. Sometimes, one has to admit that some of them worsen matters for themselves with uncouthness, but that comes with personality and background, not necessarily megalomania.
But when Santi released Suzie’s Funeral, it became one of the three seminal alte projects - alongside Odunsi’s Time Of Our Lives and Tay Iwar’s Passport - that made people genuinely question some of their previously held reservations. Suzie’s Funeral was a potpourri of different genres of music – sometimes on one track.
It also found beauty in making distant abstraction seem attractive to critics. The album and the near-perfect execution of it made some refer Santi as the nucleus of the sonically avant-garde second generation of alte.
When he released ‘Freaky,’ ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Sparky,’ critics were reluctant on the trail of fandom, but they definitely showered the adulation as necessary. 2018 was a solid Santi-ed year.
Everyone knew an album was coming, so when he released the artwork and track list for Mandy and The Jungle, everyone couldn’t help but break a smile; the boy who was slowly but surely growing into genuine mainstream success was dropping, it warmed the heart.
His penchant for creative album titles again came back to roost – this time, louder.
On Friday, May 17, 2019, Mandy and The Jungle dropped and here is a review;
This review won’t touch songs as that might seem a disservice to the album. Instead, it address the album as one body or work.
Songwriting, Themes and Delivery
Mandy and The Jungle is an album incredibly focused on the themes of love, romance, sex, obsession and adulation. Santi’s chameleonic technique flatters the songwriting that you almost don’t notice how regular some of his lyrics are – that’s a strength.
However, a strong issue is how Santi is usually not audible enough. Sometimes words feel mumbled, other times the mixing makes the voicing seem overshadowed by effects that words become inaudible. A good artist has to be audible. Listeners need words to be easily digestible. And no, it’s not about his idiosyncratic style or patois.
Away from that, Santi’s ability as a stylistic chameleon is seriously impressive. One minute, he’s singing in baritone with a peculiarly Nigerian style on ‘Freaky,’ the next moment, he’s mumble rapping on a trap&B beat. Before you know it, he’s flipping out with ease.
If a Santi album is going to be rich on anything, it’s production. The steady growth in the kind of music GMK, Genio Bambino, Odunsi, Le Mav and Higo can churn out is quite interesting. It’s so surreal sometimes because one can track their growth. These boys understand the importance of instrumentation and harmonies.
There is an original, uniform sound that makes up the album without making it boring for people that like it. But on subsequent listens, listeners might start skipping some songs.
That said, the drums and bass guitar harmonies on ‘DSM’ are just impressive, and so are with the drums and sampling on ‘Freaky.' The afro-fusion/gbedu of ‘Maria’ and the all-out afro-house, faaji repete effect on ‘Turn Down Mami’ also soothe the soul.
Even on songs that I think should be cut, the production is faultless.
When it comes to a track list, three things determine brilliance or otherwise; central theme, topical cohesion and sonic transcendence/segues. When your album has a central story that each track tries to tell, there has to be a plausible execution, even when the storytelling is non-linear.
When there is no central theme, it’s all about progression both sonically and topically. The idea is to create an enjoyable experience without making your album seem like a wonky arpeggio.
The track list on this album is faultless. The track list aids the story the album tries to tell, it manages to not let any song seem like a topical island and sonically, the track list aids segues and transcendence.
But one can say the slightly central uniformity of the album’s sound even when it cruises from R&B to afro-fusion and back to trap aids the track list’s work.
There’s not much to say, the features were impressive. None felt out of place, but while Tay Iwar didn’t put a foot wrong on ‘Settle Down,’ the song would have been fine without him.
GoldLink and amaarae are the stand out features, Santi and his A&R should be proud.
What does ‘Mandy and The Jungle’ mean?
I would say it means the many tales and topics that make-up Santi's life as a young man, trying to navigate this time called life. One gets the feeling that some of these stories are abstract and fictional, but they retain their allure for how relatable they are.
Even when a story is as circumstantial and fictional as it seemed ‘Sparky’ is, the Nollywood element brings lustre for appreciation. But a central theme throughout the album is emotion; something that most millennials constantly grapple with, try to control or simply lose control of.
To emote is to live, and to live is to have perspectives. Sometimes you live, but you need a escape, so you create a theatre in your mind that gleans experiences and thoughts. Mandy and The Jungle seems an out-of-body experience in which you can barely find anyone who has 100% relatability.
After my first three listens, this was going to be part of my verdict, “There is a feeling that this album might need time and constant plays to truly resonate with people like me, but anything you constantly play will eventually resonate with you – it’s simple repetition bias, and I’m reluctant to subscribe to that for this album.
"By no means is this album a bad listen, Santi just promised so much with the release of ‘Freaky,’ ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Sparky’ that one felt like he was carving a niche for himself with unique sounds while reaching creative epoch after another. Either as a result of the listener’s unrealistic expectation that was never going to be satisfied or the artist’s work, this album is underwhelming."
I was wrong…
On a personal note and for one simple reason, it took five listens and a cloudy morning to finally be swayed by this album; it is mood music, it’s either for you or not for you – there’s no middle ground.
Before we go ahead, let’s get one thing clear; this album carries what one might call ‘alte’ on its back, but fundamentally it is not ‘alte.’ While it is avant-garde, and reverberates creative freedom, it is just music from an artist who refuses to be boxed.
Why is the album a banquet?
A banquet signifies variety and Mandy and The Jungle is - like Suzie's Funeral - another potpourri of genres and subgenres in experimental mode. This potpourri of genres then finds itself part of a sonic and experiential minimalist adventure that requires cogent digestion before an opinion can be formed.
If you're not careful, you discard a slow-burner movie before its even genuinely started - these tendencies are worse when that movie is entwined in Quentin Tarrantino-esque lengthy dialogue scenes. That's what Mandy and The Jungle is.
On the one hand, judging this album seems a slippery slope, but when music is a part of you, it becomes a cause.
Mandy and The Jungle sees Santi doing Santi – a little bit of everything.
Equally, while Santi’s evolution is definitely palpable, some might say he’s still taking risks within his sonic comfort zone. But then, that might be unfair, we all have a sound. Sometimes, you can’t rush evolution and there’s no one way to evolve.
That said, I feel this album could have done without, ‘Demon Hearts,’ ‘Raw Dinner’ and ‘Dime In The Water,’ not because they’re bad songs, but because if they were not in the album, the album would have been fine.
Most people will need like three plays in different moods to have their true verdict of Mandy and The Jungle. Your mood, what you’ve been consuming and other factors will determine whether or not you will like this album.
Personally, I would like to see Santi on more daring topics, painting pictures and telling real stories about life on future albums. It feels like there are things he's not saying. There was a slight overkill of love stories on this album.
• 0-2: Flop
• 2.1-4.0: Near fall
• 4.1-6.0: Average
• 6.1-8: Victory
• 8.1-10: Champion
Tracklist and Cohesion: 1.8/2
Songwriting, Themes and Delivery: 1.2/2