Over two years after releasing his last set of double albums, 9ice returns with another pair of discs, this time entitled ‘C.N.N’ and ‘G.R.A’. Coming at a period of professional upheaval for the artiste who with ‘Gongo Aso’ in 2008 had the biggest song in the country, ‘C.N.N’ isn’t exactly the nail in the coffin some critics have tagged it.
But much to the chagrin of 9ice’s long suffering army of defenders, ‘C.N.N’ – short for ‘Cancelling Numerous Negativity’ – isn’t the return to form they had hoped it would be.The 9ice conundrum is at once, simple and complex. He became a national superstar with a song that by some twist of fate became a wildly successful party anthem. But ‘Gongo Aso’ was more than that. It was the result of the remarkable chemistry between a young, struggling artiste on the edge of stardom and his soul mate producer. It was a heartfelt, brilliant state of mind address that blew up beyond anyone’s expectations. It became his crowning glory. As well as his albatross. It became that one song by which every other 9ice single would be compared with. Ditto the album.
But 9ice has moved on from ‘Gongo Aso’ and it is important that the rest of the music loving community moves on with him so that, maybe, his subsequent fare can find softer landing. The knee jerk reaction every time 9ice releases an album is to compare the record with ‘Gongo Aso’, and then dismiss the record before it even has a chance to blossom.
Which is a shame. While it is clear that many of his strongest critics really mean no harm and just want to be dazzled once again by the brilliance shown earlier in his career, their disillusionment is making them blind to the fact that 9ice has been one of the most reliable acts of his generation; steadily and quietly amassing an impressive body of work.
Yes, he is not the artiste he was in 2009; yes, his voice is not exactly in its prime; yes, the likes of Olamide and Reminisce have taken over a large swath of his listeners and, yes, ‘C.N.N/G.R.A’ are just below ‘Bashorun Gaa’ and steps above ‘Versus’ on his scale of best to worst albums but truth is the records are miles ahead of most of whatever is out there presently. 9ice is no singles’ artiste and folks looking for the next club banger would do well to check out the next Olamide album.
9ice aims for a more discerning audience and appeals to a certain genre of fans. At this point, he is really making music for them as opposed to going after new listeners. He just needs to package this career much more coherently.
There is some good stuff on ‘C.N.N’. The opener, ‘Life Drama’, is reflective and one of the better-produced songs on the album. 9ice croaks about different people going through issues peculiar to their station in life. He sends up his own issues with the lines, ‘my industry drama/no club song you no go popular’. On the defiant, ‘I Insist’, he queries; ‘na you wan tell me which song to sing/na you go tell me which producer I go use’, before launching into a diatribe about sticking to his guns.
9ice writes lyrics about tough luck, mystical happenings and the mundane day-to-day happenings and as a result some of his best work is recorded in his Yoruba dialect. The production on ‘Aje’ is mysterious and brooding as he takes a trip down memory lane. ‘Gbona Lokan Mi’ is a contemplative love song and ‘Ara Yin’ is directed at the haters/critics. These days, they are regarded as one and the same.
The party people may stay for some songs like ‘Last Bust Stop’, and ‘Palongo’ with Olamide but even these are mid-tempo ditties that feel forced. 9ice revisits an Ebenezer Obey classic on ‘Olomi’ and even though, the result is an instant album highlight, with the hot guitar and live instrumentation, it does not quite come close to matching the magic of the original. The Shina Peters’ remake ‘7even’ fares even worse.
‘C.N.N’ is a low key, understated effort from an artiste who isn’t particularly interested in burning up the charts or lighting up top 10 radio. 9ice has found his niche and clearly wants to burrow in it.