22

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

The title of the new Yung L album, Better Late than Never, is its own story. Mr Marley, as he’s otherwise known, is either telling a triumphant tale or commenting on a tragedy.

For listeners who have followed his career, from his appearance on Ice Prince’s 2011 track ‘Magician’ to his own 2012 single ‘Red Rose’ to 2016’s ‘Pass the Aux’, there are maybe two major emotions: joy and perhaps relief.

A former member of GRIP Boiz, alongside Endia and J-Mulla, Yung L is himself happy and relieved. Just before the BLTN’s bonus tracks, his mum appears with a two-minute prayer that her son’s debut album succeeds, and this leads to a 10 minute stretch of recorded messages, named ‘Voice Notes’, which consists entirely of congratulatory snippets from friends and family. I want to justify this indulgence by thinking of it as elation at his finally releasing an album, but I’m also thinking: 10 whole minutes!

Better Late than Never mostly plays to Yung L’s strengths. The man excels at mid-tempo tunes, working his syllables lightly, never quite giving more or less than what is required for beats that go from reggae (what appears his main interest) to generic Nigerian pop. This ability yields two highlights on BLTN ‘Anya’ and ‘Superman’. The latter comes with a hook that is silly or sublime—or both:

Dem say me bad
Omo leave story
Dem ma ...

The title of the new Yung L album, Better Late than Never, is its own story. Mr Marley, as he’s otherwise known, is either telling a triumphant tale or commenting on a tragedy.

For listeners who have followed his career, from his appearance on Ice Prince’s 2011 track ‘Magician’ to his own 2012 single ‘Red Rose’ to 2016’s ‘Pass the Aux’, there are maybe two major emotions: joy and perhaps relief.

A former member of GRIP Boiz, alongside Endia and J-Mulla, Yung L is himself happy and relieved. Just before the BLTN’s bonus tracks, his mum appears with a two-minute prayer that her son’s debut album succeeds, and this leads to a 10 minute stretch of recorded messages, named ‘Voice Notes’, which consists entirely of congratulatory snippets from friends and family. I want to justify this indulgence by thinking of it as elation at his finally releasing an album, but I’m also thinking: 10 whole minutes!

Better Late than Never mostly plays to Yung L’s strengths. The man excels at mid-tempo tunes, working his syllables lightly, never quite giving more or less than what is required for beats that go from reggae (what appears his main interest) to generic Nigerian pop. This ability yields two highlights on BLTN ‘Anya’ and ‘Superman’. The latter comes with a hook that is silly or sublime—or both:

Dem say me bad
Omo leave story
Dem make me laugh like-a Gringory
You f**king with the star
Girl, astrology!

The lines marrying stardom with astrology sounds corny and inevitable it’s surprising Nigerian pop acts have hardly used it. And if the song gets released as a single and finds a large audience, Perhaps Yung L will be remembered as the pioneer of a pop cliché.

It is upon such unexpected turns that a star might be borne these days—as perceptible, for instance, in the delicious vocals of Wizkid, the ludicrous humour of Tekno, the versatile mystic of Burna Boy. Yung L never really shows a personality or an abiding musical quality or quirk as those acts for sustained periods, and that lyrical turn parsed above appears rarely across the BLTN. Neither do the album’s featured artists don’t do much to elevate the album.

We get the unimaginative reggae-dancehall ‘Suzzy’, a song so lazy Paedae of Ghanaian duo R2Bees, no one’s idea of a good rapper, might have recorded his verse half-asleep. Sarkodie, usually decent on Nigerian songs, will probably forget he is on ‘Pressure’. Yung L, who got signed to Chocolate City this year, is better without the Ghanaians, as his solo highlife tune ‘Pinpinida’ shows. Their inclusion is perhaps to court a foreign audience, but it is hard to see that working out with these songs. One is left to wonder if an MI Abaga verse here, an Ice Prince hook there might have been better.

As first album, Better Late than Never is a decent introduction to Yung L as a solo act, and he’ll get an even better chance to show up on singles and there will be a second album. Hopefully, that album won’t be released too late.

Share this!