By Ayomide Tayo
Album- Jagz Nation Vol. 1, Thy Nation Come
Artist- Jesse Jagz
Guest Appearances- Lindsey, Brymo, Wizkid, 9ice,
Producers- Jesse Jagz, Kid Konnect, Samklef, Shady, Phaze Hop and Guilty Beatz
Record Label- Jagz Nation (2013)
Jesse Jagz might have just produced the album of the year.
The last few years haven’t been kind to Jesse Ibn Abaga. The larger than life personality of his big brother M.I, his debut album Jagz Of All Trades (2010) mired in label politics and the astonishing growth of his former protégé’s career Ice Prince all but relegated the man who was once touted as ‘the greatest’ to the background. This trifecta stalled Jesse’s earlier promising career. It wasn’t much of a surprise then that he left Chocolate City this year and established his vanity imprint Jagz Nation.
On Jagz Nation Vol. 1, Thy Nation Come, Jesse Jagz now presents himself as an anti-pop hero and mainstream music rebel. Listening to his sophomore set, you wouldn’t know Jesse Abaga was the genius behind crowd pleasers such as ‘Wetin Dey’ and ‘Jago’. He has shed his populist skin and is now wearing a new toga that is a tapestry of ‘Loopy bars’* and reggae music. There were fears that Jesse Jagz might go all Snoop Lion and get lost in the hazy firmaments of Zion. The instantaneous positive reaction his ‘Redemption’ single attracted online tempered these early fears. Jesse is using Rastafarianism to push his art and not his brand.
‘Jah protect me when the evil man come and me don’t have a gun‘ wails Jesse on the oriental influenced ‘Desire.’ After the guitar riff at the middle of the track he sings ‘everyman will runaway, if day never came and no sun again and we only got the moon to stay.’
Jesse has inherited the evil foreboding of Babylon and the divine protection provided by Jah to the sons of Zion. This philosophy is portrayed best on ‘Redemption’. The genuine lead single off this album with its haunting flute and bells underlines the eternal war between Babylon and Zion. Jesse Jagz is victorious in his daily battles with the forces of darkness which he tells Ras Tafari- ‘Haile Selassie hear me I/been seeking your face and daily I/conquering Babylon Israeli style/revolutionary soldier moving steady I.‘
All this Rastafarian talk leads to an obligatory ode to the sticky icky green- marijuana. ‘Burning Bush’ and ‘Sativa’ are the two tracks dedicated to the world’s most popular herb. The former is an awe-inspiring track while Sativa is a skippable track lost in weed and Zionism.
Jesse’s flesh gives in and he comes up with tracks about carnal desires. Even though ‘Where You At’ is filled with the tiring ‘go low’ phrase, it is a nice flip from Jesse Jagz which hints at his versatility. ‘Mamacita’ is divided into two parts- the obligatory ‘whine slow’ section followed by Jesse flipping rhymes that are far from sexual. The bizarre connection works. Corny lines haunt Jesse on ‘Sex and Scotch’. When he says ‘Me wan make am drip and drop/she make it tick and tock/I make her sit on top/I make her body whine like a clock’ you feel embarrassed. These lines might only work if you are horny and drunk – and maybe that is how Jesse intends for you to hear it?
Jargo’s finest hour comes when he is rapping. He goes on lyrical exercises on ‘Steady Going’ and ‘Pedal to the Floor.’ Rappers calling themselves gods have been the trend this year with Kanye West’s track ‘I Am A God’ on the abominable Yeezus and Jay-Z branding himself (again) as some sort of god on his latest effort Magna Carta Holy Grail. It is not surprising that Jesse Jagz takes the same route on a song called ‘God on the Mic’. There are too many quotable lines on this jaw dropping song but his opening bars take the cake. ‘Hurled from the sky like a discus/a god has fallen from Olympus/dethroned from high/thrown from the sky…formed from the remnants of Optimus Prime/in the darkness words formed in his mind-blind/double edged sword state of rhyme.’ Cue standing ovation!
The holy trio of hook stars, Wizkid, Brymo and 9ice appear on the album. Jesse Jagz uses them as guests and not the driving force. Brymo gives a simple but endearing hook on ‘After Party’ and Wizzy drops arguably his most lyrical chorus on ‘Bad Girl’. Many have written Adigun off thanks to his underwhelming albums after the near classic Gongo Aso in 2008. On ‘Jargo’ he rolls back the years and gives one of his best hooks till date. This only proves that when 9ice decides to work with a solid producer he will be back in contention.
Evolution is rare in music. Many acts have tried to move to a higher realm only to fall back down to earth with a resounding thud.
There are exceptions to the rule and Jesse Jagz is one of them. Jesse Ibn Abaga has found the spark that deserted him on his debut. It’s too early to speak about a classic but it is never too early to speak about greatness and this album is great. It is bold, refreshing, challenging, illuminating and genius. With Jagz Nation Vol. 1, Thy Nation Come Jesse Jagz might just be Nigeria’s most multi-talented act that is if he isn’t already.
Rating- 4.3/ 5
*Loopy Bars- Term used by M.I and Jesse’s fans to describe their sleek and sharp style of rapping which they used during their underground days and early professional years. It is named after M.I’s Loopy Records.