By Ayomide Tayo
Album: Jagz Nation Vol. 2: The Royal Niger Company
Artiste: Jesse Jagz
Guest Appearances: Tesh Carter, Chaka Khan, Fela Kuti, Show Dem Camp, 2Pac, Rexx, Jumar, DUGOD, Sarah Mitaru
Producers: Jesse Jagz
Record Label: Jagz Nation (2014)
Duration: 1 Hour, 5 Minutes
Jesse Jagz Might Just Be the Greatest After All.
After Jesse Jagz’s brilliant outing on Jagz Nation Vol. 1: Thy Nation Come, the former Choc City act has released another body of work, four months shy of his sophomore’s one-year anniversary. Jesse Abaga is a multi-talented artiste. Instead of exploring his new found love for Rastafarian music, M.I’s younger brother drops his Haile Selassie styled music for some good ol’ rap tracks. Within the space of four years, Jesse has moved from pop, to reggae/dancehall, and now rap.
His third effort Jagz Nation Vol. 2: The Royal Niger Company is a rap fest comprised of 11 tracks. For those who don’t necessarily like rap music, Jesse’s latest offering might be hard to swallow, but for the rap heads this is a premium rap dish.
The body of work starts with the track called ‘Louis’ loosely inspired the accomplishments of legendary boxer Joe Louis. On the third verse Jesse takes jabs as he spits ‘…waiting for the fake actors to show/my rhymes will detect any character flaw/so before all the cameras, all/I Antonio Banderas y’all/f*ck it- Jesse Jagz has been evil/ click-clack/pitch black, it’s been Vin Diesel’. With a steady beat that has an illuminating vibe, he sings about finding the inner lion in one’s self. It’s a mix of his rap style and Rastafarian style – the lean rap influence is stronger though.
Rufus and Chaka Khan’s classic ‘Ain’t Nobody’ gets sampled Jesse style on the next track titled Jargo (Ain’t Nobody) featuring Tesh Carter. Jesse continues his lyrical exercise on the song as he raps about the dynamic of a troubled relationship. ‘She ain’t going to find a love like me. She ain’t going to find a thug like me’, he declares on the first few bars of the song. Jesse slows things down on the third track, the calming ‘Oceans and Lakes’ featuring Kenyan act Sarah Mitaru and DUGOD.
Being the only practicing Apostle of Loopy Bars, Jesse Jagz goes hard on the popular J Town style of rapping on ‘Sunshine’ featuring Fela Kuti. ‘Shorty you don’t wanna see me start/steady writing in my room like J.P Clark/found a light in my pen, when the day be dark/f&ck with my art, and dearly depart’, flips Jesse over an instrumental that samples a popular riff from Fela Kuti. It’s a funky and jazzy affair on ‘The Search (Radio)’ featuring Jumar and DUGOD. Jesse Jagz shows how truly versatile he is on this song. He blends Hip Hop and Jazz expertly well to make this cut one of the standouts of the entire project. It’s an easy going song best played on Saturday evenings.
On the next track ‘Supply & Demand’, Jesse goes East Coast circa 1995. The song sounds so concrete and grimy with Jesse’s New York flow pounding the instrumental. Even the hook feels two decades old. Old lovers of rap would surely love this throwback from Jesse especially when he states ‘the whole industry is trying to resist change…’. The album takes sharp detour on ‘High-Life’ featuring Rexx. We are already used to Jesse being the rebel and not the conformist, so it sounds kind of odd when he tries to be a part of the contemporary highlife movement. It is a good song no doubt, but the song feels out of place on this album.
Jagz Nation Vol. 2: The Royal Niger Company is a near-perfect album for lovers of Hip-Hop. On ‘Sunrise (Shine On)’, Jesse samples dialogue from the number one movie of the Hip-Hop generation Scarface. ‘So Biggie, so Pac, and it’s so Jigga/and his flow is so sicker/you hear nine ni**a/my squad is on a flip mode ni**a- Rah Digga’, spits Jesse on the sparkling song. As a rapper Jesse is ahead of his peers. He takes the solid Show Dem Camp to the cleaners on ‘The Case’. Ghost and Tec’s verses are strong, but Jesse’s rhyme structure and delivery is just something else. A cock crowing and horns welcome you to ‘The Window’ featuring Jumar which has Jesse pondering- ‘open up my window and stare/Are you here or are you there?/ Can you hear?/ Can you see me?/ Can you tell me you care?’.
The album ends with ‘How We Do’ featuring Tupac – another menacing beat that allows Jesse flaunt his rap skills. On this album it feels like Jesse has a chip on his shoulder, and he is trying to prove he can rap. His hard work is not in vain, as this project proves he is one of Nigeria’s purest rappers.
On his last album Jesse accommodated bits of commercialism in his music. The Royal Niger Company is so different. It is a rap album that doesn’t seek the approval of radio or Alaba. It was made with the intent to please hard rap lovers. Because of this, the album has no ‘wow’ moments that can make it a chart success. The entire album feels so laidback compared to Thy Nation Come’s ‘high’ feel. Royal Niger Company is an album for rap fans to chill and relax to, and it is a project that makes us truly wonder if Jesse Jagz isn’t truly the greatest.