Nigerian rapper, singer and producer, Phyno will probably never release a bad or even an average album. Now on his fourth album, that proficiency continues.
On September 3, 2019, Phyno released his fourth album, Deal With It. At first, the 21-track album seemed destined to flop both critically and commercially.
This notion was not helped by its length and the terrible timing that birthed the album - the album was released in the thick of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. As such, attention and PR were automatically against him and his album.
The excuse that seemingly emanated from Phyno’s camp was that the album was already released in other countries. Even though the bulk of his paid listenership might not be in Nigeria, one would assume that Phyno’s strongest fan base is in Nigeria. Thus, he could have moved the released date impromptu.
But back to the music…
So far, Phyno’s career has seen three cycles. The first cycle was felt on No Guts, No Glory where Phyno literally heralded his own rap sound. It incorporated thumping drums, a Hip-Hop bop and African percussion mostly from the staple of Major Bangz. With that sound, Phyno had ‘Ghost Mode,’ ‘Obago,’ ‘Parcel’ and ‘Kush,’ four consecutive hits without an album.
It was apt when he rapped that, “No album, but I’m getting milli…” on ‘Alobam.’ On that run and with that sound, Olamide found ‘Dope Money.’ But his brag on ‘Man of The Year (Obago)’ which reads, “East Coast ni***, but I’m banging in the west…” didn’t become a reality until his second cycle.
On this second cycle, Phyno basically mixed the elite rapper in him with some 'Oliver De Coque level' that piloted his act into the Nigerian mainstream. He began singing and became an A-lister with hits like, ‘Fada Fada,’ ‘Connect,’ ‘Augment’ and so forth. On that run, he still crafted elite rap tunes, but they played second fiddle to his 'Oliver De Coque-level.'
This cycle directly influenced Phyno's third album The Playmaker. It heralded Chibuzor as a mega-star. But over the past two years, he has slowly pumped the breaks on his swaggering, sonic 18-wheeler. This is not for lack of good music, but for a lack of genuine hits on the level of ‘Fada Fada’ or ‘Connect.’
Phyno - Deal With It
Deal With It represents Phyno’s third cycle. With it, Phyno sticks with proven formula from his two previous cycles. Again, Phyno delivers the buccaneering raps on well-selected, thumping and augmented Hip-Hop sounds as well as sing his heart out on the 'Oliver De Coque- level.'
Surprisingly, it has not totally plateaued - It works and it works brilliantly. There are no bad songs on Deal With It. However, like any album, some songs are simply better than the others. With the length - which stands at a staggering 21 songs - the songs of lesser quality sound worse that they actually are and become ‘skip-able.’
If those ‘skip-able’ tracks were played under different circumstances or independently, they could banged different.
On Deal With It, Phyno is blunt, introspective, grateful/in touch with God, sometimes vindictive and in your face while he preaches his proven star quality. He is a star, he wants you to recognize it and not forget it due to a few relatively slower months. This writer thinks that’s fair enough.
At other times, Phyno is also socially conscious as he delivers socio-political chatter on empirically relevant songs like ‘Get The Info’ which features Phenom and Falz. If you didn’t know, both Phenom and Falz ripped this song to shreds as they take at Nigeria's crooked society/government and its negative effects on citizens.
Love is the motto on songs on songs like ‘Ma Chi,’ ‘I Got Your Back,’ and ‘Ride For You’ which sees Davido, a man lovestruck by an Igbo woman named Chioma speak heartwarming Igbo.
‘Ke Ife O’ sees Phyno play a man chasing a fleeting affection with an emotionally unavailable woman. Phyno also speaks from the heart on ‘God’s Willing’ as Runtown drops the soundgod vibes.
The Phyno that’s in your face and sometimes demands respect or reminds you of his greatness comes on ‘Deal With It,’ ‘Oso Ga Ene,’ - as Phyno talks about a race - and ‘Speak Life (On God).’ Gratitude is Phyno’s message on ‘Problem.’
On a vision level, Phyno successfully merges his two previous cycles on Deal With It. The songs are individually good. The problem arises when we judge the songs as part of one body of work.
On an execution level, the album is bloated. The ‘Oliver De Coque-level’ also begins to unravel and feel repetitive. Phyno is determined to hold on to that sound and tries to experiment with it, but the dynamism of sound he probably hoped for didn’t really happen.
For his next phase, Phyno might need to find a different sound for his ‘Oliver De Coque-level’ so he’d have a genuine chance at crafting hits outside the east - that’s if he wants it.
While the length is understandable due to streaming and for ‘variety,’ Phyno had a chance to create a truly excellent album if he had just 14 songs. ‘Blessings’ featuring Olamide and Don Jazzy might be about three years late. ‘Deri,’ ‘Agu,’ ‘Ojimo,’ ‘Body,’ ‘Ma Chi,’ and ‘Recognize’ are quite simply filler tracks.
‘Vibe’ featuring Flavour feels destined to be a hit in the east. Asides the rap tracks where Phyno really went in, ‘Ka Anyi Na Ayo,’ which features Teni might be the best song on Deal With It. It’s so heartwarming to see Phyno bringing his Yoruba brethren into the Igbo culture, speaking Igbo. Whether it could be a single is the only question.
In conclusion, don’t let anyone tell you Deal With It is even remotely a bad album - it’s not.
• 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: 1.6/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.3/2
6.5 - Victory