Audio

Maleek Berry, Proven Hitmaker, Takes Center Stage in 'Last Daze of Summer'

We take a look at producer and songwriter Maleek Berry's first solo project, 'Last Daze of Summer.'

Producers taking on the onus to become their own foremen is a familiar phenomenon in the music industry. How this transition is conducted and the type of artist they become is where the real interest lies.


British-born, Nigerian artist Maleek Berry has produced certified bangers like "The Matter" for Wizkid, "Baby Hello" for Wande Coal and "Finito" for Iyanya. He took it a step further by producing nine songs for Wanted, Wande Coal’s first post-Mavin album. He also acted as the project's co-executive producer—big shoes to fill considering the previous occupier was Don Jazzy.

Berry is 28 years old this year. He was 17 years old in 2005 when T-Pain released his sophomore album Epiphany. T-Pain, along with his Konvict Music label boss, Akon, dominated pop charts at the time—a run that started in 2004 with Akon’s debut, Trouble, followed by T-Pain’s 2005 debut Rapper Ternt Sanga—and ended in the late noughties when both artists music careers began to tail off.

If you missed their ubiquitous presence, rest assured that Berry didn't. He's made an EP that not only draws from that period, but is also an ode to it. And he's done so without synthesising his voice—one of the surprising finds on his debut EP, Last Daze of Summer. It's easy to wonder why he's waited until now to put out a solo project considering the hits he’s co-created for others and his impressive voice (which, with its nasally slant is recognizable, yet not distinct from the deluge of singing voices on the radio.)

"Flexin" and "Eko Miami," with their identical drum arrangements, are the most reminiscent of a cache of songs by T-Pain which includes "I’m Sprung," "Bartender"(with Akon) and "Can't Believe It." They're both feel good songs about having money and larging it up. The lyrics won't trouble the head, but they will make it bob a good deal. Featured on "Eko Miami" is Geko whose oaky voice adds a rough texture to the track, and to the project as a whole.

On "Let Me Know," Berry asks a lady with whom he's been “best friends for a year now” if he's more than just a friend to her. He even goes as far as to say that he'd serve a life sentence for her—it's quite the commitment to make to someone whose affections are not guaranteed, let alone sustainable. But it's pop so it's fine.

“If you ain't trying to spend that money, she gon leave ya” is the one sore thumb of lyric that makes "Lost In The World" less of the morality tale that it purports to be. Otherwise, it works well as a lament for a fickle lover who was “wifey material...before the love was material." Nonetheless, Berry is secure enough to admit that he still thinks highly of her when he sings, "me no lie, you're still the baddest."

Berry’s writing is serviceable at best. The metaphors are tidy, but far from profound. Take this instance from "Nuh Let Go" when the rapper quips: “me want to operate on you but I got no patience/and you can be my hotel I'm here to stay." Again, it's pop so it's fine.

"Kontrol," the EP’s first single and first on the track list, is easily the most successful song. This is where Berry’s more dominant sensibilities—simple and catchy hooks, thumping but not hideous instrumentals, efficient though uninspired lyrics—having honed many a hit, are on full display. It's about booty shaking and not to be deconstructed any further.

At 6 tracks, and with a clear musical direction from a formidable craftsman, you get the feeling that Last Daze of Summer is focused and tightly controlled from conception to execution. What you don't get are new vocal or sound ideas. Perhaps that will come when he drops his album proper.

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story Chibok was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, Have Mercy on Liverpool Street was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London.

Culture

You Need to Listen to Luvvie Ajayi's New Podcast 'Rants and Randomness'

Listen to the first episode "Real G's Move in Silence Like Wakanda" now.

Honestly, who better to host a podcast, than our favorite Nigerian social critic Luvvie Ajayi?

The blogger and media personality's new podcast Rants and Randomness, is already garnering pretty stellar reactions from listeners—It currently boasts a 5 star customer rating on iTunes. All of this is unsurprising given her knack for humor and sharp wit that we've enjoyed over the years through her popular blog Awesomely Luvvie.

In her very first episode, titled Real G's Move in Silence Like Wakanda, Luvvie rants about Valentine's Day extraness—which is a very real thing, interviews Eunique Jones Gibson, the photographer behind campaigns like "Because of them We can" and "I AM Trayvon Martin," and shares her thoughts on Black Panther—and yes, she was just as blown away as the rest of us.

She gives a full 15 minute review on the podcast, but you can read part of her review via this snippet from her blog:

My heart is full by the fact that this film feels like life-affirming in the way that cannot be taken back and it's long overdue. And the success of Black Panther should mean that more of these stories will be written and produced and distributed on a grand scale. I say SHOULD, because, well. Shit happens and whiteness loves to do dumb shit like ignore logic, all in the name of racism. More of these stories of Blackness, in all its forms, need to be shared to the world and the possibilities are endless. If nothing else Black Panther should show that our stories are profitable, amazing and necessary. We need more of them all the time in all forms. They won't all look like Black Panther, which is good. They need to be different but they need to exist.

So shoutout to Ryan Coogler and the cast who KILLED IT. And allowed us to come together in joy. I'm officially claiming citizenship of Wakanda.

We feel you, girl. Wakanda forever.

Read the full review via her blog. For more, listen and subscribe to Rants and Randomness via iTunes.

Video: OkayAfrica's 'Black Panther' Celebration at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

OkayAfrica partnered with Brooklyn Academy of Music and D'ussé for an advanced screening, followed by an exclusive Q&A with Ryan Coogler and an epic afterparty.

Ahead of Black Panther's epic release last week, OkayAfrica and Okayplayer hosted an advanced screening and Q+A between director Ryan Coogler and CEO Abiola Oke, followed by our #OkayWakanda afterparty at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

It was a jam-packed event filled with beautiful black folks, coming together to celebrate the film of the year. The Wakandan pride was strong and what's even better is that we caught all the action on camera.

We got a chance to speak with our incredibly dressed attendees live from the red carpet and after party about what the film means to them and why they came out to support it.

Check out all the action from the event and after party in the video below.


Politics

We Did It: Three Years of #FeesMustFall Finally Bears Fruit

This year's South African budget shows that struggle can make things better.

Yesterday, South African Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, presented the long-awaited 2018 budget speech. While he was heavily criticised for increasing VAT and the fuel levy, which will heavily impact the poor, students celebrated the R57 billion that will finally be set aside to fund their studies in their entirety.

It was 2015 and I was at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, along with thousands of students from all over the country, waiting to be addressed by former President Jacob Zuma about our demands for a 0% increase in fees for the following year. We were capable students, worthy of being at universities but we were also black and lacking the money to access institutions which were fast becoming financially exclusive. While our core demand was eventually met, we knew it wasn't a complete victory—what about the fees for the following year and the year after that? I still remember how days after that epic march, my ears were still ringing with the phantom sounds of struggle songs and the whizzing of rubber bullets. I don't know if South Africa or the world will ever truly know how that fight scarred so many of us.

In the years that followed, we watched as the government (which claimed it had no money to allocate to tertiary education) squander state resources time and time again. We protested relentlessly; fiercely. We were shot at by police, our campuses looked like war-zones and we wondered whether we would attain the degrees upon which our families hopes rested so heavily.

After Jacob Zuma's resignation a few days ago, I wrote about how the ANC would embark on a journey of some serious ass-kissing in the run-up to the general elections in 2019. I warned Fees Must Fall activists that if ever there were a more opportune time to act, that it was most certainly now. R57 billion rand has been allocated for the funding of tertiary education for students whose household incomes are less than or equal to R350 000 per annum. This will assist not only the poor black working class but the black "missing middle" as well. The entire duration of their degrees will be funded with the added promise of supporting students in terms of food, transport and accommodation costs, all key to making this announcement a full victory and not just a partial one.

Now does this magically solve all our problems as black students? Does it do away with the rampant inequality prevalent on all our university campuses? No, it does not. But what it is, is a step in a very hopeful direction. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this R57 billion will actually serve its purpose and not be misappropriated like so many of our state funds in the past. However, our acting President Cyril Ramaphosa, is looking to make a big splash. He's looking to garner not only our support but our lasting support, so it would stand him in good stead if he ensures his government keeps their word. He has seen (or at least read about) the destruction, the chaos, the physical and psychological damage to our young members of society following numerous Fees Must Fall protests and clashes with the police.

I will never forget that day at the Union Buildings when the police started throwing stun grenades at us and unleashing a barrage of bullets. I will never forget how a young male student stumbled towards my friend and I, his face completely drenched in blood. I will never forget how my friend and I ran out of sheer, naked fear, blindly into the busy streets of the Pretoria CBD and eventually hid ourselves behind a nearby bus stop. I was not as active on the frontlines as so many other students were, not in the least, so I can only begin to imagine the kind of trauma they still have to wrestle with till this day.

The #NationalShutDown in Cape Town on Wednesday, October 21 2015. Photo by Imraan Christian

That is why this announcement, as much as it was a string of words on a piece of paper for a lot of people, meant so much more to the rest of us. It's a sigh of relief for many black students. It means a glimmer of hope for so many black families. It's a chance to dream and to do so without inhibition. This is all we've been fighting for and it feels so damn good to allow ourselves, even for just a moment, to bask in the light that seemed so elusive back then.

Our fallen comrade Solomon Mahlangu, the young man we sang about in our struggle songs, once said that his blood would nourish the tree that would bear the fruits of freedom. He told us to continue the fight. And so to all my comrades, amandla!

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