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Review: AJO ‘No Apologies [EP]’

It is tough being a rapper in Uganda. It’s a daunting task that has eluded many. Several rappers holding so much promise fade away like a dying night candle. It is a sad fate that hangs over any young talent like a hangman’s noose over a death row inmate.

The hip hop scene is akin to a 20-something youth struggling to find his foot in the world of the grown-ups. Despite the hope that this youthful stage presents, many rappers have succumbed to the glaring reality of the noose that has gone off with the lives of several careers. The prerogative comes in different forms.

With the current wave of pop music, most artistes are settling to blend in the established and generally accepted comfort zone. It is no secret that dancehall music dominates the local charts. Despite the verbosity and partying nature of the Ugandans, most music lovers sadly do not care about lyrics. They prefer club bangers with little or no lyrics. Some have camouflaged with the loud colours of the pop environment and limited their lyrical expression to catchy-sing-along-choruses.

However, AJO is not intimidated by prevailing trends. He has the audacity to dare a death sentence of his lofty dreams. He raps in English and sticks to what has given the proverbial hangman a haunting presence on the local scene; “real hip hop!” AJO went head on and delivered a gritty textured 12 track EP CD that will undeniably leave an indelible imprint in Ugandan hip hop archives. “No apologies” came off as an oasis in Ugandan hip hop desert panting for refreshment.

AJO is an unassuming ridiculously talented rapper earning credit for this EP. It has been awhile since I listened to a wholly emotionally enveloped album delivered with a red lettered title, not to entice but alert the listener of the explicit content therein.

The album opens with an intro that gives the listener a preview of what to expect. It’s a compilation of showers of praises from his peers in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. They give the listener an assurance that the hangman might, this time, die in his own movie.

The thematic variety of his music is wide range. He raps about love, attitude, and real life. “No apologies” the lead single off the album brings out his lyrical bravado, raw energy and dare devil attitude. This gives a glimpse of not only what the EP brings to the table but also validates the intro.

He gets more exciting on the cleverly done “Kamikaze”, the second song on the album which boosts of neatly woven wordplay and rhymes about top celebrity figures in the country. He does it with wit and humour which brought out his ability to sting with sarcastic lines.

Against soft pulsations of a drum, AJO perhaps brought out the best of this EP on the emotionally laden “Family ties”. He literally performed a self-heart surgery as he narrated struggles of a broken family. On a soft textured beat, he travelled back to his troubled past picking up debris of broken family relations. He resuscitated the demons that haunted his life. You are not sure whether to feel sorry or admire his lyrical tapestry. This song has struck a special cord with most listeners of the album.

Word Smith”, “Rhyme Scheme”, “Freak a freestyle”, “Word Smitten”, like most songs on this album boost of astute lyrics.

However, my favourite song off the EP is “Ekoskoku”, the last song on the album. Heavy drumbeats, vibrant chants in the background, producer Nase Avatar laid a solid textured music bed on which AJO effortlessly demonstrated his ability to entertain with rap. A stimulating atmosphere wraps up the EP.

Overall, AJO weaves his lyrics in and out decorating the album with picturesque diction that is classical and steeped in the glory days of hip hop. However, this EP demands attention of a careful listener to enjoy. He has a fast pace which makes it easy to miss out of memorable lines and lose the gist of what he is rapping about.

It makes it harder for the non-hip hop fan to fall in love with it save for “Esokskoku” and “Family ties”. The EP demonstrated his potential as a force to reckon with. The producers did a remarkable job to achieve this sound that is a gem to hip hop lovers.

Nase Avatar of Portbell drive music produced half of the album while Analytical Alz, Nxcco, I-am-Rector, and Martin worked on the other half.

“No apologies” is available on iTunes

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One thought on “Review: AJO ‘No Apologies [EP]’”

  1. Well put and said. ” this EP demands attention of a careful listener to enjoy” is an important approach to the enjoyment of the project.

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