The city of Port Harcourt stood still on the 26th of November, 2011 at Tunnel’s Bar and Lounge, GRA Port Harcourt. It was the occasion of the album listening party of FL, the self-styled “Zagaza Master”. The album, entitled Make Way was released that day by Zagaza Records while Tunnel’s Bar and Lounge honoured the fast growing artiste by unveiling his picture at the club, and ultimately naming a corner of the club “The FL-Zagaza corner”. It was an event that saw solid performances from such renowned artistes as Mallam Spicey; Chakka Da Souljah(Hip-hop World Award nominee for Best dancehall album, 2009); 4tune,Michie, Oba Omega among others.
It would not be premature to say that FL (the Zagaza master) is already a force to reckon with in the Nigerian music industry. This is basically because of the versatile nature of his works and the tremendous acceptance which his works have received within a short period. The album Make Way eloquently testifies to this.
In the songs “Eluwa Nkea”(an adaptation of Sir Warrior’s song of the same title); “Lalalalolo” and “Iwoni”, FL shows a deep grounding in the tenets of what one may call hip-life. Hip-life as we use it here refers to the blend of hip hop with the traditional style of the hi-life popularized basically by Sir Warrior and others of his ilk. The difference with the hi-life style and what FL does with these songs however is mainly that he brought his large hip hop experience to bear thus creating a unique brand of music that cuts across the tastes of both the young and the old. A position that would quickly endear him to all ages of music lovers in Nigeria.
Significantly, FL also comes across as an artiste who is socially responsible. By social responsibility here, we mean his awareness of the social situations in the country and his readiness to use his music as a means of addressing some of these issues. Interestingly, he does not place the blame on the government but rather points his finger at “us”. In “Some people bad”, FL laments the perennial presence of people who focus primarily on bringing about other people’s downfall for no just cause. He laments “no matter what you do! No matter how you try, some people bad ooo, say they bad ooo”.
However, in “Wetin I no know” which he did with M-Kaze, FL consoles us all by saying “Wetin I no know,e no go kill me oo,I dey hustle today, for a better tomorrow”. Deeply embedded in the song is his admonition that we should all be chaste and keep our hands clean. For if we do this, no matter how hard the “…people[wey]bad” try, “wetin[we]no know, no go kill [us]”. He further admonishes that in the quest to make money, we should all take it easy because the slow and the steady wins the race. This is aptly captured in the song “Nwayo Nwayo” which he did in collaboration with Ghanaian top artiste Tinny, and Nigerian rapper Slow Dogg.
Hip hop has always exhibited that aspect of it that shows the “flash and the women”(the cash n thangz). Apparently, it is part of hip-hop culture to talk about the money, the women and the general life of leisure that come with the celebrity status. While many see this as the negative aspect of hip-hop, for those who have made out time to engage in in-depth analysis of hip-hop, it is evident that the rags-to-riches and the I-got-money motifs in hip-hop somehow function as means of encouraging the young to strive for a better life. In FL’s Make Way album, these hip-hop motifs are also evident in such songs as “Wine am go down”; “Money in the bank” “You See” and “Alabista”.
One other very important thing about FL’s album is the fact that the album features collaborations with not only Nigerian artistes, but also artistes from other West African countries. Artistes such as Tinny(Ghana), and ZBanje(Liberia). Even in Nigeria, there were collaborations with Igbo and Yoruba artistes, while FL himself sang a part of the track “Alabista” in Hausa. The significance of this lies mainly in the fact that the album could be said to be a truly “West African album” especially in terms of the different cultures that have been brought to bear on the album. Language as many sociologists would avow remains a strong carrier of culture. In the Make Way album, one notices a convergence of many West African languages.
With hit tracks such as “My Heart Beat”(which displays one of the best instrumentals in Nigerian music so far); “Zagaza”, “Alomo Bitter”, FL’s Make Way album effectively nestles into the secluded group of efficient first solo albums in Nigeria. Only Tuface Idibia in his Face2Face album(his debut solo album) and Timaya in his Dem Mama album are the only other Nigerian artistes who had accomplished this feat of having a debut album where all the songs are relevant and interesting. On the 26th of November, 2011, FL joined this clique.
It is safe to say that for FL the Zagaza Master, the journey has indeed only just begun.