Review: Emtee’s Third Studio Album Highlights What Matters Most
In light of all that he has endured, Emtee sounds deeply reflective, wiser and in tune with his true self on 'LOGAN'.
LOGAN, Emtee's third full-length album, counts as his first offering since making a foray into independence, following his departure from Ambitiouz Entertainment in 2019 and the subsequent formation of his own imprint, Emtee Records.
LOGAN continues Emtee's long-standing tradition of naming his albums after people dear to him. His first album, released in 2015, was named Avery after his firstborn son. His second album, Manando (2017), was named after a deceased OG of his from his hood, who used to protect and guide him back in the day. The current album is named after his second-born son, Logan. The only deviation from this tradition has been the naming of his EPs DIY (2015) and DIY 2 (2018). Even then, he still managed to have a silhouette image of him and his two sons on the cover of DIY 2.
Since debuting in 2015 with the smash hit "Roll Up", Emtee (real name Mthembini Devu) has had a decorated yet tumultuous career. As the marquee artist of the then-emerging record label Ambitiouz Entertainment, he was poised for greatness given his sheer talent and star power.
While he has gone on to achieve considerable amounts of success, racking up accolades in the process, his career has nonetheless been marred with controversy. From his unceremonious departure from Ambitiouz to sordid personal scandals spilling into the public space—accidentally showing his privates on Instagram in 2017, as well as revealing that he lost both his car and home in 2019. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that on his latest album, he sounds deeply reflective, wiser and more in tune with his true self, in light of all that he has gone through.
Acceptance, Appreciation and Gratitude
The very first words that Emtee says on the album's opening song "Revolutionary" are:
"Say no to depression, yeah. No more stressing, yeah.
Living is a blessing, yeah. Taught me a lesson, yeah…"
These lines serve as the perfect thesis statement for the sentiments expressed on the album. They encompass the state of mind Emtee is in. In acknowledging depression as a real issue, he illustrates an acceptance of life's hardships and suffering that may lead one to the condition, even if he surmises that we should say no to it and try to overcome it by simply not stressing. He shares the same sentiments on "Wave", where he sings, "This life ain't easy my dawg, sometimes iyikh'iphi my dawg." Proclaiming that, despite everything being as bad as it has been, being alive is a blessing enough on its own.
Emtee feat. Lolli - Brand New Day (Official Music Video)www.youtube.com
On "Revolutionary", he goes on to say "First off, I'd like to thank the almighty for my sons (two boys)... you know, I had to do it for Logan this time," expressing the gratitude that is certainly one of the lessons that life has taught him. This sentiment ties in well with the title track. Like most fathers, Emtee wishes only the best for his son, giving him advice on how to go about life.
"Long Way" is in the same vein of expressing gratitude, and it finds Emtee talking to his wife, speaking frankly, saying:
"I cannot lie, girl I've been scoping you, you came in my life when I was thinking of approaching you, I made up a lie, just to get close to you,
I don't regret it, I'm proud of myself…
I fuck with you the long way,
I've got you all day, you bring me peace after a long day…"
The song shows growth and tells the listener where Emtee and his partner currently are. In 2020, he claimed he had been suffering abuse at the hands of his longtime partner Nicole Kendall Ndevu (neé Chinsamy) who was estranged from him at the time. Emtee recently told Apple Music, "I got to a point where I needed to focus and just see who has my best interests at heart, and I didn't look too far because of the love I get at home."
The most sombre song on the album is "Family". In it, Emtee pours his heart out, thanking his family for being with him through thick and thin. He is at his most sincere on a soulful Young2unnBeats instrumental that can't help but tug at one's heartstrings.
Knowledge of self
Emtee seems to have great self-awareness in that the music he is making is reflective of where he is in his real life. The subjects and themes that occupy most of the album show a direct link to what has been going on in his life. Life has not been one big party for Emtee since he broke into the music industry.
Two of the standout songs in the form of "Wave" and "iThemba" exhibit an individual who recognises himself, his shortcomings and is able to reconcile himself with them. He does not have a god complex. Instead, he acknowledges his fallibility and, instead of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, he picks himself up and is determined to start again—living up to this epithet "Da Hustler".
On "iThemba" he says,
"They throwing dirt on my name, making fun of my pain, trying to make me a lame, aye, aye, aye, look at me strange, I made some mistakes, aye, I'm not a saint, I was on them thangs every day, trying to ease up the pain…I'm a boss not a peasant, I took that L as a lesson. Still at the studio session, going down as a legend, save me a spot up in heaven..."
His outlook and response to adversity are visceral; the listener will appreciate him being true to himself in how he incorporates all that has gone on in his life and taking it with stride. There is nothing overtly out of character in the manner in which he writes his lyrics and expresses them, regardless of how heavy the subject may be.
When he expresses regret, there's a sense of reservation in his voice and even when he pumps himself up, he is not overly optimistic. Instead, he is his normal subdued self which adds to believability. Even though he fully understands the cards he has been dealt, he plots his game plan without losing an ounce of composure.
On "Pressure" he says;
"Ever since a young'n I've been on a mission,
I'm a leader, I got tunnel vision
Still standing after how they did me…"
Not All Doom and Gloom
However, it's not all doom, gloom and heavy subject matter on this album. At 16 songs, Emtee manages to throw in a couple of bangers on an otherwise mellow album.
"Slide" is one such song. Underscored by a thumping bass and aggressive 808s and complemented by his loose flow, it's proof that he still packs a mean punch when it comes to creating bops which will guarantee a jumpstart to any party and burn any club dance floor.
"Johustleburg", which is one of the few songs on the album that have been out for a while, makes a perfect addition to the longlist of mandatory, often great odes to Joburg that virtually any artist who resides in the city has made—from Cashless Society's "8-3-1 (I Love You)", L-Tido's "Joburg City", AKA's "Run Jozi" and many others.
Deeper into the second half of the album, songs such as "Brand New Day", "Where I'm At" and "Saam Sokol'" are all upbeat, adding colour and balance to a rather heavy first half.
On "Saam Sokol'", Emtee teams up with the rapper Moozlie. The highlight of the song being the producer Ruff's sampling of kwaito legend M'Du's "Bab'uGovernment", as well as the clever interpolation of a line from Zola's "Umdlwembe", when he says, "Uyangizwa bhade lami, hlale wazi yamadoda ayipheli…"
"Laqasha" does feel a little out of place in the album as it is the most crude song on LOGAN, with Emtee raping lines like, "I'm on some other shit, I can't chase a bitch, I'm trying to get rich…" "Come Closer" suffers the same fate.
All in all, LOGAN is a solid addition to Emtee's rich discography. It is a feat in its own right, considering that it's his first independently released album. For an artist that was heavily propped up by a major label, he has proved that, more than anything, it is his talent that matters above the machine.
Although rather dark and heavy, it is by no means a whiny album. It rather reflects in truth where the artist who created it was at the time and, if nothing else, it should be perceived as a triumph of honest representation in music.
Stream LOGAN on Apple Music and Spotify.