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Jollof Music is one of the most promising sophomore albums to never happen. Its predecessor, This is Lynxxx, was panned by critics but the success of its hit singles was the ultimate “FU!” that Lynxxx needed as he went on to become a genuine A/B-list artist from 2010 onwards and build anticipation for his next project.

That project would come nearly 6 years later and it wasn’t called Jollof Music – life had changed and plans changed along with it. Having already let go of the concept of the once hotly-anticipated project, Lynxxx declared that the album wasn’t the only thing he’d given up because he had also given his life to Christ. RIP Jollof Music. What we have in its stead is the curiously titled The Album Before the Album, which is John the Baptist to Man Like Lynxxx’ Jesus Christ, which automatically puts pressure on that project to resuscitate Lynxxx’ career but doesn’t exempt this one from scrutiny.

That said, one thing you have to be careful not to do is over-scrutinize the level of morality on TABTA – Lynxxx simply gave his life to Christ, he didn’t join a monastery. So on “Oya” when he brags about using his star power to get ladies at the bar to follow him or on “Blow” when he and POE trade bedroom stories, you need to appreciate the fact that salvation is personal and that your opinion of what a new life in Christ ought to look like is just that, your opinion. The same goes for what the new music ought to sound like, the records are largely mid-to-uptempo and the approach to writing them is worldly and light-hearted. Lynxxx might have treated the recording booth like a confessional on “Serve You” but TABTM is, for all intents and purposes, a pop album, not a gospel project.

But this is message-driven pop music and sometimes Lynxxx is part of the message, at other times he’s only the messenger. On “Good Life” he talks about leaving Lekki and with that, the turn-up lifestyle, to start a family with his ideal woman, while on “Smile” he plays the role of women’s rights activist and takes a stand against domestic violence. Women play an important role on TABTM, even without any being featured on the project; the picture of Lynxxx’ transition is often painted with them as the muse, they are practically the only lens the artist gives us to use and understand what exactly has changed in his life. These days, Lynxxx appreciates women for dressing down without wearing less (Fall My Hand), he talks about how one night stands have been replaced with a lifetime commitment (Complete) and how sex-centered relationships have given way to God-centered unions (Love Am Well). On a lighter note, he perpetuates the myth that Ghanaian women love Nigerian men on “Ghana Girls”, giving shout outs to close friends Joselyn Dumas and Efya (Joselyn was in the “Fine Lady” video and Efya was featured on TiL). But whether he mentions them by name or not, there’s little doubt that 99% of this project was aimed at the ladies. Though, to be fair to him, the fairer sex has been Mr. Itunu’s primary audience since time immemorial, so no surprise there. The only problem is that the album comes across as a private party, at times, and no other men are allowed besides Lynxxx and his few featured guests.

Disappointingly, even Ikon – whose emphatic production on TiL distracted you from Lynxxx’ artistic shortcomings – wasn’t invited. Those shortcomings haven’t gone away, if anything with Ikon engineering rather than producing on this project, they are even more apparent. In the final analysis, catchphrases and buzzwords will mask a song’s emptiness if that song becomes a hit like “Change Your Parade” did, but until then “Characha” just sounds like it should have been left on the cutting room floor in 2010 and the horribly written “Dribble Me” has no business even being considered that year, never mind this one. Sadly, no matter how serious and important his message gets, this kind of mindless, melodic music will always be present on Lynxxx’ projects and it’s unlikely that the next one will be any different.

After listening to this album, especially with his important life change as the backdrop, it’s hard not to feel like Lynxxx’ new life was treated like a talking point, a thing to be sold rather than a story to be told. Which is a shame because even though there hasn’t been much growth in the music, there has obviously been enough growth in the spirit and in the mind. Lynxxx is a changed man, it’s just unfortunate that that change wasn’t represented adequately in the music, especially for those who want to listen and learn.

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