As modern Nigerian pop music continues to soar on international airwaves, it won’t get more new-age than Reekado Banks, a prodigy of the global sound progression. For his debut, Reekado saunters from one track to another with the confidence of Wizkid, the spunk of Wande Coal and a youthful forward-thinking edge that has characterized Justin Beiber’s latest works. On Spotlight, he carefully unfurls a sound that is sui generis in itself, proving himself as more than just another artist Don Jazzy merely gave a platform.
Reekado Banks surfaced under the banner of Don Jazzy’s reinvented Mavin 2.0 roughly two years ago. This was a year after Wande Coal’s controversial exit from the label. For a Don Jazzy in search of a new pop star, the pressure on Reekado to shine immediately was not one many newly signed acts are encumbered with.
“I am not looking to be placed ahead of anybody, I am looking to beat myself and progress, ” Reekado Banks said in an interview with Naij.com last year. And as if to accentuate his ability to live up to expectations, the months following his Mavin unveil had the singer belting out a total of eight singles (including smash hits Sugarbaby, Chop Am and Corner, which were all excluded from Spotlight’s 18 track listing).
Hey Stranger serves as a perfect opener to support the imagery of a Spotlight, complete with lonely echoes of a nerve-racking centre stage and a chaotic mosh pit of screaming fans. Reeky guises as an estranged lover, re-introducing himself to the average Nigerian music skeptic who thinks they’ve heard it all. Similar to Adele’s Hello off her 2015 album, 25, there is both an acceptance of an end and the request for a new beginning. This nostalgic mood is perfect for a Reekado who fans tagged as a Wizkid clone in the first few months of his young career. He is self-aware about the over-familiarity of his sound to the listener, but he’s also dying to prove himself as Reekado Banks and no one else.
The greater shine for Spotlight goes to Don Jazzy’s A&R for its production. For the first time since the untimely death of MoHits, Don Jazzy has curated an album worthy of both hype and money. Though the Mavin boss supervises Turn On The Lights, the album’s greatest highlight, most of the praise goes to in-house producers Altims and Baby Fresh.
Through Spotlight, Reeky’s mostly autotuned voice becomes another instrument on their switchboard of electronic kits. Hey Stranger, the album’s monster opener, is a stripped-down and completely reworked riff of patterns from Justin Bieber’s Sorry, but Altims tweaks and layers Reekado’s breathy vocals on even sleeker EDM fused Caribbean drums. The same electronic trick is repeated on the high-life inspired Baby Oku and Move where Vanessa Mdee’s sultry delivery compliments Reekado’s playfulness like skate on ice.
Even on a minimalist Killa Whyna, Baby Fresh’s imprints on this record come with heavy bass thumps. Synths are littered across Problem and Biggy Man, then replaced with snares on All Your Love and Today. Dangote almost doesn’t work but thankfully Reekado’s sinewy vocals are there up the eventual output.
Reekado may not have proven himself as a songwriter with the poescy of Asa but his childlike charm and textbook lyricism is perfect for what he did on this album. Yoruba, English, and Igbo lyrics are indented with an edgy fusion of pidgin and Jamaican patois. And just when you’re thinking you’ve heard this before from a certain Starboy, Reekado Banks switches into a choppy hip-hop flow or a deeply emotive melody with traces of Chris Brown and Justin Bieber.
As far as debut albums go, Reekado Banks’ Spotlight delivers on the promise of great replay value expected for any pop album. The test of time, however, demands more than just catchy earworms or tired party tropes.
Spotlight has definitely put Reekado on a path of infinite possibilities, however, only his ability to make music that transcends the vestiges of its era will determine where things go from here.