Review: The Erigma II is Erigga’s vehicle to the limelight

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Michael Kolawole

Erriga’s latest offering, The Erigma II, sees the artist coasting from the backwater of the Nigerian music industry to the sparkling frontier of the industry. Unlike his previous offerings, which are heavily laden with dark and slimy lyrics, this album is sparsely garnished with irreverence—the staple and intrinsic themes on Erigga’s projects.

The album opens with a sleek narrative Welcome to Warri. The song tells the dark, gritty story of Warri’s streets and neighbourhoods. How youths strive to survive in the street. And how the law enforcement agents arrest and harass them. The song’s bouncing and banging beat, coupled with Erigga’s slow but clear-cut delivery and graphic storytelling make the song a decent opening. The Victor AD-assisted Area to The World is about Erigga’s growth from the murky outlands of the industry to the dazzling mainstream. The first verse narrates how people love his music and how his songs are paving ways for him. The second verse is a flashback to his humble beginning back when he was in Warri. Now the story has changed; it’s now Erigga to the world.

No matter how refined Erigga becomes, he can’t lose his rawness. Though he has slowed down on the vulgarity, graphic, and gang-banging themes in his songs, he still retains certain elements of that side to him, albeit subtle. “Skin to skin / Na im make nigga raw,” Erigga raps on the slow-paced, highlife ditty, Next Track. The song recounts how some of his listeners complain about the vulgarity of Erigga’s lyrics, yet remain glued to his songs, enjoying his crudeness. The featured act, Oga Network, gives a humorous chorus that couches the subtle vulgarity of the song, explaining how delicious Erigga’s vulgarity is to listeners’ ears, hence listeners’ inability to move on to the next track.

There are two major tiers of rappers in Nigeria: the English and the indigenous rappers (although both tiers occasionally sprinkle their lyrics with pidgin English, their language-of-trade either leans toward English or indigenous languages). Erigga is the one of the major pidgin rappers in the country, the link between the English and indigenous rappers. As a bridge between the two major tiers of Nigerian rap, Erigga features the talented and colourful Zlatan Ibile on Two Criminals. The two artistes spark magic. Zlatan switches masterfully between pidgin English and the Yoruba language, revving his bars up to match his electric potential, and rapping about his street credibility. Adorning his lyrics with irreverent and witty lines, Erigga retains his usual pidgin style of rapping, bragging about his sexual prowess and wealth.

Still working as a link between English and the indigenous rappers, Erigga features Vector and Graham D on Oyo, recruits MI Abaga and Sami (Done) on the titular track, The Erigma. He enlists the service of Ice Prince on Body Bags and taps Magnito for Home Breaker. The featured artistes water down their highfalutin style of rapping and embrace Erigga’s simple but fanciful manner of rapping. Vector and Graham D do a nice job on Oyo by admonishing listeners to work harder and pave their own way if there is no one to help them pave the way. The Erigma continues where Oyo stops. It’s a tale of a humble beginning and working tirelessly until one finds success. Erigga’s verse is sleek and comical. Striving to match Erigga’s humorous verse, MI Abaga dumbs down his lyrics and renders a non-clerisy but trenchant verse. The banging, knock-down-and-drag-out Body Bags is a trap song that sees Erigga and Ice Prince threaten to send their rivals six feet beneath the ground. And the amusing but effectual Home Breaker gives a tongue-in-cheek account of Erigga’s and Magnito’s philandering lifestyle that nearly wrecks their lives.

Area People shares the same topic with the American rapper J Cole’s Neighbour. The song recounts how Erigga’s neighbours in the highbrow Lekki thought Erigga and his friends were into some suspicious business. The neighbours call the police on Erigga and his friends. The police ransack his apartment but find nothing incriminating, so the police let Erigga and his friends be. Thug love is one of the best loves in the world, hence the late Tupac writing poetry to his love interest, and dedicating a classic song to his mother. On the slow and delicious Ayeme, featuring Yung Zee Onos, Erigga’s exalts his lady’s beauty with his usual comical lyrics. He appreciates his lover for staying with him even when everyone sees nothing good in him. Cold Weather is a sultry, steamy song that’s meant to make the cold weather hot. Its sultry lyrics are crafted for sexual activities during the cold weather. As always, Erigga delivers funny lyrics, lacing them with sexual innuendos that are meant to arouse his listeners for sexual activity.

The closing track Goodbye from Warri is a decent show of Erigga’s penmanship and storytelling skills. The psychodramatic song is about Erigga’s departure from the nefarious street of Warri. Touching all at once, Erigga dips into the depth of his psyche and bravely reports his gory and awkward past. The first verse is about his malevolent elder brother who is fond of reprehensive actions. Before his brother was killed, he told Erigga to stay clear of the street and do better than him in life. The second verse narrates Erigga’s life on the gritty streets of Warri, how he survived in the street before he moved to Lagos to push his music career. Closing the track with a brief spoken word, Erigga promises never to rap about his past again, that he has chosen to focus on the future.

The Erigma II doesn’t stride too far from Erigga’s previous offerings. It’s a pretty devil-may-care project, Erigga vehicle to the klieg light. And though the album has some highlights, it’s nearly mangled by Erigga’s jokey and playful lyrics. Despite his performative utterances, vulgarity, and friskiness, Erigga is a talented rapper. This album is a display of Erigga’s clever wordplays, witty punchlines, and cornball storytelling. His lyrics are witty and real; his command of English language and the Nigerian pidgin English makes his songs easy to assimilate; his straight-from-the-shoulder lyrics are gratifying; but, at times, his humour has no spark. Erigga needs to cut down on his humour and puts more impact on his songs. I’m not suggesting that he should be overtly serious but being overtly funny will make him be regarded as a joker. He must not limit himself by overwearying his pattern—he can do better than he is doing right now.

Bottom line: Erigga is no longer the bottom-dweller and feeder he was when he dropped The Erigma I seven years ago. That’s something for his mother and late brother to be proud of.

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