Review: Asake Relaxes on Artistic Gatekeeping in “Work of Art” 

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In Work of Art, Asake’s sophomore studio album, the artist flexes his sonic muscles again and shows the potential to stay true to his artistic essence while sampling new sounds in addition to the Amapiano genre that he is known for. While his 2022 breakout EP Ololade Asake and debut studio album Mr Money With the Vibe (MMWTV) have helped propel the artiste to a place of uniqueness as a custodian of the Amapiano sound reinvented with Fuji-esque mannerisms, his new project sees him push beyond the existing reputation. 

The year 2022 witnessed Asake’s breakout as his sounds penetrated every nook and cranny and the artist gained a special fan following. His MMWTV hit 66th on the “Billboard 200”, rendering it the highest-charting debut Nigerian album of all time on Billboard. The album also reached number 2 on the Billboard World Album chart and ranked amongst the top ten on Apple Music in its first week of release.  To crown it all, Apple Music recognized the project as the African album with the most streams on its release date, setting an impressive record.

Although the current year has not been particularly enrapturing as the previous one for the artist, Asake has not relented. Beginning the year with the release of the off-Amapiano single Yoga, it seemed the artist would assume a new identity. He also received validation for his art.  In  February, he won the Best Male Artiste category at the Soundcity MVP Awards and received nominations for five other categories.  He also won Best African Artist at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards held in Accra on May 6, 2023.  More recently, he earned a BET Awards nominations. In between his professional rendezvous, Asake teased us with 2:30 and Amapiano, both of which are off his current album. About two weeks ago, the artist joined Olamide on the single New Religion ahead of the latter’s anticipated album Unruly

Now featuring only his record label boss Olamide on his new 14-track project, Asake remains conservative with collaborations. This attitude is not unprecedented. His four-track EP had Olamide as the guest artist, and in MMWTV, he squeezed in Burna Boy and American rapper Russ. It is fair that Asake gives due regard to Olamide, despite what seems like Mr Money’s strong inclination for an identity with carefully curated or very little affectation. 

Singing mostly in Yoruba and often in Pidgin English, Asake manipulates wisecracks, one-liners, and puns in Work of Art, giving room for both deep reflection and happy-go-lucky responses. The album opens with homage to God, through Olorun, as the artist gives credit to God for his rise to prominence. This is followed by Awodi in which the saying, “Awodi fo lo ke o fe do’luwa” reverberates.  There’s also some interesting play on words with the word “wonder”: Pasuma Wonder, American Wonder, I wonder. As he makes reference to the year 2020 when he blew up and speaks of rising “from the slum to the top”, he puts forward a case for longevity.

In 2:30 Asake taps into his roots to express a sense of individuality. Shot in Los Angeles, and directed by Edgar Esteves, the music video shows the artist in a party mood in the company of ladies. One attention-grabbing line is “Jigan jigan esẹ mi o delẹ delẹ” which takes a swipe at popular Nollywood actor Abimbola Kazeem nicknamed Jigan. The next song Sunshine is infused with optimism as the artist wishes himself and others well. Mogbe gives us the fun side of Asake without inhibition. His interest in “loud”, “shayo” “colorado” and “cannister” with beautiful girls around him surfaces.

In Basquiat, Asake calls himself  “Walking Poetry, I Am Greater/ I’m A Work Of Art”, comparing himself to late American visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. This is probably the most profound allusion achieved by Asake in his album. Basquiat was known for his neo-expressionist paintings and recognized as a revolutionary force in contemporary art.  While he compares, he also plays on words with “Basquiat” “gaskia” (Hausa word for “truth”) and “alafia”, indulging in self-adulation.

Asake welcomes Olamide on Amapiano, as the song is delivered in honour of the South African house style that has been adopted by several African artists. What’s Up My G sees the artist showing off his wealth, while I Believe reinforces his faith in a wonderful life. In Introduction, Asake takes on the persona of a guy who tries to impress a lady. The romantic aura is passed on to the next track  Remember

In  Lonely At The Top, Asake talks about his quest for more money. While currently basking in fame, the artist suggests that the journey to success is usually lonely and requires some discipline. When Great Guy sets in,  the artist explores his personal virtues—consistency, bravery, talent, rounded personality— albeit in an upbeat tune.

Perhaps there could not have been a better way to conclude this album than with the spiritually inclined Yoga. Here Asake forfeits Amapiano for Séga, a genre associated with Mauritius and Réunion Island.  While he embraces this new but short-lived rhythmic adventure, the singer throws shade at his enemies and meditates over his existence. The song’s intro samples Mo Capitaine by   Mauritian singer Michel Legris. But the music video, directed by TG Omori, sees the artist explore Dakar, Senegal and tap inspiration from the background display of Senegalese culture.

In Work Of Art, Asake shows signs of wanting new influences in his sounds. This is particularly evident in Basquiat where he derives inspiration from the legacy of an art genius far away in America and in Yoga where he pitches a pan-African ideal with his sojourn in Senegal and the adoption of a Mauritian music genre.  Although he is willing to take things slow and reinvent himself at his own pace, it does not seem like he would completely veer away from his old identity. His long-term vision, it seems, is to achieve a personal eclectic soundscape. 


Rating= 7/10