There are few artists who rose to prominence around a decade ago and have retained their level of consistency in the game till date. A-Q is one of the very lucky ones, from being regarded as the industry rabble-rouser to growing his street cred and body of work judiciously over the years, the Surulere-bred MC has finally found himself and is making music on his own terms. That’s why on his fourth studio album, A-Q can count his blessings as he surely is Blessed Forever.
The rapper – whose last album Rose was critically-acclaimed – aims to create a masterpiece that not just establishes his artistic brilliance but also convinces the Nigerian mainstream audience that he is a far more interesting artist than his penchant for controversies portrays. So how well did he fare?
Blessed Forever, which is almost entirely produced by A-Q’s long term friend and partner Beats by Jayy, is an 11 track album creatively scripted in form of a dramatic work and covers four stages of his experiences.
Act 1: The Beginning
The album titled track, Blessed Forever, is the opening scene. As the curtains are raised, it reveals the albums first feature in Goodgirl LA. The soulful singer delivered an enchanting hook that makes you feel like going to church at the end of the track. On this joint, A-Q is all about being grateful.
Every battle is won, he made me number one,
Nigeria’s greatest rapper, you put me in the front
There are few ways better to kick off a project and this turned out to be the perfect opening scene.
Act 2: The Vibe
A-Q describes this act as “The Vibe” unveils three songs: “No Problem” ft Yoye, “Criminality” and “Lekki Expressway” with Wavy The Creator. Like the tag suggests, these are songs music lovers can easily vibe with. On the E-Twinz-produced “Criminality “which sees Goodgirl LA providing vocal support again, A-Q shows a side of his music that a lot of his fans have come to admire over the length of his career – his ability to infuse real life situations into his lyrics. A-Q throws shots at almost every sector in the nation, from the banks to religious leaders, to the VIO to police officers, as he self-examines different ways by which every man is trying to outsmart the other, in a bid to get ahead in life.
The reality is that we all criminals
We try to add the fact that make it minimal
But can I explain before y’all kill me now
There is also a twinge of Afrobeat to this which further embellishes the track, even though I felt the hook could have been better.
“Lekki Express Way” sees house music get shine time as A-Q employ the services of one of the new talents in Wavy the Creator. The joint has that bouncy flow with the beat perfectly suited for A-Q’s type of delivery and he did justice to it. Wavy put in an A1 performance with her hook, this is one of those songs that should be on repeat as you drive through Lekki on a Sunday afternoon with your head bumping to the beat nonstop.
Act 3: The Pain
The album shifts to “Act 3, The Pain”, this part of the album witnesses more introspective scenarios being brought to life. Starting with “AS+AS (Genotype)”, A-Q captures images through his storytelling which is deeply-rooted in consciousness, as alongside Ric Hassani, he touches on the subject of genotype that has ruined many homes, and how even in love, one should not lose sight of the realities of our decisions.
For an album that features a number of acts, “Made by Voice Only” is arguably the album’s finest collaboration, as the Music Mash Group brought some magic. The track sees A-Q bring back his controversial side as he throws shade at industry contemporaries like Vector and Modenine, whilst also offering apologies to every foot he ever stepped one. The 2nd verse is also one of the standout verses on the project as Q brags
Whether it’s Mavins or Choc, you a slave to us
I’m telling you all, I’m outselling you all
And even if I don’t, I know I’m better than y’all
Is there really an A-Q album without some name calling?
Act 4: The Trap
“Act 4, The Trap” sees A-Q targeting the younger audience who are lovers of trap music. “Jazzman” was released as a single and already created a buzz for the album, so personally I would have preferred that the remix, which came out days before the album dropped, had made it on the track list. Given how A-Q has always created a metaphor around personalities like Dasuki Gate and Sugabelly, “Diezani” didn’t come as a surprise as he narrates his money-making plans.
Act 5: The Story
The final phase of the album “Act 5, The Story” features two tracks as he definitely closes the album on a high note. “Home” welcomes a visitor in Maka who put her stamp on the song with a melodious hook and sees the rapper go down memory lane – envisioning what his future holds and the pool of family probabilities. The album climaxes with an emotional track, “Change one thing, change everything”, a song that tells the story of a young man who had lost his brother at a tender age and struggled to understand why – whether to blame it on poverty or his father. He also takes shots at mumble rap as he spazzes over a flipped beat.
The beauty of this album lies not just in the lyrics or the passion of his messages but the raw emotional range and attention to detail that A-Q injects. You can feel it everywhere, from the production to the art ideas to the album structure. The project also benefits immensely from the collaborative process and the average length of each song adds to the replay value. Blessed Forever is a solid body of work that confirms the rappers rhythmic versatility.
The album is not without certain flaws though, A-Q seemed to struggle with his flow when he switched beats on the same song or overdoing the singing part when he took the hook himself. A classic album either defines or changes its time and while many may argue that this album won’t exactly achieve either, few will argue about it being one of the finest rap projects in recent times.