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Dami Ajayi

This year the Supreme Mavin Dynasty is firing full throttle. Or how else do we check the back-to-back sonic releases from the artistes on their roster? A few weeks ago, Korede Bello’s Belloved album was released to both cyber and physical fanfare. Now a surprise Extended Play album by one of their latest signees, Iyanya, has slipped into our laps.

The album title got me wondering if there is actually such a thing as ‘the Iyanya signature’. Of course Don Jazzy’s signature is something different (not contentious) but since Mavin Records diversified with additional sounds from Producers Altims and Babyfresh, their albums no longer exclusively bear Don Jazzy’s insignia (a more delightful word than signature).

Let’s back up a bit to Iyanya’s signature. Since spotlight found him at the inaugural MTN Project Fame, Iyanya has switched his style at least twice. In an attempt to tune himself into the Mainstream, he abandoned soulful singing, switching up his tempo and instigating dance. At the height of his success as a dance musician, the jury was still out on his exact style of music. Was he doing a Highlife-motivated Makossa or a Soukous-inspired Highlife? Whatever his sound was, it made for sinuous and sultry hip gyrations. On his sophomore album, he name-checked his woman on a dance song—Yvonne Nelson, I have your medicine—and we danced. On his third album, the clarity o ...

This year the Supreme Mavin Dynasty is firing full throttle. Or how else do we check the back-to-back sonic releases from the artistes on their roster? A few weeks ago, Korede Bello’s Belloved album was released to both cyber and physical fanfare. Now a surprise Extended Play album by one of their latest signees, Iyanya, has slipped into our laps.

The album title got me wondering if there is actually such a thing as ‘the Iyanya signature’. Of course Don Jazzy’s signature is something different (not contentious) but since Mavin Records diversified with additional sounds from Producers Altims and Babyfresh, their albums no longer exclusively bear Don Jazzy’s insignia (a more delightful word than signature).

Let’s back up a bit to Iyanya’s signature. Since spotlight found him at the inaugural MTN Project Fame, Iyanya has switched his style at least twice. In an attempt to tune himself into the Mainstream, he abandoned soulful singing, switching up his tempo and instigating dance. At the height of his success as a dance musician, the jury was still out on his exact style of music. Was he doing a Highlife-motivated Makossa or a Soukous-inspired Highlife? Whatever his sound was, it made for sinuous and sultry hip gyrations. On his sophomore album, he name-checked his woman on a dance song—Yvonne Nelson, I have your medicine—and we danced. On his third album, the clarity of his sound was still in question: a little bit here, a little bit there, but thankfully Iyanya’s creative crisis hasn’t happened.

What happened was that he eased himself out of his former label/management, Made Men Group, rolling his waist Mavin-wards. Releasing an EP less than six months after the announcement affirms that the Mavin crew is happy to have Iyanya’s signature in their contract. So far, switching record labels for Iyanya has not been a call to switch style, technique or appeal.

Signature is popular music fodder. It sounds exactly like what is played on the radio and in the club; that reiterative mid-tempo music whose Afrobeats label we loathe but quote. On a song like Nobody Has to Know, Iyanya croons out bedroom trap music, something that brings The Weeknd and Future to mind. The music is sickly familiar and visual and synthaestic while being undoubtedly vulgar.

It is almost impossible to reconcile the fact that an introspective melancholic song like Not Forgotten is just a song away. Not Forgotten decants intimate experiences about Iyanya’s mother’s passing and is easily the most emotionally charged moment of the album. With emotions strewing everywhere, Poe, the only rapper featured on this project, could hardly handle things. His verse is near mawkish if not pitiful.

Having dealt with the sexually ludicrous song on the one hand and the most emotionally charged on the other, the rest of the album lobs in the realm of well-behaved Afrobeats songs. There are brilliant moments in Baby Answer and Odoyewu anchored to the pleasurable plucking of acoustic guitars while the bass line of Bow for You is reminiscent of KC’s Pullover.

Hold on, with an even-tempered melody, is a soothing song for the heart-broken. Quite importantly, this song fills the room with love and still mildly suggests itself for slow dance. Perhaps it will also fill the heart with rebound emotions but this reviewer is no forensic psychologist.

Perhaps this is Iyanya’s signature: the ability to deliver a love song that energises the body to slow dance or head-bobbing at the barest minimum. Iyanya’s Signature is only eight songs; twelve songs short of a full range sonic immersion. The charge of a dutiful fan is for Iyanya to make a LP album and if a fan may reach further in his expectations, Iyanya still owes himself and the world a low-tempo artful album of love songs.

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