Got my n!gga B-Red in the building /
And we counting money, we chilling /
Racks on racks till we hit the ceiling /
What’s up now?
Davido (“Dami Duro”), 2012
In the 4 years that followed that monster jam, B-Red’s transition from a drummer to a singer seemed just like that random shout out – a mistake. The public watched in horror as one of Davido’s HKN lieutenants was instantly given more fame and recognition than his modest singing talents could carry.
In 2016, a focused B-Red now feels confident enough in his own abilities to carry the burden of a project mostly by himself. Save for the older bonus tracks, All the Way Up has no A-list artists or producers to lean on. Although, having said that, the project’s main producer Teekay Witty does little to mask his admiration for the work of one of his illustrious colleagues – the young producer doesn’t even bother to alter the precursory drums from Materkraft’s (and Timaya’s) “Ukwu” chorus for B-Red’s “Give them”. On the verses, B-Red himself repurposes Lauryn Hill’s famous “I’m gonna find you…” line to playfully describe to his woman how many bottles he’ll declare on her head when he spots her. Just like his producer, B-Red isn’t shy to borrow a line here and a melody there or, in the case of “Romantic call”, an entire chorus. Some purists will cringe at the thought of Patra’s classic dance hall tune being rendered in Nigerian pidgin by an artist learning on the job but this is one of the occasions where B-Red doesn’t do a bad job.
B-Red’s style is influenced not only by dance hall but also by hip-hop and, depending on his guest, a sprinkle of Galala here and other indigenous sounds there. The production follows accordingly, even though his thin voice isn’t dynamic enough to sing over a pacey beat, he tries to anyway on “Dele” – a rather flat dedication to the love of his life. The outcome is more palatable when he raps along to the melody on “As E Dei Go”, arguably the EP’s standout track. The HKN signee gets uncharacteristically introspective on the EP’s title track; the fact that we have a chance to listen to a B-Red project at all is a mild victory over his detractors and the song is the victor’s off-key victory lap. B-Red keeps this and most other songs on All the Way Up under 3 minutes and the brevity makes the excessive 14 song EP easier to digest in smaller forms.
Those 14 include 6 bonus tracks comprising of old singles that I intentionally ignored not because they’re easy to ignore – I mean, there’s a feature from Akon and another from Davido two of Africa’s biggest superstars – but because if those heavily promoted singles did what they were supposed to do for B-Red’s career in the first place, there’ll be fewer question marks over his ability to make music today. Questions that weren’t all answered on this project but at least now we know what kind of artist B-Red is – he’s a rap-singer. We now know that his influences are varied but dance hall and hip-hop form the core (the title of the EP was gleaned from Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s hit single). And we now know that he’s great with melodies. However, every other part of the music making process is still a work in progress.
Having just gotten this knowledge, I have the confidence that we can now divide B-Red’s career into two – BATWU and ATWU, before All the Way Up and after. At BATWU, the bar was set so low that B-Red could only go all the way up from there.
Buy/download B-Red’s All the Way Up EP here