“EMEKA MUST SHINE” – Blaqbonez has a masterpiece for a Sophomore album
Blaqbonez, whose real name is Emeka Akumefule, is a Nigerian rapper, singer, and songwriter who is quickly becoming a hard-to-ignore world-wide phenomenon, with his 2021 debut album “Sex Over Love” being hailed as a “Triumph” borne out of romantic rage.
The twenty-something Nigerian has been making some huge waves in a music scene largely dominated by Americans, and with his newest album he keeps showing everyone a living proof that the African continent’s talent for rhythm is just peerless, if just largely undiscovered by international audiences.
Listen to the album here.
With 14 tracks accounted for, “Emeka Must Shine” is a statement in more ways than one. It is ambitious project that revels in the cultural context of Blaqbonez’ upbringing and the things he loves, taking the familiar flows and beats of modern hip-hop and quite literally afro-futurizing them in bold, new ways that become enticing even for those who tend to overlook Hip-Hop, and all through its healthy runtime, the album never ceases to experiment and take you on fun new avenues of sound.
“With EMEKA MUST SHINE, I aimed to create something that not only celebrates my personal journey but also showcases the immense talent and potential within Nigerian hip-hop. This album is a testament to my capabilities and the resilience and creativity of our music industry, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The moment the album opens up on “ROAD RUNNERS” (featuring Black Sherif) you can feel something truly special is brewing. From the exotic wind instruments to the eventual chanting, the song feels like it’s proposing a long and rewarding journey by stirring something deep within your chest: A sense of longing for a place you’ve never been in, a distinct certainty that better horizons await and that you are NOT alone. Of course, the song has its own meaning and it feels largely about isolation and troubles of touring and working hard in a killer industry, but both rappers convey a deep sense of spirituality and optimism for their undertaking.
Like many great rap albums, “EMEKA MUST SHINE” is not a one-man-show, and it has a healthy list of outstanding collaborators which Black Sherif, Projexx, Victony, Odumodublvck, Young Jonn, Zlatan and last, but certainly not least: The legendary Ludacris, who barks in “Cinderella girl (where You day) with his signature aggressive-but-laid-back style.
“EMEKA MUST SHINE”is in a constant state of flourishing and expanding; never does it relent with exploring new ways to exploit its instruments and samples to paint the most colorful tracks it can. Violins, Guitars, piano, bass, all have equal standing to drum machines and synths, with each track feeling richly layered masterpieces in their own right, songs you just wish you could bite into because of how flavorful they feel. With tracks like “LIKE ICE SPICE”, “NYEM EGO”, “SHINE FOREVER” you feel these genius moments of chimerical dexterity where modern rap blends together with traditional african sounds and Jazzy, afrobeat. It’s all an unrelenting attack full of creativity, passion, talent and love.
I think it’s pretty clear that “EMEKA MUST SHINE” has done what any sophomore album should aim to do, that is to overcome its predecessor and set the bar even higher for the artist, but even then, I feel like it’s accomplished something beyond just that, and though it takes many listenings to really unpack the whole album (as you’ll soon notice), I knew right away from the first time a sat through it that -as far as i’m concerned- “EMEKA MUST SHINE” is the Best Rap album of the year and definitely on my personal top ten.