It's undisputed that Modenine is the best lyricist this part of the world. Even with new rappers stealing headlines, and accolades, Modo has not wavered in his brand of rap music that tilts towards the purist school of thought.
On his latest body of work 'Above Ground Level' Modenine comes out with a hunger not seen since his 2010 album 'Da Vinci Mode'. 19 tracks along opens up in an emotional manner, while still holding on to his god like status.Mode is known for dropping knowledge, and on the album opener 'In The Sky' he schools the world's most famous bad girl when he says "somebody tell Rihanna to get her physics right/diamonds don't shine, they refract light." With a chopped and screwed hook Mode imposes his higher IQ level on all if us.
Above Ground Level sees the god MC vulnerable as he raps about industry politics, betrayal and not being acknowledged. Mode 9 has never changed his style of rap to suit contemporary trends. Sticking to his guns, Mode has paid the price for this which he addresses on 'Enemies' featuring XY which is made up of sharp and decisive snares. "Nigerian top 5- dead or living... but I am still a target in the shooting range for criticism/I bear the gift and curse for super lyricism" he spits on the song. It's refreshing to hear Mode so self-conscious.
He summons the spirit of Da Grin where he uses his vocals on 'Best Shape Of My Life' featuring Jami. On this song he talks about the pressure of selling out. He takes a shot at rappers who bow down to forces of commercialism with the punchline "you only come better (beta) when I'm alpha/you're after me." With this track its obvious is back to his razor sharp best.
On 'Chingaba' featuring M Smooth and Lil B he talks about not comprising his ideals ("many people say that I am a rebel/at least Mode didn't have to bargain with the devil"), and being betrayed by friends ("I've been betrayed- my back has been treated like a dart board/'nough man hating the hardcore"). As Modenine wades his way through the murky waters of the industry, M Smooth delivers a soft and polished chorus on a Hip Hop/Jazz instrumental.
'Emotional' featuring Sojay is the crown jewel that shows us Modenine as a rapper who wonders why he is not appreciated, and why he isn't shown love. "Nobody cares, cry me a puddle" he says on the moving song. Sojay drops a silky chorus as he sings "rain on me God."
Opening up, and telling is about his battles with the industry power players makes this album Modenine's most conceptual LP in his illustrious career. Modenine dumps rapping for rapping sake to narrate to us what he goes through as he defiantly holds the torch for lyricism.
What's a Modenine album without some boom bap? On 'Big Boy Rap 2', the legendary word smith goes back to his comfort zone. If you are used to his extensive catalogue then what the 9 does on this song shouldn't catch you unawares.
It's a jazzy/Hip Hop mix on 'Flashy'. With a scratched in hook, Modenine flips a visual set of bars on the second verse "cargo pants, flower shirt and a straw hat/that's what- I wear when I chill/poolside kinda ill, hot chicks on the bill." The MC aptly describes his chill lifestyle. Old school 80's hip hop love vibe is very present on 'One Two' featuring Zaina. This is a love track for the guy and babe who are hip hop heads. "Cold world sharing body heat till we cosy" spits Modo.
'Gaskia' featuring Ruby Gang is another boom bap affair. There are a lot of Twitter references on this album, which is also present on this song too. "Listen you Twitter thugs are hash tagging..." raps Modenine revealing to us that he watches what goes on social media. Always being the rebel, Modenine knocks the popularity of Italian Renaissance art in Hip Hop of on 'Last Man Standing' featuring Amaka. On the opening lines Mode says "I don't want Picasso get me Bruce Onabrakpeya." Obviously this song is an ode to African art and rap music.
'O Ye Rappers' sees Modenine and Reminisce sparring. This is a track that rap heads will surely bump to. It's a rhyme fest to the last bar. The hook is a sample of Reminisce's infamous declaration "o ye rappers, I've moved on to greater things." The legendary rapper meets the general populace halfway on the king worshipping track 'Dobale' featuring Gentle (who happens to be the near perfect vocal clone of 2face Idibia). 'Dobale' is a surefire single, and one of the best songs on the album. Modenine uses simple bars to stamp his royal status on the rap game. Gentle appears for the third time on the album as he delivers a contemporary highlife chorus on 'Juju'. Modenine aims this one towards the ladies, and it should do its work as a single material.Above Ground Level places Modenine a few feet higher than other rappers stuck on terrestrial level. Barring the missteps on the album- 'Taking A Selfie' and 'Not My Famalam' this album is a concrete body of work which shows Modenine's never-tiring lyrical strength and his new found vulnerability as a man trying to be successful while holding on to his principles.
Rating- 4 out of 5