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REVIEW: Phyno – Something To Live For [ALBUM]

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When you’ve been the dancer and then the music producer from Enugu, who came to Lagos and became a superstar, you don’t see impossibilities.

Phyno - Something To Live For. (Penthauze)

With his first three solo albums, Phyno became an underrated ‘Mr-no-bad-albums,’ kinda like T.I or The Game. His debut, No Guts, No Glory, was the excellent genre-bending Rap album that defined the 2010s and elevated indigenous rap.

His sophomore, The Playmaker, was a career switch into Oliver De Coque-esque singing style that brought him continental smash hits and superstardom.

While he released the unifying collaborative 2 Kings, alongside his brother, friend and collaborator, Olamide, his third album, Deal With It was where he truly crowned himself. As the window of his superstardom slightly slowed down, Phyno released an impressive album, which merged his famed gritty Rap side with his Oliver De Coque-esque side to produce some timeless bops.

Sadly, the album was slept on outside the South-East. But Ezege never stopped cooking. He quickly moved to consolidate two things: a more contemporary sing-songy style, drenched in Afro-swing and more experimental dabbles in traditional Igbo pop genres like Ogene, Egedege and Ekpili.

The result of his journey so far has resulted in his fourth solo album, which comes with yet another impressive album title, Something To Live For. In a lot of ways, that title reflects Phyno’s current standing in Nigerian music: a young OG on the fourth of his nine lives in the Nigerian music industry. Money is not an issue anymore, neither is a thirst for stardom.

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He is not as acclaimed as a superstar as he once was, but he keeps going; buoyed by a natural love for music and an appetite to chase new horizons and additional successes. When you’ve been the dancer and then the music producer from Enugu, who came to Lagos and became a superstar, you don’t see impossibilities.

The astounding number of Afroswing records (6) on this album, as well as Phyno’s D Smoke feature might suggest that Ezege has his eyes on UK and/or American markets/appeal with this one. More so, he blends more English with his Igbo deliveries.

His fourth solo album is an exercise in grown topics around gratitude, his journey, love, loss, braggadocio and more. His demeanour grown, confident, affirmative and sometimes contemplative.

Across 16 tracks, Afro-swing forms the bedrock of most tracks, sprinkled with one or two hard-hitting rap records, some Highlife, one Ekpili and one Amapiano – which is quite amazing, to be honest. More than anything, this album showcases Phyno’s already documented range.

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‘I Do It’ is yet another excellent gritty Rap record from the staple of the Penthauze boss and ‘Onye Nwa’ bears the mark of a groundbreaking smash, if Ezege chooses to promote it heavily. The amazing thing about that record: Phyno rode solo, yet he produced such compelling quality. We are not surprised, we are just in awe of his talent after all these years of excellent application.

Records like the gratitude-filled ‘Chizoba,’ the braggadocious ‘Stacks’ and ‘All The Smoke,’ the celebratory ‘Winner,’ the reflective ‘I Do This,’ the love-filled ‘Do You Wrong’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody’ form key highlights of this album.

At first glance, ‘Something To Live For’ seems like a product of astute A&R. However, on subsequent listens, it becomes apparent that;

  1. The album is simply too long at 16 tracks and a whopping 55 minutes. Records like ‘Paracetamol,’ ‘Love Me Right’ and ‘Bia’ are fillers that the album didn’t need. However, ‘Bia’ could still take off in South-Eastern markets, which have developed their own niche, defined by their palettes.
  2. Better finishing: ‘Belong To You’ needed a better beat, ‘I Do This’ should have come with an African posse cut, ‘Do You Wrong’ needed a woman on its hook, ‘Winner’ needed Umu Obiligbo on its hook, ‘Onye Wa’ would have had range with a Hypeman on hook duties, ‘Gold Medal’ has great percussion, but its melodies are too ordinary, 
  3. ‘Ikepentecost’ gives the album much needed range, but when you listen to traditional Igbo jams like ‘For The Money,’ ‘Ogene,’ ‘Gboganboom,’ ‘Levels’ and ‘Egedege,’ you realize that ‘Ikepentecost’ isn’t the best pick for this album. 
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Themes and Delivery: 1.5/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.0/2

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