The word ‘OG’ was one of the very commonly thrown words in 2017 and if there is one name that aptly fits that description, then he is none other than Terry tha Rapman. Terry aka Joe Spazm has been in the game longer than a minute, from back in the early 2000s with his fellow Swat Root collective which paraded emcees like Modenine, Overdose, 6 Foot Plus, Eldee XL, Mista Baron. The kid from the North who once rhymed about running into an “MTN office screaming Glo with pride” has held it down for the culture ever since.
If there is something Terry can lay claim to, it is his consistency over the years. In an era that has seen most of his contemporaries get frustrated and move onto other ventures, Terry has sustained his hip-hop relevance through constant rebranding/naming, features, co-signing younger rappers and his ‘Boys are not Smiling’ brand which he plans to revive sometime this year. But Terry is no longer that rapper with charming baby looks, man has grown, has bills to pay and he has chosen to make this work against the obvious odds. Progression in sound over the years has seen the veteran rapper make constant attempts at blending with trends and pushed out underwhelming singles in the past which has led to an increasingly sinking feeling amongst core fans that the once top emcee seems to have lost it.
Fast forward January 28th 2018 and he releases a new project to kick off the year. The Life of Joe Spazm is a mixtape hosted by legendary DJ Jimmy Jatt and was initially scheduled for release in 2017 but got delayed for various reasons. During this period, Terry kept on dropping singles perhaps to ‘whet the appetite’ of his waiting fans. Furthermore, in an age when music projects are getting shorter in numbers, The Life of Joe Spazm contains 17 songs and four bonus tracks. Here is a second time listen and track-by-track review that tells the story of the journey of the rap man.
Intro (featuring Douglas Jekan)
So the album kicks off with veteran OAP and popular host of radio show ‘Pushing Traffic To Good Music’, Douglas Jekan dropping some words, then Terry attacks the beat telling the story of how losing his mother changed his life. Terry is quite aggressive on this and sounds hungry yet again, even though he dropped some shady lines, the track serves as a perfect opener for the project.
Another OAP who has done a lot for rap music and the hip-hop culture with his Rap Kulture radio show jumps on this and reminds all that, outside interviewing rappers, he also can drop some cold bars. I however have issues with why the skit is coming up this early on the album, seeing as there is no exact correlation with the next track.
Open Letter pt 1 (ft Lady Donli)
If there is one female act that I followed keenly in the last year, that has to be altè act, Lady Donli. She’s climbed the ladder over the past few months and it is only sensible that her talent will attract more features this year. Now this is the Terry Tha Rapman that his fans know and became a stan for. Terry goes into some introspective world of a fan penning an open letter to his favorite act in a way that reminds you of Eminem’s “Stan”. Terry raps about how his fans criticized him for not doing enough all through his career to be named amongst the best in the country and how he has let his fans down. The first two verses were pretty impressive but I was a little disappointed with the 3rd verse which was supposed to serve as his reply to the fan, the verse deserved better.
Baby Boy (ft Barz)
Produced by Andre Barz, Baby boy is the first of the many pre-released singles that makes its way back into the project and it features Barz. This is a typical playful Terry talking about a grown man who still lives at home with his mother.
Wrong Number (ft Modenine)
Originally released in 2016, Terry teams up with his friend and fellow vet Modenine on this Doc Def-produced joint. I like the hard-hitting beat and again Terry was alive on this one with the opening verse. Mode experimented with the reggae flow as he drops a fairly friendly verse. The average Nigerian will be familiar with the phrase “Wrong Number” and the duo capitalized on this to deliver a banging record that was initially rumored to be for their collaborative album titled Crown which sadly never saw the light of the day.
Mrs. Hustle Skit
Wicked (ft Cynthia Morgan x Caesar)
This is a dancehall tune targeted at the clubs and dance floor. Cynthia Morgan only features through her patio ad libs while Caesar brought the dancehall vibe. The song could have and should have been better but is definitely one of those that will enjoy some airplay if well pushed.
G Boys Remix (introducing Chino and Chuka)
Another eulogy from a Nigerian artist to Yahoo boys? And did that Chino who took the first verse actually say ‘Any hustle na hustle’? The hook is not bad, the production is decent but the message “The system is messed up, leaving us with no choice” just doesn’t sit right with me.
Reality Rap (ft Enigma & Payper)
Over a thumping beat and a sample I can’t really place. This joint goes hard as rappers speak the truth with no apologies. Every bar was well written and well rapped as Enigma kicked things off impressively; Terry unleashes the beast detailing the state of things in the nation from poverty to Boko Haram. Payper who was one of the standout underground acts from the last year delivers a thought provoking verse and I particularly liked his voice texture gliding smoothly over the beat. It’s a conscious joint coming at a critical time.
Ray Bans (ft Jigsaw)
One of those songs that sounds like a filler, the hook is pretty lazy and bare with lyrics lacking in any form of depth or range to keep you interested beyond the first few lines.
The Reason Mix (ft Boogey and Dabu Gemini)
Now this is one of my favorite joints off the album as three rappers go toe to toe spitting hard bars. A sick sample welcomes you to Boogey’s fierce verse, as he talks about ‘if I’m sacrificing my sound for the glow, will you endorse me? Money is power, have you worshipped the Adenugas, Dangotes, Otedolas, so tell me are they new guys?’. T.R spells out the reason why he is so mad and Dabu Gemini closes with some witty lion king lines. One of the top songs on the project hands down.
Rufa Mana Baki (ft B.O.C Madaki & AT)
On this one, the rapper retraces his northern root, as he employs AT who has been buzzing for a while now and is actually a pretty talented act to do justice to the beat.
Another previously released single that has a good bounce to it, but not for me. Bang average
I go love (ft Simi x Modenine)
Even though the duo have combined to drop some of the grimmest rap songs in the past, they have also had this thing for mellow songs inspired by the fairer sex going back to “Heads” off Modenine’s Malcolm IX tape. “I go Love” sees songstress Simi deliver a heartwarming hook while the two lyricist kick some love inspired verses. One of those joints that you easily press replay and bump to over again as the seamless production combined with Simi’s sultry voice and well scripted verses takes you to seventh heaven.
This is an ode to his home town and features Ozee. The project closes with two previously released songs in “Okpolor Eye” and “Baby Boy (Remix)” making the track-listing arrangement questionable if the mixtape ends without giving the listeners the climax of a fresh joint to complete the ride.
Seeing as this is a mixtape with an album scheduled for later in the year, one expected The Life of Joe Spazm to lean towards catering for his core rap fans with memorable punchlines and braggadocious tough talk but apparently Terry seems to be sending a message to his fans that he is no longer all about that life as his music now. The Life of Joe Spazm does not exactly take us intimately into the world of the rapper, only allowing us in through snippets and sparse introspective moments. The project also suffers from having a high number of the songs previously released as singles, as much as 7 of the 17 tracks had been leaked from 2016 till now, with only 10 new tracks, of which 2 are skits and 1 intro which makes for only 7 really new songs.
Outside that though, Terry has proven to be an artist willing to progress as a rapper, seeking to appeal to a wider audience and not afraid to bare his sincere and down moments on wax. The positives on this project include the production, which is pretty solid, shouts to Doc Deff and Pherowshuz, and it has its moments lyrically when Joe Spazm reminds us that he hasn’t overstayed his welcome in Nigerian hiphop as he captures his stories, struggles and wraps his words in a language that inspires. Take out the Bonus tracks and cut down to 12 tracks, this could pass as a really dope body of work. The Life of Joe Spazm surely has potentials to be one of the top rap projects this year but something is just a bit off that limits it to a decent project.