Banky W’s A-list status reverberated against the four walls of the industry when he declared that his third album would be a repository of R&B songs. Given that most attempts at such in Nigeria follow similar patterns that is, acquiring inconsequential or no commercial success and pushing the likes of Iyanya to the extreme albeit financially rewarding length of sticking to club tunes, this declaration by Banky W was indeed surprising. In no time after that, he goes on to drop R&BW having tested the airwaves with his first single ‘Yes/No’, a mid-tempo love song made up of carefully-written lyrics, good delivery and of course, Cobhams Asuquo’s ever reliable Midas touch. So far, like every single Banky dropped to launch his previous albums, ‘Yes/No’ has been a huge success, and justifiably so. Did R&BW nevertheless emerge as a macrocosm of that impressive love tune? I’d say a half-hearted yes to that, and well, if a couple of not-too-encouraging observations were considered irrespective of equally noteworthy cons, a half-hearted no as well.
With a compilation of 16 songs, guest appearances by popular artistes like MI, 2 face, Lynxxx, Vector, Sarkodie as well as high profile producers the likes of Cobhams, Mastercraft , Sarz, Samklef and Spellz, R&BW is reposed with themes revolving around “Love and Lust”—a prerequisite twin characteristic of the genre R-Kelly popularised. The first three tracks, ‘The Way’, ‘Good Good Loving’ and ‘Magic’ surprisingly have mid-tempo instrumentals, with ‘Good Good Loving’ easily passable for a party song. Good good news is; the trio immediately engage first time listeners with worthwhile R&B lyrics, beautifully conceived choruses and Banky’s sonority. By default, that’s what majority of Banky’s listeners demand. If a song is not catchy, considerably fast and ‘dance-to-able’, chances are that they get bored with it. So, the motive is quite understandable. But from another dimension, that a Nigerian artiste should introduce his or her album with a very slow track comes with a boldness that has the same measure as that of setting out to make a truly “R&B” album. Having listened to ‘Find You’—the fourth track R&BW— repeatedly, I imagined it coming next to ‘The Way’ on the album and thought of the resonance that would have added to the statement Banky wanted to make with the project.
I find ‘Find You’ so impressive that I’ll like to consider it in relation to other notable “slow songs” on R&BW including ‘Low Key’, ‘Past my Past’, and ‘Say’. ‘Find You’ expresses the persona’s desire to settle down having “been there done that”—a message also conveyed through ‘Past my Past’. ‘Low Key’ reveals the beauty of requited love and the need for lovers to sometimes elope. The persona common to all three songs comes across as someone who seems to be re-defining a new focus in his life.
‘Say’ on the contrary, is all and more about lust. For me, it’s a perfect piece of soul music. Coupled with ‘Yes/No’, this song is a dependable reflection of Banky’s intention for this album. The guests on the track with the exception of Rotimi connected with the rhythm much better than the host. The four verses move in an average-up-up-average progression with Sammy and Shaydee owning the “up-up” accolade. This Sammy guy’s convincing vocals on ‘Say’, reminiscent of Wande Coal’s passionate delivery on similar tunes, makes him a new kid to look out for.
Despite the album’s clearly-defined purpose, Banky W managed to tuck in two potential club bangers: ‘Be my Lover’ and ‘Do it to me’. I’m sure a lot of people won’t help but love ‘Do it to me’, though I find it a little disappointing because it comes off as an embodiment of too many lines and concepts already used by other artistes. Check out the following excerpts: “I can’t get enough, call me Oliver”, “I can’t feel my face”, “love me jeje/love me tender”, “Omo I go start to dey craze/When I enter the place”, and “Scatter the Floor with me”. The most noteworthy is “the boju boju o, o o o/ Oloro n bo o, o o o” which quickly brings to my notice Wizkid’s astonishing absence from the album. ‘Be my Lover’ on the other hand, is near-perfect with Banky and Niyola displaying a surprising sync. Meanwhile, assuming you came across this song on radio, chances are that you would mistake Niyola for Tiwa Savage—a feature that underscores the fact that most female singers in the industry sound alike and often use the same style; of course, exceptions are few and far between and Niyola doesn’t appear to be one of them. That said, you’ve got to love the funky, 9iceish chorus of ‘Do it to me’, Banky’s command of the rhythm on ‘Be my Lover’, and of course both song’s respective beats.
Next up: The Too $hort in Banky W. Basically, the first time I heard Banky W rap on ‘Ebute-Meta’, I was like “Cool, this guy can rap”. The next time, on ‘Lagos Party’, I went “Damn, Banky’s got some sick lines”. Now with R&BW, having brought this additional skill of his to the fore on ‘Past my Past’, ‘Low Key’, ‘To my Unborn Child’ and ‘Mercy’, the impression stays the same. I really love his perfectly articulated flow on ‘Past my Past’ and the thought process behind ‘Unborn Child’ yet find none of the stuff he spits on R&BW comparable to his verse on ‘Lagos Party’.
The album loses steam from the eleventh track down to the last track and perhaps if ‘More’, a track that features MI and Eldee The Don, was made the twelfth and every song that comes after yanked off, we’d have a total package—one that could effectively make the album a macrocosm of ‘Yes/No’. There’s no disputing the skills displayed on ‘African & Proud’ which features Sarkodie from Ghana, L-Tido from South Africa, Camp Mulla from Kenya and our own Vector. The song nonetheless does not only sound forced, it constitutes a detour from the album’s direction. When we get back on track with tracks like ‘Never Let Go’ and ‘Good Good Loving’ remix we begin to get the feeling that we’re doing bonuses; the former sounds too deliberate and the latter featuring a dope-induced verse from 2 Face Idibia, too superfluous. Anyway, the album promises to entertain. That, I’m sure very of.
P.S: Scale’s verse on ‘Magic’ is an improvement on the stuff he normally spit but could still use the talent of a ghost writer.