In January 2020, Nigerian rap legend, Olamide announced a surprise EP titled, '999.' On is a song titled 'Warlords,' a reworked version of Jay Z's and Kanye West's 'No Church In The Wild.'
Snow caught the eye with his best Frank Ocean impression. Olamide was well... Olamide, a legend. Phyno also held his own like he's done for 10 years. There were two other boys who were affiliated to Phyno - they were named Cheque and Rhatti. Only Rhatti caught the eye on that song though, Cheque didn't.
Six months later, Phyno's label Penthauze is officially floating Cheque as something of a flagship act not named Phyno. This comes about five years after the ill-fated Stormrex experiment got underway at Penthauze. Ladies and gentlemen, Cheque delivers on everything that makes him a talent.
His debut EP, Razor is a beautiful showcase of range from a talent who is unfazed by risks - even with language of delivery. 'Zoom' is an amazing trap-based emo track on which Cheque says nothing spectacular, but sends all the right messages.
With a hook filled with onomatopoeic, multi-syllabic subtexts, Cheque produces one promising flow after another in his bid to sound lyrically introspective and focused on his journey. He tells people that he can't be held down and that, "Congratulations, that's the only valid conversation..." This is an amazing song.
The Tempoe-produced 'Loco' is a lo-fi Afro-pop defined by a wonky piano chords. Cheque has the soul of lamba and an enviable pen as he discusses the effect of love on him. Whatever he started doing on 2:19 just seals this song - it might seem meaningless, but it's those vibes that seal Afro-pop songs. Something like Kid Cudi's hums.
On the ratchet Afro-swing, 'Satisfied' Cheque discusses his immunity to being cheated and states his manifesto to success. Tempoe comes back with the soundwaves on, 'Odun.' In Yoruba, 'O Dun' means 'It's sweet' and Cheque uses that as a sexual innuendo for how sweet a woman is.
'Hollywood' brings us back to the Trapsoul vibe. Yo, this is an amazing song.
Born Akanbi Bamidele Brett, Cheque is yet another versatile act with dense artistry from his generation and in the mould of Rema, Alpha P, Omah Lay and so forth - that will never be anything but blessing to a label. With a background as a rapper, the way Cheque slaloms between Afro-pop and trap with effortless flair is enviable.
The talent jumps out of this young man like eczema from a boys' hostel - okay, bad analogy but you get the point. He also has the 'young forever' tenor vocals that suits Afro-pop, trapsoul, rap, post-destructionist emo and trap. This EP is a winner from all angles and intents, and all its songs are impressive with high replay value.
While this is impressive for a debut project, there is a problem with Cheque's branding and its forced similarities to Rema's. While it might look like it's working, it will not work long and short-term. The prime example that Cheque needs to look at is Alpha P - great music and terrible branding that spoke too much 'Rema.'
On the other hand, there are also sprinkles of Omah Lay here and there. For an artist with this much natural talent to deliver great music without breaking a sweat, branding - which is becoming increasingly important in the ever-evolving Nigerian soundscape - could be his undoing if Penthauze doesn't work on it.
Work is already required to get the visibility around Cheque up. He doesn't need branding issues to go with it. Penthauze must make his brand as organic, resonant and natural to him as possible. If what's natural to him is already peculiar to another artist's brand, then it should change for the label's and the artist's sake.
All that teddy bear whispering on Instagram and the hairstyle will only cause unnecessary problems. His artist is already similar to some other people's. Penthauze has an amazing talent on its hands, it must nurture it the right way. This EP is a step in the right direction and anyone who plays it will enjoy every bit of it.
• 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
Content and Themes: 1.5/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.8/2
8.0 - Champion