The buzz surrounding Lord Vino considerably shot up after a wide-reaching, scene-stealing reply to M.I’s “You Rappers Should Fix up Your Lives.” Feeding directly into the hype created by controversy, with scarcely disguised subliminals emphasized by remarkable writing, “Fix up the Lies” significantly reduced attention deficit and introduced Lord V to a boatload of people. A breakout single of sorts.
But “The boy can rap” is a known fact to non-first time Lord V listeners, same thoughts echoed by Loose Kannon on excerpts culled from “The Nigerian Hip-Hop Conversation” episode of Middle Ground podcast bracketing both ends of Lord V’s newly released debut album, Upper Echelon Rap. Lord V’s (sorta) overdue debut album builds on the “I can rap” ethos, displaying V’s credentials as a rapper with abilities to be considered elite.
Opening UER on stern terms, the album’s title track is Lord V toting arrogance, emphasized by Czure’s ominously squeaking beat. Vino stakes his claim as the best even though he’s referred to as a part-time rapper; he drops off warning shots with his chest out (“if you no wan catch strays, come with your vest”) and pounds on the same chest with quotable-loaded boasts. It’s an notable intro and a strong statement track, coining in on Lord V’s trademark roller-skate flow which lacks aggression but is more than made up for with the impenetrable conviction with which each line is delivered.
Perhaps the potent driving force of UER is Lord V’s confident gait throughout the album, his vocal cadence doesn’t bang like an angry judge’s gavel but he sure exudes the aura of one whose authority shall not be questioned. Thankfully, his abilities as a rapper matches this demeanour, filling his lines with impressive wordplay, punchlines and trickles of double entendres.
Also, Lord V’s uncanny penchant for generating and infusing slangs into his verses and a lot of his hooks increases the appeal of many of the project’s songs. Produced by rap veteran Pherowshuz who also slithers sharply on his guest verse, Lord V boasts convincingly on the verses of “All Mallam with Him Kettle,” with a slang-laden hook that easily glues itself to memory. “Local League Must Cast #LLMC” also carries a sublime hook, with a frenzied afro-grime beat that adds to the record’s buzz and catchiness. A pointed track also saturated with slangs, “#LLMC” lampoons smello behaviour (“knuckles on coke, skin on fanta”) and unruly conduct (“we don’t tolerate rapists”), while also countering assertively with Lord V’s superior lifestyle.
The brazen opulence leaching out of UER’s pores is offset by the street-wise texture of the slangs thrown into Lord V’s lines, and also authenticates the ineffable swagger Lord V totes on the album. Scanning through, Lord V might apparently be a natural heir to Naeto C – an ajebo with the capacity to spin street slangs into great songs and an obsession with White Kaftans. Casting Lord V in this light doesn’t dampen the story of his hustle, “all of us dey chase bars for the same objectives,” Lord V aptly posits on “Where I’m From.” Featuring a typically raw opening verse by Erigga rife with street tales and quips, Lord V offers a differing angle relating the story of walking around with empty pockets and premium packaging.
An MC with two M.Sc degrees and a couple of other ventures, it is pretty obvious that Lord V isn’t scraping around for cash and rap music isn’t Lord V’s primary money maker. Being a passion project, UER stumbles at non-rap related tenets that could be attributed to attention deficit. One major stick out is in how much UER sounds more like a compilation than an album, stacking songs together without bothering about cohesion. The quality of the varying production work from seven different producers is largely serviceable, not overly messy but it is disjointed.
Leaning deeply into the common debut trope of proving “I can rap” leads to UER being thematically narrow. The execution is solid and even refreshing sometimes with the addition of those slangs, but the novelty bleaches off a handful of songs upon multiple listens. The album feels like a stroke Lord V can and should pull off, which he does pretty well – enough times to make you believe he’s good enough to do even better.