The Verzuz era of the pandemic induced lockdown pushed major music industries around the world back to times when music had a much different flavor than it does now. Our appreciation for earlier innovations grew and with this came deeper respect for those who set the pace for the new cool. In Nigeria, the Sarz versus Shizzi ten over ten battle threw us back to the duo’s earlier days when their sounds birthed some of Nigeria’s greatest exports and like the general ambiance of these battles, the nostalgia piqued our interests in their discographies again. Many producers with classics to their names have come and gone but some are still standing strong despite the industry’s ever-changing climate, Sarz of course with his not-so-recent collaboration with Wurld and oddly flavored 2019 release, Sinym (Sarz Is Not Your Mate), is on the list of those changing with the times.
There is no mention of this game-changer without reference to some of his pioneering projects and in Verzuz taste and no particular order, our creme of the crop of Sarz’s discography is as follows:
Kondo – Dagrin
In his time, Dagrin appealed to a certain demographic in certain socioeconomic strata but being a producer with tentacles spread far and wide, Sarz helped the late rapper carve a niche in mainstream music with Kondo, a standout track off his critically acclaimed sophomore album, C.E.O. With heavy bass and echoing synths that serve as the perfect accompaniment to Dagrin’s autotunes garnished vocals, Sarz set the pace for years of bass-driven Hip hop leaning instrumentals with Kondo.
Kako Bi Chicken – Reminisce
Sarz does have the ears for sounds that help otherwise geography-constrained artists reach greater heights. His work with Dagrin is proof of this and his work with Reminisce, a street-rapper like the former, is no different. Something like a sonic messiah, Sarz’s synth cadence on Kako Bi Chicken, can be described as the accelerant that set Reminisce’s career on fire, coupled of course with the rapper’s head-bobbing lyrics.
Beat Of Life (Samba) – Wizkid
The appendage ‘Beat Of Life’, to Sarz and Wizkid’s Samba is one of the most befitting titles to come out of 2012, the year the song was released. In those days, Wizkid was known and revered for his experimentalism but nothing as bass-heavy as the Sarz produced Samba. Not only did this single introduce us to a more daring side of Wizkid, but it also served as a stamp of authenticity and bankability on the duo’s partnership.
Jooor (Remix) – Jah Bless Featuring Ice Prince, Reminisce, Durella, Ruggedman, and eLDee
Like every other street-inspired Sarz classic, Jooor with its clever rhymes, witty and sardonic punchlines, topped off by Sarz’s engaging instrumentals transcended communities and while its lyrics were its award-winning feature, the quick drums and revving synths made it possible for these lines to be anthemic. Its roaster was another eye-catching feature but for Sarz, this dynamic range only exposed us to the fact that his instrumentals serve just about anybody toting a sound ranging from your run-of-the-mill Afrobeat to Hip-hop and even Street-pop.
Salute – Shank
Sarz didn’t get famous because of mid-tempo instrumentals, rather, his fame is tied to his ability to get parties started with fiery synths punctuated by heavy drums. While this reads like a limitation, the producer, right from his early days knew to diversify even within this constraint. He embodied this diversity on Shank’s Salute, both the original single and the Wizkid assisted remix, lending his versatility to assist Shank’s aggression on the one hand and toning it down on the other, to accommodate Wizkid’s ease. On either side, he followed his M.O to a T: to amplify and not to drown out which is why despite the combination of heavy instrumentals plus Shank’s punch, Salute is immersive, and not noisy.
Sicker – Niniola
Sarz’s partnerships go beyond business relationships. We’ve witnessed him more than once, form bonds with artists he has chemistry with. His journey with Wurld on I Love Girls With Trobul is a highlight of this phenomenon and unmistakably, his relationship with Niniola. Together with the self-dubbed “Queen of Afro-House”, he birthed a sound that marries South Africa’s fast-paced House music and Nigeria’s Afrobeat; Sicker is an honorable mention in this pioneer story with chords chasing each other and synthesized snares filling up space between each chord.
Come Closer – Wizkid Featuring Drake
There’s a distinct line that separates the Wizkid with an eye on the prize: mainstream domination, and the Wizkid with international acclaim. After the line, he had attained a higher status, at home and abroad, a phase that stemmed from his evolution. While he completely reoriented, ditching those on the other side of the line, including his label Empire Mates Entertainment, fixtures like Sarz, as a producer, remained a constant because he too, evolved. The highly anticipated and critically acclaimed Come Closer is proof of this. Sarz provided the duo of Wizkid and Drake with instrumentals that matched the former’s new sound and gave room to the latter to cohabit perfectly. While his work on Come Closer isn’t exactly a mark of his growth, it’s most definitely a high point.
Energy (Stay Far Away) – Wizkid And Skepta
Sarz came from a point in his beginnings spotlighted by energetic drums, however, by 2018, he had completely revamped his signature sound and could now accommodate diversity. His work on Wizkid and Skepta’s Energy (Stay Far Away) introduced us to the Sarz who could direct the top dogs in London’s Grime scene. Fretting drums and echoing synths gave life to Skepta’s easy flow and Wizkid’s even more lax delivery, a combination that resulted in an anthem and manifesto championed by rhythm.
Hello Africa Riddim – Sarz Featuring Dr. Alban
All through the early 2010s, Sarz delivered engaging bass-stamped instrumentals. With time, he progressed and this stamp shifted from sound to intent. His goal has always been to immerse but on Sinym (Sarz Is Not Your Mate), his long-awaited six-track debut EP, his weapon shifted from bass to a combination of bass, chords, and horns, a tasteful mix of percussions that welcomed the Sarz who has a strong grip on EDM leaning instrumentals. The Dr. Alban assisted Hello Africa Riddim, is a standout on the EP, not just because it’s one of the few tracks on the EP with vocals, but because its culture-backed instrument mix is about the most immersive tracks on the EP.
Antidote – Nao Featuring Adekunle Gold
East London native, Nao, is not your typical Sarz customer and so, Sarz’s work on her 2021 debut and comeback single, Antidote, featuring Adekunle Gold, is doubtable, but a closer listen will reveal the sharp acoustics we were introduced to on Sinym (Sarz Is Not Your Mate) and immediately clear all doubts of a potential bankable partnership between the duo.
Sarz has had many phases and each growth spurt has been introduced by a side of the producer yet to be seen, but since the early 2010s, he has remained consistent, switching signatures but never compromising the quality of his instrumentals; a journey that has not only defined his artistry or put labels on his partnerships but also, defined eras in the Nigerian music industry.