Dear Basketmouth, 'Horoscopes' is a beauty [Pulse Album Review]

As an A&R, Basketmouth is a master orchestrator of moments, characters and sounds.

Nigerian comedian Basketmouth [Instagram/Basketmouth]

Basketmouth started off as a rapper. He accidentally became a comedian, after he got booed by an audience. He’s since found incredible success as a thespian and performer. But he’s also evolved into a master of ceremonies and filmmaker.

But in Q4 2020, he released Yabasi, which was akin to Sergio Aguero’s last minute winner against Crystal Palace in 2012, to win Manchester City their first premier league title. Released late in the year, the album snuck onto many year-end lists for best albums.

On ‘Yabasi,’ Basketmouth combined topical astuteness with a perfect selection of artists, to articulate desired topics and fit the beat he’s selected to play house to those topics. He also achieved something important: he picked the perfect beats to appropriately convey certain topics.

For example, ‘Papa Benji’ was put on an Ekpili beat, for onomatopoeic conveyance of the cultural connotation of ‘Papa Benji,’ as any Nigerian would imagine it. Putting a record titled ‘Papa Benji,’ on Afro&B production like that for ‘Your Body,' would have been a gross mismatch.

More importantly, Basketmouth displayed his classic knowledge of album experiences by finding Duktor Sett and sticking with him.

The Hip-Hop era that nurtured Basketmouth saw one producer craft large parts of classic albums. While ‘Yabasi’ has all the markings of a classic, Basketmouth hasn't rested on his laurel. A few days ago, he released Horoscopes.

Even though ‘Horoscopes’ comes over a year after ‘Yabasi,’ the quality of Eze Gburu Gburu’s debut made a lot of people - including this writer - skeptical about a follow-up, hot on the heels of its predecessor. Most skeptics didn’t even stop to realize that a year had passed, because they were still savoring ‘Yabasi.’

As an A&R, Basketmouth is a master orchestrator of moments, characters and sounds. He’s almost like a puppeteer; a scientist, who pinpoints important elements, finds how they complement each other and how they balance each other out, to create a memorable experience for any listener.

‘Horoscopes’ is a reinforcement of his ability and Duktor Sett’s insanity as a producer. A lot of people will defer to ‘Yabasi’ as a cult classic in some years, but that’s only because it came first. And because it’s also an incredible body of work.

However, ‘Horoscopes’ is possibly as good. Even if it’s not, it definitely houses better sonics. ‘Horoscopes’ is Duktor Sett’s best work yet, not ‘Yabasi.’

Just play ‘Horoscopes’ on decent speakers - you’re welcome. In terms of sound engineering, ‘Horoscopes’ is only behind Liya’s Alari EP, of any Nigerian body of work, released in the last three years. It’s so clean; so clear, so posh; and so engineered to soothe the vocals and style of every artist. Again; detail.

Horoscopes

Like its predecessor, ‘Horoscopes’ serves as an official soundtrack to an upcoming cinematic release by Basketmouth. While ‘Yabasi’ was meant to soundtrack an inner-city TV show about a popular beer parlor owner, ‘Horoscopes’ looks set to soundtrack a love story from different angles, and with different sub-themes and sub-plots.

Basketmouth’s attention to detail comes to the fore: ‘Yabasi’ soundtracked a deeply Nigerian inner-city reality, with lower middle class sub-plots, and the music, a blend of Afro-pop, Traditional Pop and R&B sonics, aligns with that. Likewise, ‘Horoscopes,’ which soundtracks a middle class love story, with a Gen Z obsession for title, its overall sonic output is more polished, more refined and more contemporary. And it aligns with that plot.

Even though records like ‘Trouble’ and ‘The Traveler’ enjoy an infusion of Traditional pop and elements of the traditional instrument, Udu, the drums and drum arrangements on both beats are incredibly built for smooth contemporary pop.

Across nine tracks, ‘Horoscopes’ is an anthology of different perspectives around love and comfort - by way of money. The only exception is ‘Assemblies of God,’ which is a sentimental posse cut.

According to Basketmouth, ‘Love & Life’ documents a troubled love story, about a married woman, who is still in love with her imprisoned ex. It feels like Johnny Drille, Simi and MI Abaga respectively embody the three characters in the story. Nonetheless, MI Abaga feels out of place on the record - the record feels clogged.

‘Your Body’ documents a man’s doubts about his relationship, as he asks pungent questions. While the album has zero skips, it truly comes alive in a three-track sequence, which involves the Wande Coal madness on ‘Listen,’ Peruzzi’s adlib pschedelia on ‘Celowi’ - which is also the best song on the album, and ‘Money,’ another masterful Oxlade feature, supported by Efya.

That said, ‘Money’ was missing someone: Teni. The record was practically crying and screaming her name.

Barring ‘Money,’ which is a wistful, near-illuminating take on wishful thoughts around money, ‘Listen’ and ‘Celowi’ are two different takes on love and admiration. Even though they are both tentative: ‘Listen’ urges a lover to listen, as the protagonist looks into the future and ‘Celowi’ sees Peruzzi as a dreamer, who contemplates the vanity of sex.

‘Horoscopes’ as a topically cohesive album, tells a story which ends at ‘Leave Me’ - a happy ending. And my my, did Falz paint us a picture of coital perfection?

In the end, ‘Assemblies of God’ will be a classic cut from the album, which also produces a lot of quotables.

Chief of which is, “The journey from mandilas, dey begin from kitos…”

Dear Gen Z, you’re free to google that…

Ratings: /10

• 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

Album Sequencing: 1.8/2

Themes and Delivery: 1.5/2

Production: 1.8/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.6/2

Execution: 1.3/2

Total:

7.9 - Victory

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