Mr Eazi took over the Nigerian music industry with a barrage of hit singles. Eazi had the lighter, Juls brought the gasoline and together they lit a nationwide fire last year (Partners in arson, No? Okay). Juls’ production method of selective maximalism coupled with Eazi’s melodies was the effective recipe, it worked perfectly.
Juls’ instrumental arrangement is fluid, sparse and colorful. Juls doesn’t pack many instruments together, each is distinct and they’re all layered in a way to ensure that the artist isn’t vying for space. Juls wipes the dust off old highlife and afrobeats rhythms, intentionally slowing them to a tingling crawl while adding a perfect percussive counterpart. The resulting beats are groovy without being punchy, they seep in with ease and fitted with the right vocal melodies, an undeniable hit is what you get.
Leap of Faith, Juls’ recently released album is a brilliant case of showmanship by a producer that has played a massive role in redefining African music in recent years. Juls creates a soundscape for each artist or group of artists to thrive in while ensuring that the project retains cohesion. The album cuts across mid-tempo pop, dancehall, contemporary R&B and Jazz-rap while retaining an innate African feel throughout – a perfect example of afro-fusion.
Perhaps the most interesting song on the project in terms of sonics is ‘Temperature Rising‘ which features Kojey Radical. The cut is the perfect template of what afro jazz-rap should sound like. Considering Juls’ penchant for creating sing-along afro-pop sounds, ‘Temperature Rising‘ is quite surprising and equally pleasant. Local drums and piercing horns create the sparse terrain and intermittent DJ scratches add more emphasis on the rap feel. Kojey’s voice is given enough room to boom out as he narrates meeting a girl at the bar and subsequently wooing her.
The last single leading to the album’s release, ‘Early’ features Nonso Amadi and Maleekberry. Steel staccato piano underlay and soft hitting tribal drums set the mood for Nonso and Maleekberry to sing to their lovers. The following track and first single, ‘Give You Love‘ which features uncredited vocals by L.A.X is hella groovy, the type of song you can lose your shit to in varying degrees. Tightly plucked guitars, saxophone stabs and snappy percussions create an infectious groove and L.A.X doesn’t slack with his vocals.
Leap Of Faith takes a slower approach on its back half, but still retains every bit of its charm. Santi infuses some ragga feel back to back on ‘After Six‘ and ‘Coco’. The former also features Tomi Agape while the latter also features Odunsi who also drops an impressive feature on the quirky opener, ‘My Wave‘. ‘After Six‘ and ‘Coco’ are both slow burners, with cloudy keys driving them. Soft, slow drums accompany the keys on the former while the local drums on ‘Coco‘ are faster.
‘Mi Luv It‘ and ‘Bad‘ delve into slow whine dancehall. The latter is loud but sparse, basically a dominant xylophone riff accompanied by low volume steel percussion. ‘Mi Luv It‘ is held up by mid tempo drums and a lean guitar that is often supported by other guitars to add extra hue. The album is closed off with ‘Eji Owuro‘ which features Moelogo. The mood is set by an acoustic guitar and slow sappy drums while Moelogo paints the picture of his ideal woman and their ensuing love scenarios.
The only smudge on Leap Of Faith is jaded songwriting. Every song is about love or lust, making it a one-dimensional affair in terms of its lyrics. Stellar production keeps the album’s revolution about the same topics from sounding trite. Juls and his band of collaborators excel with Leap Of Faith, an album that will pick you up and make you feel like you’re levitating for its 39mins runtime.
Writer’s Rating: 3.8/5
Words by Dennis, aka Groovy Dennis, aka @ayo_dennis.