We live in sensitive times. The world is firmly in the grasp of an external enemy in COVID-19 while we're still fighting each other with racism, subjugation and different forms of derogation. Idris Lawal is a Yoruba man based in Toronto, Canada and he embraces his blackness unrepentantly as he soundtracks these sensitive times and gives a middle finger to his colonizer.
While at it, he gleans the rapper's technique with the conscious tone of Kojey Radical, the folksy vocal texture peculiar to artists like Lagbaja and the more contemporary, soulful hue of Brymo or Beautiful Nubia. The producer is also an amazing songwriter as he dreams of great days.
Alternative dance-pop forms the basis of the lead single, 'Drop' which also features Sydney Croft, Jelani Watson and Kyu. While he admits the imminent threats caused by the color of his skin, he's like Martin Luther King, defiant and vocal. He embraces his skin tone and his Nigerian roots as he issues a come and get me plea.
'Gung Ho' is one of the best songs on this EP. As it sails into the calm chaos of folksy neo-soul, Lawal is parts confrontational to his oppressor and parts introspective on the faults of his kin. The bass and trumpet around that hook... so calming, it incites chaos like the taste of Orijin.
'Medals' is a ballad that sees Lawal take power in his freewill as he warns his oppressor that he would only answer to his conscience. After the tough times, Lawal is a dreamer as he demands his medals. 'Hey Colonizer' is another beautiful ballad and his most 'Nigerian' offering on this project as he speaks Yoruba, pidgin, engages colloquial lingo and reads out dance routines.
At its root is a warm embrace of identity that can't be taken by oppression. It seems the dance routines Lawal reads out are symbolic for his willingness to only follow his conscience and protect his people. He sings, "I'm no Django for hire..." In the story of Django, he was controlled by the white man till he liberated himself.
'Fools' is another neo-soul track on which Idris Lawal sounds like Wurld. Earmilk describes the track as, “An Afro-pop ode to those who are senselessly in love and sees Idris deliver his lines in both English and Yoruba.
"In his native Yoruba tongue, Idris sings “...we’re fools whether we dance or not, baby please let’s keep having fun” interpolating the classic line from Nigerian juju legend, Ebenezer Obey.” This is perfect.
‘Omoge’ is a neo-soul track which sees Lawal as a well-meaning lover with a certainty towards the future. ‘Heal’ commences with horns, cloud strings and dramatic drums. The lyrics are filled with metaphors, somewhat rooted in pain. Yet, Lawal dreams with wide-eyes and intends to heal because he can feel.
It seems he knows that the only chance he has at going through lie a happy person is to live above the pain and heal.
Lawal’s vocal range isn't the most expansive, but it sells authenticity that pricks the interest. Young, Black and Blue is a dreamy project that sells love, pain, pleasure, ecstasy and pent-up anger in equal doses.
While sometimes topically unrealistic against the might of the oppressor, sometimes that dream is what an oppressed people need to crack a smile and believe. And belief is how faith is birthed and faith births elements of self-liberation.
On the wrong end, good songwriting is sometimes shrouded in symbolism, but Lawal has a way of sometimes sounding abstract even when he’s talking about familiar things. Nonetheless, Young, Black and Blue is one of the best bodies of work by any Nigerian in 2020 so far.
Shout-out to Kyu, Sydnee Croft and Jelani Watson.
• 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: 1.9/2
8.7 - Champion