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Dennis Peter

In a daring attempt to take the reins of his career firmly in his grasps, BrymO threw a rock through a part of the Chocolate City glass house and jumped out. The public, tumultuous exit from one of the biggest record labels in Nigeria at the time meant that a few shards of the shattered glass caused by his prison break were lodged in his career. Apart from the Nigerian stigma that going indie automatically makes the artist become upcoming again, the (still ongoing, it seems) legal tussle with his former employers made BrymO’s career quite radioactive and more unsure. It’s one thing to be on flailing ground, it’s another to be standing on quicksand.

In that scuffle, a court injunction temporarily prohibited BrymO from selling physical copies of 2013’s Merchants, Dealers And Slaves, only to be lifted about a year after its initial release, a situation that turned out to be the major hurdle in a long race. Five years removed from his reemergence, BrymO is not just standing on solid pavement, he’s musically considered to be at the upper echelon of contemporary Afro-Pop. He’s not accumulating the same amount of notoriety he enjoyed during his days as a Choc boi, but he seems satisfied with making great music that contravenes commercial trends, and his quite substantial fanbase is just fine with it.

Over his recent indie catalog, BrymO has consistently turned out nothing short ...

In a daring attempt to take the reins of his career firmly in his grasps, BrymO threw a rock through a part of the Chocolate City glass house and jumped out. The public, tumultuous exit from one of the biggest record labels in Nigeria at the time meant that a few shards of the shattered glass caused by his prison break were lodged in his career. Apart from the Nigerian stigma that going indie automatically makes the artist become upcoming again, the (still ongoing, it seems) legal tussle with his former employers made BrymO’s career quite radioactive and more unsure. It’s one thing to be on flailing ground, it’s another to be standing on quicksand.

In that scuffle, a court injunction temporarily prohibited BrymO from selling physical copies of 2013’s Merchants, Dealers And Slaves, only to be lifted about a year after its initial release, a situation that turned out to be the major hurdle in a long race. Five years removed from his reemergence, BrymO is not just standing on solid pavement, he’s musically considered to be at the upper echelon of contemporary Afro-Pop. He’s not accumulating the same amount of notoriety he enjoyed during his days as a Choc boi, but he seems satisfied with making great music that contravenes commercial trends, and his quite substantial fanbase is just fine with it.

Over his recent indie catalog, BrymO has consistently turned out nothing short of phenomenal music. While his trademark style of blending heavy shades of Yoruba folk nuances (both in sound and songwriting) into percussive afro-pop isn’t peculiar to BrymO, he’s its most kaleidoscopic purveyor, leaving enough edge, rawness and mystic in his writing and singing to make his music all the more compelling.

Each album he’s created since the label split balances on a certain general aura that slightly varies with each project, MDS is dank with the disillusions of BrymO’s turmoil rife situation at the time of its release, and instead of tracking back to effectively promote the album after the injunction was lifted, Tabula Rasa was an instant trudge forward, a new beginning and literal blank slate that revels in pensiveness without ever slipping into doubt. Of course the albums are enjoyable, anthemic hooks, sensual songwriting matched with rhythmic musical accompaniment. But it’s not until 2016’s Klĭtôrĭs that BrymO arrives at a desired destination, an album that feels celebratory and has less weight when compared with its predecessors.

Klĭtôrĭs (Greek word for “Key,” which he says figures into the album’s narrative) is BrymO at easy strut, an artist significantly unburdened for the first time in a long time. There’s no lackadaisical charge to be thrown at him though, even though the urgency is dialed down. Same can be said for the newly released follow-up Oṣó, an even more relaxed album housing a lot of BrymO’s preachy and plaintive writing to date.

BrymO’s albums exude varying auras, but they are unanimously fueled by a prominent amount of cynicism, coupled with a high level of self awareness that translates into how his music builds into a 3D projection. Oṣó thrives off the same basic tenets, this time, turned on their heads and mainly focused on socially conscious yarns.

Songs peering in from the angle of avid community observant and social philosopher are scattered inclusions on BrymO’s previous albums, but it’s never been the most prominent lens by which those albums can be viewed. Oṣó is clear in its intentions, a full-length project crafted with “philosophy & rhythm” as its driving force. It’s a natural extension of a latent trait in BrymO’s music making, a process for which the end product sounds unrushed and organic in every way possible.

If Klĭtôrĭs opened the door to a place of happiness and solace, Oṣó is BrymO adapted to his comfortable surroundings, now less bordered with personal weights, more focused on parochial concerns. The music sounds and reads like the musings of someone in an apartment on some Feng Shui shit, constantly in the type of white robe he was spotted in at Gidifest 2018, a man who greets everyone with “Namaste.”

Projecting the image of a man at peace with himself and also hypersensitive about societal ills on Oṣó, BrymO runs the risk of being condescending, but he avoids that ditch by constantly trying his best to remain in the foreground of the songs, even up to the point of self-implication. There’s a palpable reliance on intuition in his lyrics, rather than the pummeling stoicism that makes it hard to digest typically preachy songs.

Album opener “No Be Me,” addresses the innate need for humans to lay blame at each other’s feet in interpersonal relations, making ourselves look faultless even though we are far from absolved based on our own actions. In mirroring his own accusations, BrymO equally looks in as much as he looks out, especially on the 3rd verse where he admits that his “methods harsh o.” Reaching one of the album’s more gleeful points in “Money Launderers And Heartbreakers,” there’s an advocacy for us to develop friendships with people despite the less than ideal individual qualities we might perceive, especially since we’re also iterations of the song’s title at our own worst.

It’s easy to cast off BrymO’s lyrics on Oṣó as being fake woke, enough of it could’ve been pieced together from scheming through a couple of self-help/motivational books. But apart from the aforementioned conscious strive to stay in the foreground, BrymO’s authenticity is buoyed by a well-known notoriety for being unpretentious and unfiltered (it’s why tacky lyrics like “patience and good luck, dem dey close like hair and skin” work in the album’s context.)

From anointing himself the best thing to have ever happened to Nigerian music, to telling a fan who asked to for help with fees to quit school, saying what he wants when he wants, despite the flack he might catch, is BrymO’s policy. Whether you view it as strokes to soothe his egomaniacal maypole or genuinely profound thoughts, expressing himself with all honesty is BrymO’s policy.

Candid shots of BrymO’s derriere are thrown around the video for the album’s first single “Heya,” premiered on the same day Oṣó was released. Obviously anticipated by BrymO and his team, spectrum of opinions spanning from daringly artsy to incredibly stupid (because we’re in Nigeria, which plays directly into the song’s theme) trailed the video. Either way or in between, there’s little doubt that the video was a gauged move at directing its predestined virality and attention to Oṣó. On a musical level, though, “Heya” is a definite take on societal hypocrisy that distills itself into a few words; “na our ignorance dey make life hard.” The agony in his voice with each soaring “Heyaaa” only adds more twinge to the convey of disappointment.

Nothing is sugar-coated throughout the 38minutes of Oṣó, in fact, the realness to the words is colored deeper by some of BrymO’s best vocal work till date, his tenor stretching and/or quivering through songs. Unctuous vocal delivery for recondite themes could make for laborious listens, but Oṣó avoids another trap by being lightweight on the ear, easy to pay full attention to and also able to slip into background music without receding to boring territory.

Heavily assisted by vibe-centric soundscapes, conducted by go-to producer Mikky Me Joses, Oṣó is BrymO’s most Avant-garde body of work yet, further proof that cashing in on trends is the last thing on BrymO’s radar. It’s not a drastic departure from what the pair has turned out in recent years, but in a “form follows function” relationship, Oṣó offers a fresh dimension of a high functioning dynamic that continues to consolidate itself as one of the best in Nigerian music. Sonically, it is equal parts similarities and differences, balancing the art of innovation and well controlled eclectic choices within a trusted sound.

The symbiosis is evident at each turn, both BrymO and Mikky working together in ensuring every aspect of the music unfurls around each other nicely. BrymO is lyrically definitive on Oṣó, but this hermetic trait is given fluidity by how his vocals are allowed to waft and/or sprawl with relative vigor, in tandem with the loosely composite sonics.

On the cuts sung solely in Yoruba at the album’s backend, BrymO’s voice vibrates in and out of the bubbling Yoruba folk heavy productions, like the Flash phasing through walls. This is most likely a byproduct of listening to a bunch of Fuji music or having to chant the Koran as a young Muslim.

“Olanrewaju” is a glowing standout, dedicated to his son, showing a fatherhood side of BrymO we’ve not heard in song. Usually, BrymO is the youngin’ when he’s penning songs with relation to family (“Grandpa” “Dear Child”), there’s even an all too short letter to his mother (“Mama”) on Oṣó that details societal redundancy. Adorned with talking drums, swan-like strings and subtle backing vocal chants, “Olanrewaju” flips the script nicely, without losing the BrymO essence, admonishing his son in much the same way he speaks to himself (and listeners) on the spiritual predecessor “Se Bo ti Mo,” a standout selection from 2013’s MDS.

Giving advice while embellishing achievements is a cliché Nigerian parent thing (we know y’all ain’t come first every term), but experience does happen to be the best teacher. For BrymO’s son (and any other affected listeners), BrymO’s bumpy trajectory to this point of relative comfort and success is an authentic pointer that he’s walked the walk, and has enough license to talk his shit.

If you squint a little, BrymO might be the best candidate for Nigerian music’s version of Dr. Strange — magnificently turning a career facing serious threats of being cut down, by being tenacious and often flouting the rules to move his career forward and partly for his own amusement too. Dr. Strange’s powers help him move between dimensions. Oṣó is the Yoruba word for Wizard, beings that usually operate from other invisible astral planes. Attribute it to BrymO’s mystic or too much marijuana, there’s a renewed sense of enlightenment that’s prominent on Oṣó, and thankfully, he doesn’t have to sound orphic to be effective.

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