Chiedozie Kelechi Danjuma
Christened Tobechukwu Okoh, the artist known as Peruzzi, was introduced to the Nigerian mainstream on the 2017 remix of his single, For Your Pocket, which featured Superstar, Davido. Davido subsequently recruited Peruzzi into his Davido Music Worldwide label and goes on a hit-making spree. The intervening years saw Peruzzi release three bodies of work and collaborate with Afrobeats royalty from 2baba to Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Davido. After months of delay, he finally released his highly teased sophomore album, Rum and Boogie. The 20 track ensemble features familiar names like Don Jazzy, Phyno, Wande Coal, Patoranking, Fireboy, and Tiwa Savage. He also enlists new voices, Set Up and Boylexxy, for a boisterous yet melodious fourth body of work. Rum and Boogie is a two-part album that explores two moods. He tells Apple Music, “The Rum part represents, or tells, all the love stories and the emotional stuff”, and the “Boogie part— we decided to make it the happy part. It has all the club songs. It has all the stuff people haven’t seen me do before— me trying new things”. As fitting as this description may seem, it is a modest explanation of what Peruzzi accomplished with Rum and Boogie.
The first half of the album, Rum, opens with Juba, a gospel-esque thanksgiving to the creator for divine providence. It segues into the melodious Telepot which sees Peruzzi in his native element crooning to a love interest and expressing himself on a charming and unobtrusive ballad about love and distance. On See love, Somebody Baby and the rest of Rum, Peruzzi sustains this boyish, helpless lover boy persona he has nurtured through his previous projects. Rum peaks at the Tiwa-savàge assisted Matrimony, specifically designed as a hit owambe anthem.
In the second half, Boogie kickstarts with the exuberant Kalakuta. He chants his famous line “Me I no like wahala”, which has become the subject of memes, stickers, and comedy skits in Nigeria. Kalakuta’s instrumentation has all the elements of a song referencing Fela Anikulapo’s residence should — loud drums, trumpets, and, of course, gunshots. Don Jazzy and Phyno appear on Baddest to make an impressive Afro-Life record. On Baddest, the vocals are sparse, but the Speroach production is efficient, as it subtly punctuates the trio’s vocals with Igbo highlife piano notes and guitar riffs. Available sees Peruzzi teaming with the arguable progenitor of Afro-Pop, Wande Coal, and it is a smooth blend of vocals and Afro-pop at its finest brew. The rest of Boogie lives up to its name and its commitment to eclecticism as it sees Peruzzi experimenting with disparate sounds—Amanpiano, Afro-pop, Dancehall, Fuji, Rap, and Highlife— across ten tracks to create a uniquely cohesive groovy playlist within an album.
A prominent highlight of the album is its songwriting. In terms of songwriting, Rum and Boogie is impressively basic. Basic, but not bland. Basic but relatable— any average listener, regardless of social class, can readily appreciate it. Peruzzi’s pen game is famed, having worked on Afrobeat masterpieces such as Davido’s Fia and Assurance and Burna Boy’s Pull Up, to mention just a few. His songwriting process understands the Nigerian audience’s whale-like, transient appetite and has the talent and range to feed it. The content and scope of songs on Rum and Boogie attest to that. On the album, there is a song for everyone. They do not attempt to aspire to any sense of “depth”. It is a seemingly easy yet impressive kind of songwriting that is striking yet refreshing despite its peculiar ordinariness.
Another highlight of the album is its production. Despite the armada of sub-genres explored on the album, the beats led by frequent collaborators Speroach, Lush, Fresh VDM, P-Priime are polished enough to accompany Peruzzi’s sonic range and energy. The cohesion and sequencing mastery is also impressive. An example is Peruzzi crooning “I resist the urge to shalaye” on See Love. In turn, the next track, Somebody Baby, also begins with “shalaye“. Rum and Boogie is littered with fine sonic details such as these.
At 20 tracks and with a duration of 62 minutes, Rum and Boogie is too lengthy for today’s consumption climate. Rum and Boogie could have conveniently been split into two standout albums to allow for multiple listens. It is a general rule that the more you listen to an album, the better it sounds (though this rule has plenty of exceptions). The album’s length limits the likelihood of replaying, regardless of how good the tracks are. The album forces the listener to find their interesting picks and discard the rest, disturbing the flow state an album should perhaps have. A solution for such a disturbed listener could be separating “Rum” from “Boogie” and making them into separate manageable playlists.
Rum and Boogie is a prime example of Nigerian creatives’ fluidity at stretching the conversation of the boundaries of Afrobeats. It indicates that Afrobeats is, perhaps, a loose term for a mash-up of native sounds and local instrumentation with heavy western Rnb and Pop influences. For Peruzzi, Rum and Boogie straddles genres in a sonic exhibition of his obvious talent and versatility.
Rum and Boogie is a 20 track album with few or no skips. It is safe to say that though the year just began, Rum and Boogie is a worthy contender for any Afro-Pop category at this year’s award season. However, despite the prospects and quality of the album, Peruzzi faces a problem with social acceptability. Though his talent is undisputed, his persona is mired with controversies and rumors— from Twitter fights to an aggressive persona. There are chances these controversies impact the fanfare and buzz an album of this quality should ordinarily generate and stands in the way of the Afropop superstardom his talent undoubtedly deserves.