By Dennis Peter
The title of Kizz Daniels‘s new album, No Bad Songz, is as silly as it is an accidental marketing genius. If the title sounds like an oversize rhetoric often used by Stans of an artist on social media, that’s because it is just that, and Kizz Daniel is a prominent name that’s often tossed around when pop singers who, tellingly, have no bad song are being cited. For what it’s worth, there’s an argument for Kizz Daniel, an artist who’s been quite prolific since entering national consciousness in 2014 with his Uber-hit “Woju.” At that, the use of a compliment that cliché as an album title is blatantly unimaginative, made more puerile by adding a ‘z’ where it has no business being. On the chanced brilliant side, a title like No Bad Songz is a statement of confidence, i.e. Kizz Daniel betting on his own hype, and it also translates into an easy sell, pulling fans and sceptics who would very much like to listen, react and confirm if it’s actually worth it.
Since the album’s release last Friday, hot takes have continued to pile up, most of it centring on a seemingly overwhelming tracklist. In the internet era where everything moves at a nearly impossible speed and with drastically reduced attention spans, wading through 20 full songs is looked at as a chore. To be fair to Kizz Daniel and No Bad Songz, his well-received debut New Era also bears 20 tracks, and Nigerian pop artists are well-known to be glib with the number of songs they include on their albums—the only Nigerian pop album of 2018 with a brief tracklist that readily comes to mind is Mystro’s early year release Sugar. Also, NBS runs at just a minute shy of the hour mark, featuring short and straight to the point songs, all of which is quite acceptable if you ask me—similar to Mr Eazi‘s strategy of stuffing 37minutes of music into 15 songs on Lagos to London.
Listening to NBS requires entering without agitation, which is rather easy because right from the first note of the opening track “gods,” the album settles into a welcoming, consistent groove, so much so that, even with varying tempos, the hour of music passes by without entering laborious terrain or slipping into background music. And it works mainly because Kizz Daniel is currently more assured of his powers than he was on New Era, heavily leaning into the instincts that best suit him as a singer and songwriter, leading up to a highly enjoyable, sometimes captivating body of work.
If New Era was a splendid entrance, the Kizz Daniel on NBS is strutting around like he owns the place, where the starry-eyed nature of his aspirations on his debut is replaced by a confidence that doesn’t lead the singer into being overly self-involved. The best part is that he embodies all of this poise with a charming insouciance, inserting himself into the eclectic batch of beats almost like everything was created around him. Where pop singers with a wide base of likeability can be overbearing and bland, Kizz Daniel’s sell is in a casualness which seems to be innate, from the relative lightness of his voice to the slightly edgy, vivacious persona buried beneath, what could be assumed as, an easy-going exterior.
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The two songs bracketing NBS, both personal, are obviously its foundational tracks. On the opening track “gods,” Kizz Daniel rolls out invocations to the higher powers and thanksgiving alike, toasting his journey “from one hit wonder” to his current place of stability. While at the back end, “Tobi” reads like a near one-sided conversation with a parent or older sibling, with grounding advice to boot. Taken together, both songs inform where Kizz Daniel is as an artist, ebullient in acknowledging his star power and also collected enough to know the uncertainty of life, more so, in a chosen profession that doesn’t offer the most guarantee. It’s on this dual bed of buoyant and wistful that NBS thrives on.
A remarkable quality of Kizz Daniel’s is his ability to be self-aware without taking himself too seriously, the latter he’s showcased a couple of times via the actually funny comic skits that have trended on the internet, and it naturally translates into the breeziness of the handful of tracks hinging on some form of life lesson. In these cases, nuggets and their basis are easy to grasp, clearly non-pretentious, and are coated in melodies so sugary they might as well be trying to your rot the listener’s ears. Take immediate standout “Ja,” which uses tribal chants and heavy tribal drums as its glorious, sonic springboard, and finds Kizz Daniel rolling out a line like “too much holiness na e dey kill man pikin” with a spontaneous energy, drawing attention to both lyric and performance in equal measure. On “Oyibe,” the music is jolly, a derivative of Igbo highlife, and Kizz Daniel urges young people to “begin dey make money when you are young” without dampening the mood one bit. The previously released “No Do” seems headed for evergreen territory, pairing the message of caution with lively production that sounds like it sampled a feature song off Tales By Moonlight to memorable effect.
On the less than substantial sides, thematically, where topics revolve around the mundanities of love and lust, arguments could be made that a couple of songs should have been cut. But with each listen, the allure of each song gets clearer, mostly boiling down to the hooks. Whether you believe his hype or not, it’s impossible to deny Kizz Daniel’s ability to craft an immaculately rendered hook. Whether it’s built around a buzzword (“Tere”), an obvious title (“Somebody Dey”), or even an onomatopoeia with nursery rhyme melodic pattern (“Poko”), the hooks on NBS are undeniable earworms, often toeing the line between delightfully corny and bearably cocksure.
Beyond the multiple takes on heartfelt love, Kizz Daniel takes things to the edgy side a couple of times on NBS, and it works because he’s both shameless and aware. Late last year, Kizz Daniel got into hot water on social media following the interpretation of a lyric line from the smash hit “Yeba,” that clearly didn’t take into cognizance the importance of consent, something he’s well on his way to fixing. Over fast-paced local drums on “Madu”, Kizz Daniel follows both requests of “I want to use my money to scatter your brain” and “I want to use my *retracted* to shift your womb” with “permit me.” While on the jazzy, elegant beat produced by DJ Coublon for “Maye,” Kizz Daniel dabbles in the exigencies of transactional sex, acknowledging his own thirst as he sings “say she come for the doe/I come la ti do” without being condescending in one direction.
While Kizz Daniel’s fast and loose way with words is often times a winner, clearly influenced by the scenic and colloquial splicing ability of 2Baba and 9ice, respectively, the main low with NBS is that the verses don’t always come with the same efficacy as the hooks. There are a number of times the lyrics don’t come near the effectiveness of the melodies. But there are even more times when there’s a balance, up to the point of striking lyrical gold, like on “Ghetto,” where he deftly paints a gripping picture of an inner city within a few lines.
“Ghetto” features South African rap wunderkind Nasty C, a great collaboration that probably wouldn’t have happened had Kizz Daniel remained signed to his former label G-Worldwide. Following the sparse guest list of New Era, the sole feature being label mate Sugarboi, there were rumours that Kizz Daniel’s—then known as Kiss Daniel—contract didn’t permit him to work with anyone outside his camp. Whatever the truth is, NBS greatly benefits from the 8 vocal features, including an inspired showcase by Ghanaian lyricist Sarkodie, a dreamy verse by UK rap veteran Wretch 32, an admirable appearance by Kizz Daniel signing Philkeyz, who also delivers a handful of slaps for NBS, and an ever sparky contribution by Davido to the anthemic, pre-released single “One Ticket.”
Regardless, Kizz Daniel is the star of his own show, the features mostly accentuate the fact that he’s charting his own path with aplomb — which is what ultimately matters, silly and hyperbolic title aside.
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