11/05/2021

Empire News Africa

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REVIEW: Laycon – Shall We Begin [ALBUM]

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He commenced his 2020 EP and fourth body of work with an eponymous track and question, “Who Is Laycon?”

But these days, things have changed. Everybody knows Laycon, the pint-sized, soft-spoken and intellectually sound winner of BBNaija, who also has a large fanbase of well-wishers who live vicariously through his success. Interestingly, he dreamed and even predicted it on ‘Who Is Laycon.’

On that song, he rapped that, “Laycon is a corporate guy, suit and tie/Fits well, representing your band/Everything go well, my image HD…

At the same time, identity, success and fame came with a microscope, scrutiny, creative pressure and expectations, unlike any he’s ever faced before. Some of that is addressed on Major Banggz-produced ‘My Lane.’

He also addresses his haters on ‘And So They Spoke.’ Who is that vocalist, please?

When Laycon made Who Is Laycon, the calmness and creative freedom was apparent in his voice, such that it portrayed a man with peaceful hunger. These days, he is a star and people have certain demands of superstars, some of which are unrealistic.

A few people are also desperate to either see him fail or are desperate to cling to notions that Laycon won’t make it as an artist.

Regardless, he forges ahead with a dream and earned confidence. When he called himself a “God in a human body” on ‘Who Is Laycon,’ it felt like wishful thinking from a man who tried to replicate moments from the Hip-Hop records he’d heard over the years.

These days, a declaration like “God is me and I am him” on ‘Godbody’ seems more believable – even his tone and vocal pitch has changed.

The best thing Laycon achieves on this full-length debut album is a retention of what made him noticeable in the first place. He was never a charismatic rapper with the attractive brashness of Benny The Butcher, or even the refined personality of Drake.

He never had the lyrical dexterity of AQ, neither did he ever have the polished flows of Payper Corleone.

What has always made Laycon special is his ability to say a few things that can stick and project dreamy genuineness of a human being with dreams – not just a rapper. He waits for and finds his defining moment on songs and admits certain realities with more genuineness and less bravado than the average honest rapper.

He reinforces that genuineness in the opening seconds of his first verse on ‘Jeje’ when he raps that, “Me I’m a real calm guy, I no like to stress myself…”

He then finds his defining moment with the 14-second burst between 1:41 and 1:54 on the same song.

Some of that amiable awwwnn-esque genuineness also forms the bedrock of the Mayorkun-assisted ‘Verified,’ where Laycon flexes his social media verification, to mark his change in status even though he admits that, “Social media no be real life…

How many artists are genuine enough to create a record around something like that? Not a lot.

His flow scheme has never been the greatest, but he’s always been able to get progressively better, the longer a song goes on. This is clearly exemplified by ‘Godbody,’ a well-produced rap record where Laycon commences his album unconvincingly, only to get better as the song progresses. Ergo, he comes alive around 00:40.

…Shall We Begin… excels on a beautiful selection of beats and Laycon’s growing ability to call on star-level features. While all his features excelled and delivered, Terri was exceptional and deserving of accolades for his work on Latin-Pop-esque, ‘Jeje.’

While he reserves something for love on ‘All Over Me,’ ‘Fall For Me,’ ‘Want You Back’ and ‘Kele,’ Laycon’s music has some highly sexually-charged moments, replete with sexual innuendos and brash vivid descriptions on songs like ‘Jeje’ and the incredibly brilliant ‘Bam Bam.’

Even on the love-themed ‘Kele,’ Laycon references his dream girl’s sizeable bustline.

It’s also interesting that the highly explicit ‘Bam Bam’ is the best song on Laycon’s debut. On Telz’s avant-garde production, Laycon becomes a different person entirely – even his voice is markedly different. The brilliance of his singing reminds any old listener of Laycon’s brilliance on the sleeper hit, ‘Fierce’ featuring Reminisce and Chinko Ekun.

The quality of Laycon’s singing on ‘Bam Bam’ tempts this writer to say that Laycon owes himself and his fans a whole album where he only sings.

Sometimes, it feels like people are too focused on reconciling Laycon’s calm and personable demeanour with his boisterous lyrics, rather than simply focus on the music.

Other times, it feels like Laycon’s critics focus on their expectations of his music and what should be rather than enjoy Laycon and his music actually for what it is. It feels like Laycon’s critics would enjoy his music better if they were handed the music first before seeing a video of its maker.

Maybe some of the cynicism is understandable because it’s hard to reconcile Laycon with things like his sexually themed references on ‘Jeje’ and ‘Bam Bam,’ but it’s all still inexcusable due to the profiling that births such sentiment.

Laycon is a star and it’s only reasonable that he must have slept with his fair share of the proverbial bad bxxxhes since he left the BBNaija Lockdown.

On another topic of vanity, it was nice to hear Laycon flex the impact of his fans on ‘My Lane.’

That said, …Shall We Begin… might have its advantages and have its expansive qualities, but it’s still a safe project – sonically and stylistically.

Some might argue that this brand of execution is down to quality A&R. Some might also argue that most artists play to their strengths. Others will even say that this album is expansive enough, with records like ‘Bam Bam’ in particular and they will all be right.

Laycon’s A&R commendably understood the strengths and weaknesses of his artist. It’s so apparent that ‘Shall We Begin‘ shares a similar formula with ‘Who Is Laycon EP,’ even though the former is more expansive and experiential than the latter. It definitely isn’t a coincidence that ‘Who Is Laycon’ and ‘GodBody’ both sit at track two.

But even when ‘…Shall We Begin…’ is expansive and risque, it’s still doesn’t produce something that is entirely unexpected of Laycon. His A&R expands within Laycon’s sonic and stylistic strengths and maybe that’s why this album has good replay value.

But maybe, just maybe that is why some genuine critics might not enjoy this album as much.

Laycon isn’t Drake or Olamide, rappers who naturally make dynamic music. When you listen to Laycon, you can’t not see the downsides of his artistry, even though they don’t define him or his music.

Dynamic music, more in the line of ‘Bam Bam’ might have conveyed this album into the land of genuine excellence. It’s not a coincidence that Laycon shone on ‘Bam Bam.’

But even as this album, Laycon exceeded expectations. Maybe the time for risque music isn’t here yet. I guess we’d have to wait for Laycon’s sophomore effort.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequence: 1.4/2

Content, Penmanship and Delivery: 1.1/2

Production: 1.6/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.4/2

Execution: 1.3/2

7.0 – Victory