In 2017, Lord Vino released his album, ‘Upper Echelon Rap.’ While the album got some acclaim, it was missing a creative alignment that comes with excellent bodies of work. Three years later and after a few scattered features, he returns with ‘Soft Boy,’ a titular ode to his persona and brand.

Soft Boy is a cohesive body of work with an alignment of the music with Vino’s opulent brand, self-confident, forthright and carefree brand. The self-assured and confident bars are built on brilliant, carefully selected beats and three of those beats are straight from the UK.

‘David Beckham’ and ‘I.Y.K.Y.K’ might seem like regular Trap beats, but they aren’t. The formation of their grimy melodies feel reminiscent of UK acts like D-Block Europe and Meekz Manny. ‘First Things First’ is also an Afro-swing record.

On the EP, Vino’s topics are built around elegant figures, to align with Vino’s brand and the EP title, ‘Soft Boy.’ DHL is known for its reliability. On the hook to ‘D.H.L Flow,’ Vino confidently raps that, “DHL Flow, every postcode feeling me. DHL flow, I’m the king of delivery…”

David Beckham and Naeto C are known for their elegance, 'Suya and Wine' is a metaphor for enjoyment and cocky people are known for the emphasis that comes with saying, ‘First Things First.’

If Naeto C was a ‘cool’ brand with scattered instances of incredible braggadocio, Vino is like Wizkid or Tems - he doesn’t care about your feelings. He’s only here to be Vino and Vino alone. That means to be cocky, confident, opulent, blunt and elegant in your face.

On ‘David Beckham,’ he bragged about owning a Lexus while his brother owns a Benz and urged any hater to “Go price [the cars]…” In the same vein, ‘I.Y.K.Y.K’ is heavily created around layers of braggadocio.

He is a well-to-do Abuja-based rapper with a day job. Like he rapped on ‘Naeto C,’ which is an ode to his idol, he is the only rapper with two MSCs. This is a subtle reference to the Naeto C's classic line on ‘10 Over 10.’ The line goes, “The only MC with an Msc…”

For Vino, rap is more a passion project - not a money making venture. But with his ever-improving skillset, a listener could easily mistake Vino for a full-time rapper. Guess what, Vino knows it as well. On the opening two trap records, ‘D.H.L Flow’ and ‘David Beckham,’ he takes aim at full-time rappers without naming names.

On ‘D.H.L Flow,’ he also raps that some people’s top rappers tap inspiration from him before he rapped that, “Recently I listened to this shit you call rap, I had to come back [and] save the game ‘cos it’s all crap…”

Despite his obvious overdose of confidence, he is humble enough to reference the legendary rap group Trybesmen for inspiring him. On ‘David Beckham,’ he also admits his fierce loyalty - MI Abaga is at the centre of it all.

He claims that in a beef, he will always pick Abaga because Abaga is his guy. He then subtly credited Abaga for aiding the growth of 100 Crowns. Did he diss Vector on the track though?

He raps, “I respect you from a distance but don’t have to be guys. I am sticking to my principles, me I no sabi lie. When there’s beef I’m not political, me I’m picking a side. If I see a chicken beefing the G.O.A.T,’ I’m picking MI…

He also spits one incredible truth about Nigerian Hip-Hop, “Rappers too dey form friendship and they don’t really vibe…”

He then dissed industry gatekeepers, “Dear gatekeepers, to your rules I never abide. If you like lock the front door, I’ll burst in through the front door with my guys…”

When all is said and done, Vino’s confidence and lack of care is punctuated by the need for acceptance which he exhibited on, ‘Naeto C.’ He raps, “They like me, I want them to love me like Naeto C…”

While that line is bang in the middle of layers of intense braggadocio, it is pungent and reminiscent of the human need for acceptance.

On the same record, the diss to Lai Mohammed is as heartwarming as the Kemi Smallz reference. That said, the delivery of “They like me, I want them to love me like Naeto C” is rough around the edges.

Vino’s cadences and decentralized topical conversations share similarities with Drake’s. Like the Canadian rap legend, he admits, "I'm nor dey form hard guy, I'm a soft boy..."

But it’s obvious that Vino wasn’t schooled by this era. He is gritty and sometimes, abrasive. Rappers with those combinations are built for the 2000s.

A record like ‘Y’aanstan’ would have also been huge in the 2000s. These days, the game has gotten softer as rappers pussyfoot around issues

Vino doesn’t totally belong to the 2000s though. On the opening track, ‘Naeto C’ and the final track of ‘Soft Boy,’ he urges his listeners to “respect women.” His softer side also came to the fore on the love rap, ‘First Things First.’

‘Suya and Wine’ needed a Falz or Ajebutter verse though.

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

7.9 - Victory