International Music Review – No Man’s Sorrow by Omari (Nigeria)
Hip-Hop has witnessed the rise of rap gods— cutting a tale from the eccentric Marshall Mathers’ book of rhymes, if they’re to be considered as such—and disciples who swear by their immortal technique (borrowing Felipe Coronel’s moniker). Having an OG lay out the template for a rap career on his discography has never been enough, the freshman has to, not only, immerse himself in his idol’s works but come up with his own style defining his oeuvre.
Rookies get tempted to ‘pay homage’ to their influence(s), and end up jacking whole ideas becoming an imitation—a laughing stock in the community, case study of “How Not to Be a Phony/Biter” referencing Logic and his counterfeiting of Kendrick Lamar, Drake, J. Cole, Kanye West, MGK. So when Jay-Z tendered his deposition on ‘What More Can I say’- I’m not a biter, I’m a writer […] I say a B.I.G. verse I’m only biggin’ up my brother, he wasn’t validating Charles Colton’s quip neither was Pusha T parodying Ma$e on ‘Let Me Love You’.
Showing musical influences isn’t alibi for plagiarism, and that was the memo passed aurally. Teslim Abiodun Alabi, a student of that Hip-Hop schema has excelled in communicating his ideas without shedding originality. On his sophomore project No Man’s Sorrow he displays growth, musically. Times on Rap is Deep, Poetry is Deeper he floundered; spitting his lines like they were hurriedly written to outfox the studio timer.
It’s been a little over a year since that tape, and sure makes this project referential dossier for his growth. A nom de guerre inspired by Kanye West introduces him to the music world, similar to A$AP Rocky’s Rakim christening or Shawn Carter refashioning Jaz-O for binaural pleasing—an ode to primal factor. When Omari rapped ‘I feel like a god myself,’ he wasn’t conjuring Yeezy’s egotistical wax to be worshipped while gnarls and primal screams heralded his appearance- I am a god, I am a god, I am a god; this would have been a defeatist’s approach given the self-deprecating theme of God of Self.
Though it plays like a Ye-format when he brags ‘No man should have all that power’ or ‘Don’t tell me nothing’, and ‘sometimes I’m carving for the throne’ or ‘Told my girl I’m heartless’ could be footnotes on Mr. West’s autobiography, this piece goes against narcissistic tendencies and tripping. He indeed searches for help as his soul can’t run no more- ‘My God my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’- A cry for help instituted on crucifixion.
While Preye sends the SOS over the Vans Beats– production, he attempts to stay afloat and salvage whatever’s left of his aching soul as the ship sinks. One doesn’t come on Henri Vidal’s Statue of Cain every day like one does a lost coin; so when an artiste decides to use said for cover art, questions have to be raised, as such not outside its essence. Shame, depression, sadness, guilt, death, life’s uncertainties, deep thoughts riddle this project. They do more in a self-seeking manner rather than a self-serious, preachy manner that characterizes some Conscious rappers.
On Time & Sorrow he channels Tech N9ne through his machine gun flow contemplating but not wallowing in self-pity. ‘Play hide and seek with God/I tell him, now you count to three/One, two, three/One, two, trinity’, ‘Slow mo, jumping/Out the gates, Sean Connery/Double O/Seven times I promised/Ain’t no catching me’, ‘School make me feel Lauryn Hill, miseducation/Trying to be the head of the class, decapitation’, clever wordplay make Victory’s Victim a listening pleasure. The record is stripped of whines associated with rappers who feel underrated or underappreciated or others who force-feed knowledge decrying the present state of Hip-Hop filled with pant-dropping, trap-loving, diamond-flashing, slut-shaming misogynistic materialistic rappers.
Omari interpolates his lyrics with a witty line from Kendrick Lamar’s Mortal Man, citing his vulnerability over the souled-out beats- A modern take on the ‘Now I lay Me Down to Sleep’ prayer. He continues his contemplation on the Unbroken OST laid for Addicted to kick in. He raps from where he left off on Zion’s Daughter, a cut from RIDPID. This is by far the highlight of the project; its 4 minutes 6 seconds run seems inadequate for an autobiographical piece. ‘I confess I’m just like you/I’m just like every other boy […] This is an apology/People who think more of me/I’m human, I embrace it/And daily I fail morally’ reminiscent of Nina Simone’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood and Rooftop MCs’ Shock therapy.
Lyricism at its best and a bouncy flow to reel out passages from a ‘Don’t Judge Me’ book punctuate the production while Preye’s piercing voice saws through the priest’s booth for more confessions. Omari’s 7-track EP shows brilliance and mastery, from the songwriting to features to production to art cover. No Man’s Sorrow’s an improvement from his debut project; the expectation is heightened for his debut album.
Review by Udochukwu Ikwuagwu