I’d consider searching for new music on the internet as being parallel to the highly addictive gameplay of Temple Run, especially in this digital era where music sharing is as easy as snapping fingers. Anyone with an internet connection can put music up, sorting through them is a perpetual task but I’m addicted to it. Obviously, not every song or artist I come across is dope but finding a really good song/artist is the goal, like finding a gem on Temple Run. What gives me more joy though, is sharing these artists and their music with those who haven’t heard of them.
I came across UK-based Nigerian artist AYLØ, when his collaboration with Odunsi (another amazing talent), ‘Situationship’ was making the rounds across Naija blogs late last year. Apart from his impressive breezy contribution to that track, I was also intrigued by the Ø that ended his name, a small but interesting detail (Sidebar: his name is in all caps). I can’t remember why I didn’t immediately find and go through his solo work but when I eventually did earlier this year, it turned out to be rewarding.
A couple of weeks ago, I listened to AYLØ’s Honest Conversations EP for the first time. The project is a collection of five crisp and visceral songs, the type of ear candy fit for serene environments where you can get lost in the words and vibes. A refreshing mix of Neo-soul, contemporary R&B, light shades of Neo-Funk and Hip-Hop, the EP is totally different from the music being thrown at consumers by the Nigerian music industry machine. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve played the EP front to back, each listen as satisfying as the first time.
The lyrics on Honest Conversations are either sung or rapped, and both modes of deliveries are done with light fervor by AYLØ and his collaborators. While rapping, the boom in AYLØ’s voice is matched by an ethereal bounce which makes fixating on his words easy. As a singer, AYLØ doesn’t have the most disarming falsetto or a high pitch voice that would knock the air out your chest, what he does have is the ability to moonwalk majestically into his songs and float over any production without losing your attention.
As for words, AYLØ is less of a hurler and more of a slinger with a purpose which ensures that the words convey their intended messages. A very poignant example is the simplistic ‘Melanin’, an ode to black women and their relational struggles using skin colour as the title. In the age of social media where black beauty is mostly portrayed as nude and oiled up, ‘Melanin’ sees black women not as objects to be overly sexualized but as beings to be adored and afforded utmost affection. Sutè’s slow burn production accentuates AYLØ’s singing and rapping nicely.
My personal favorite off the project is the intro cut, ‘Dreaming’ which features Livia Banks and a chilly verse by Mafeni (Editor’s Note: Mafeni’s contribution wasn’t acknowledged earlier). Self-produced by AYLØ, the song contains auspicious keys, soft throbbing hi-hats, hitting trap drums and shimmering bass guitar riffs. The track sets the tone for the wavey vibe of Honest Conversations and it is the most inward looking track of the EP. ‘Island Girl’ brings some comic relief with a hilarious opening skit, the midpoint cut which features vocals by King Zamir and Odunsi and production by Le Mav is a potential anthem for the ‘I can do better than your last ain’t shit man’ guys, which is most guys. EP closer ‘Circles’ is a brisk brag track juxtaposed by the LunDun-sung hook which laments vanity and misdirection and also features an applause worthy verse by bARELYaNYhOOK.
Honest Conversations is a cohesive project that presents AYLØ as an intriguing artist. A run through his SoundCloud account shows that he’s been working on his craft for a while; the loosies see him dabbling with various sounds all to satisfying results. His latest effort, ‘Still.’ featuring AZiff enters electronic music territory while retaining the essence of his self-anointed ‘Soul fusionist’ sound. My personal favorite and the most played song on his account ‘Fusion’ uses afro-soul to convey his message. It laments the lack of originality in the music industry over cascading percussions, mellow saxophone and scratchy psychedelic electric guitar.
Imagine if Fela turned his ire to the music industry and tamped down the stankness of his music, you get ‘Fusion’. It might sound like a far reach but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. AYLØ admits to Fela’s influence on the track (Via J. Cole’s ‘Let Nas Down’ which samples Fela’s ‘Gentleman’) in an interview with Lucid Lemons. During this same interview, AYLØ lists a plethora of musical influences including Soulection, IAMNOBODI, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Erykah Badu amongst others.
Although AYLØ already sounds refined as an artist, his forays into different sounds is proof that he’s pushing beyond the boundaries of conventional art on this side of the globe which sounds enticing to the music fanboy in me. I’m here and all ears for AYLØ’s music. Listen to his music on SoundCloud, you can also purchase Honest Conversations here.
Images retrieved from AYLØ’s Instagram account.
Words by Peter Adedotun Dennis, aka AYØ (@ayo_dennis).