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Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

Fans of African pop music may not realise it, but they owe Juls a debt of gratitude.

As banker and part-time DJ/producer working in London, Juls had made a few songs, serviceable ones but nothing earth-shaking. One day his girlfriend suggested a reduction in the tempo of his productions. This advice along with meeting Mr Eazi might have changed his life, but it certainly has changed African pop. A few years ago, a hit song as near-sedate as any of the Mr Eazi singles or Runtown's 'Mad Over You' was unthinkable. Working with Mr Eazi, Juls made club hits out of mellow music. And today, it is possible that around 4259 artists are asking some hapless producer for a version of the Juls-Eazi thing.

It is for this reason that Mr Eazi's absence on Juls's remarkable first album, Leap of Faith, is noteworthy. Nonetheless Juls retains his mellow magic. Curating the vocals of other acts, he gets close to the heights reached with his former Nigerian sidekick. And on the album, it is mostly Nigerian collaborations standing out. With Maleek Berry and Nonso, Juls produces early highlight 'Early'. Like most of the songs in the Juls oeuvre, 'Early' will find application both in clubs and privately.

‘Give You Love’, an older song, retains its capacity for excitement. Horns on the song work like talking drums, attaining a percussive quality in snatches. LAX, formerly of StarBoy, supplies grav ...

Fans of African pop music may not realise it, but they owe Juls a debt of gratitude.

As banker and part-time DJ/producer working in London, Juls had made a few songs, serviceable ones but nothing earth-shaking. One day his girlfriend suggested a reduction in the tempo of his productions. This advice along with meeting Mr Eazi might have changed his life, but it certainly has changed African pop. A few years ago, a hit song as near-sedate as any of the Mr Eazi singles or Runtown’s ‘Mad Over You’ was unthinkable. Working with Mr Eazi, Juls made club hits out of mellow music. And today, it is possible that around 4259 artists are asking some hapless producer for a version of the Juls-Eazi thing.

It is for this reason that Mr Eazi’s absence on Juls’s remarkable first album, Leap of Faith, is noteworthy. Nonetheless Juls retains his mellow magic. Curating the vocals of other acts, he gets close to the heights reached with his former Nigerian sidekick. And on the album, it is mostly Nigerian collaborations standing out. With Maleek Berry and Nonso, Juls produces early highlight ‘Early’. Like most of the songs in the Juls oeuvre, ‘Early’ will find application both in clubs and privately.

‘Give You Love’, an older song, retains its capacity for excitement. Horns on the song work like talking drums, attaining a percussive quality in snatches. LAX, formerly of StarBoy, supplies gravelly vocals in the key of fuji, working a subtly Ghanaian highlife production well. It may be this easy blending of sounds from both countries that has led successive generations of Nigerian musicians to Ghana for pilgrimage and pilfering. It is only a little compensatory that this time the album in which this blend has happened is by a Ghanaian.

As with Juls, the Ghanaian acts on the album are mostly based in London. A lot of these acts are known to lay vocals on rough beats, but presented with the smooth sounds of Juls, they deliver but not more than necessary. They seem aware that this isn’t their project to shine. As the album’s focus is romance—a two-part skit has a lady talk her ideas of love—there is no chance for the violent lyrics inspired by London gang culture that colours some of their own songs. Leap of Faith hardly suffers for this, though you might crave some thematic variation over its nine tracks and 35 minutes. The album’s main drawback is predictable: It has very few lines you might want to hear again. It is a producer’s project, after all.

Even as the emphasis is on beats, melody and vibe, the album has the one song where production is passenger. ‘Temperature’, featuring the London based Ghanaian poet-musician Kojey Radical, has rap in the style of spoken-word poetry. As always with this style, there is no chance of words slipping under the beat, going unrecognised. At first, it is a bit of a curious approach for Juls who demonstrates throughout Leap of Faith that his beats come first. But it is soon clear that on this one song, Juls is working a different conceit: Why fear being upstaged on your own song, when you have shaped—and perhaps created—an entire strain of pop music?

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