The Righteous Profanity of Brymo

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Michael Kolawole

It’s effective to think of Brymo’s music in each of these ways: as affirmations of deep-rooted personal ideology, enigmatic and beautiful lyrical poetry, equations of balanced ribaldry and cheekiness. Brymo understands profanity. To him, it’s an aesthetic, a medium to lull listeners into the rich fabric of his lyrics, a device to broach discussions about him and his music. When it comes to cheekiness, Brymo has been there, done that, bought the nakedness. Brymo is as prudent as he is saucy. With his strangely elaborated diction, semi-whispered vocal tone and choked accent, his odd way of combining profanity with philosophy, Brymo music always stands out, even when he is saying something vapid or somnific. Brymo’s music is a mood; it always attempts to drag itself through melancholy to seek a brighter outlook. Brymo’s music is high art, a mystic seeking meaning to life.

On Let’s Make Love, from his 2016 percussion-heavy album Klitoris, instead of enjoying the sexual pleasure of the sensual intimacy with his partner, Brymo warmly reflects and recounts how he is full of greed and sin: “I was born with sin/ Evil seed is in my flesh.” The song is a moment of reflection disguised as lovemaking. Everything about the song is stunning. The instrumentation slinks, twinkles and glistens over pensive percussion, while Brymo slowly reels off his lyrics, spilling out his heart to his lover, and winning us over. Writing about sex is tricky. One mustn’t be too direct or amorous; neither does one need to be coy or trite. There is always the need to strike a balance. So, on Naked, Brymo strikes a balance. Though the song’s title looks suggestive, the lyrics are not. Lyrically the song shares the same philosophy with Let’s Make Love. Though the song features Brymo’s lover Esse, it’s clear from the opening verse it’s not about lovemaking, and neither is Brymo directing his supplication to his lover. Naked is gospel in disguise. “And it would be worth it/ Your love I don’t deserve it,” Brymo sings, showing gratitude by baring his heart, stripping himself off pride and ego. “Take all I have, please / Love, leave me, naked.” A careful listen to the song shows he is talking to a Supreme Being or deity. The nakedness he is talking about is not sensual; it’s the nakedness of humility, the nakedness of innocence, nakedness of freedom, the nakedness of peace.

People will always seek sex. And what a joy it brings when meticulous lovemaking between two lovers gives joy and peace. A great sexual intimacy with a lover is not just sexual intimacy: It’s a moment of communication, a moment of revelation and confession. Let’s Make Love and Naked are not just songs about sexual intimacy. They are moments of clarity, self-consciousness and discovery for Brymo. Let’s Make Love like Naked is almost nothing but a moment of clarity and self-introspection for the listener. Both songs are lyrically deep and well-produced, and, at best, they are winners: they convince Brymo’s lover of his affection, appeal to God for forgiveness, and as well capture the listener’s heart. Both songs are beautiful musical compositions that arouse the senses and gladden hearts. Brymo’s profanity, rhythmic cadence, gravitas, and philosophical thoughts are incomparable. His obscenities are not just eye-popping and mind-boggling, they’re stylistic and structural, esoterica and cultural. On Prick No Get Shoulder, he weaves and juxtaposes long-winded cautious narratives about self-responsibility, keeping one’s word, being kind and doing well, and rejecting free meal. The song is a saucy, sultry gospel that pricks the ears and tunes the heart to stay clear of a free meal because, as Brymo puts it, “awoof dey purge o (Free meal is dangerous).”

After many years of profane gospel and philosophy, Brymo finally buys the nakedness and striptease in a music video for Heya, a middling song from his critically acclaimed album Oso (Wizard). To understand the profanity and philosophy of Heya, you need to start with the video. The video is the touchstone for brash cockiness, a unique cockiness in the Nigerian music scene. The video doesn’t objectify women; it objectifies the artist as a primitive man in a civilized world. The video shows Brymo coming out from the dirty water beneath the Third Mainland Bridge and springs around childishly, singing about societal values, unrequited love, his childhood stubbornness, and impertinence.

Combining dark arts with gaslighting, Brymo taps into our collective consciousness, rummages through our hearts and hooks us. Through the video, Brymo broaches discussions about himself, his music, and his society. The video is a well-staged gimmick, a well-curated conceit. Though the song’s lyrics aren’t that great, Brymo achieves his aim by drumming up attention for himself and his art. The video sparks a lot of arguments and think-pieces. Pop culture critics pen articles, dissecting and parsing Brymo’s performance in the video. People are debating Brymo’s ingenuity and sanity on social media. In the end Brymo achieves his aim. We have been hoodwinked.

Brymo understands the aura of his mystique. And he is using it to his advantage, hence his profanity couched in intellectualism. Besides Fela, who cleverly melds ribaldry with activism, Brymo is the only modern act who blends ribaldry with intellectualism. “If it’s not about sex then go and live with your sibling…” Brymo tweeted a few weeks ago.  “Sexual attraction is the point of romantic relationships,” he continues, “a greater connection will emerge when physical contact reduces, and that’s not yours to choose, time will (choose). Fuck the one you love often, please.” In an older tweet, Brymo wrote: “If you no use your preeq (prick) e go shrink.” Many of his fans were dissecting these tweets, trying to grasp the subtle messages in it. But there is nothing subtle about the tweets. They are regular Brymo’s shticks. They are magic wands in his bag of tricks

Besides bringing joy and peace, lovemaking could bring regret and sorrow. On the cheeky, rock-infused track Mary Had An Orgasm, off his debut EP AAA, Brymo gives an account of an exploitative relationship. Mary Had an Orgasm is about the titular lady who just returns to Lagos from the abroad. She employs the service of a man to show her around the city. In the course of being shown around the city, the guide, who must have sweet-talked and seduced the lady, had sexual intercourse with her. After having a sexual relationship with the lady, the guide makes away with her valuables. He runs to his girlfriend for cover. Though the opening verse and chorus are tongue-in-cheek, on the second verse, Brymo injects some doctrine and philosophical thoughts. “Black or white, it’s always pink inside,” Brymo sings, explicating and dissecting the female genitalia, revealing inner colour, questioning why men cheat.

I believe the profanity and gimmickry would be repeated again. For his newest release, we should expect some doses of profanity couched in intellectualism and philosophical thoughts. Perhaps the album’s art or title might pull the trick. Perhaps it might be a song or a video that would do the trick. Perhaps it’s going to be a tweet or stage performance. Believe me; Brymo is going to do it over and over again. And we are going to embrace his profanity with our whole hearts.

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