International Music Review – On This Side by Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari (Nigeria)
This is that BBQ music! This is that “relaxing song […] you listen on in your car, in your home”—if you were keen enough to peep into Vector’s crystal ball, this was prophesied! This is that backyard cookout music blaring from the speakers– soft enough to give party animals goose bumps, smooth enough to send to status quo! If you are one in tune with nature, this should keep you in motion while you take tokes in the greenroom.
Kahli Abdu has been known to stick one up to the entire enterprise when he is in his zone. His raised middle finger to the Nigerian political class on Ministry of Corruption is still held between the clouds. The sophomore mixtape, based off samples from Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, speaks to the same philosophy of “Fuck the Government, Fuck the Nigerian INGSOC, Fuck the proletariat turned Zombies” propagated by the Afrobeat legend.
Whether as a rebel- “I went from being a follower to a rebel/Straight from the frying pan to fire, where’s the devil?/I’m coming with the angels over horns and sample” (Triumph), or as a hero cum philosopher- “You thought I shot the sheriff, this time ama kill him/I’ve been Superman, this time I’m the villain/I’m the Dark Knight, this jokers play Ben Stiller […] Fela Kuti meets J Dilla” (Killin’), Mighty Slim makes sure his polished rhymes keep his Rebel King crown shining. To ensure the revolution lives, he released 3 more chapters of ‘The Book’ in form of mixtapes- Rebel I (Rebel Friday), Bandits and Rebel II.
This new single with production duo VHS Safari, On This Side, an offering off their début album- A.R.T. Project– bears true to the known unorthodoxy of the Republiq Army General. Chief Willis, one-half of the production duo, is a familiar face, and was on the boards for Kahli’s ‘The Grind Theory’ début mixtape. Since Will’s brother, Chewy Lewis, got into the mix, the trio has performed over 20 shows around the USA.
This single premiered as the band was announced as new signees on the Chocolate City Music label. It’s a reunion of sort for Kahli as he and label mate, Jesse Jagz, were members of the defunct group Eltophelli back in J-Town. Also, Kahli gets re-united with his ‘big brother’, M.I. (cue Little Brother), the Vice-President of the label.
Their first official release, On This Side, is an Alternative Hip-Hop record- a blend of 90s Hip-Hop and Electronic sounds. The record sees Kahli rap and sing over electric guitar licks and drums laid by VHS. “Oh, yeah do it/Yeah, we do-oing it/This is how we do it on this sideeeee”, the opening lines made into an interesting hook borrowed from Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It’, it is slowed down to fix perfectly on the Electro-Pop beat. “I’m out here fooling out in Brooklyn, me and my connects/I plan to rule, and keep it cool as Malcolm X”, his laid-back flow births the first rap verse. It’s kind of ironic to name-drop Malcolm X alongside ‘cool’, but when you’re a Rebel King you violate doublethink. This is how we do it on this side!
If we gon’ make it to the top, we’ll have to break the rules– every avant-garde lives by this one rule (if we consider breaking rules a rule, in itself)! He climbs the podium to address inductees: They never heard my other shit, they gotta hear me now. This switches from the orientation speech to the welcome party for freshmen. The video promises a taste of that BBQ feel but ends abruptly with the revelers acting more as props than guests trying to enjoy a good time.
The scenes quickly fade right as they appear. The backyard shots are unexciting as teased on the song’s opener. We’re carried on a transboundary caravan driven by the song itself to pay no mind to the forgettable. Excitement shoots up while we take a tour around New York then end up in a concert room with Kahli Abdu and VHS Safari on stage.
Review by Udochukwu Ikwuagwu