Saturday , April 10 2021

Ric Hassani’s evolution is laid bare on ‘The Prince I Became’ [Pulse Album Review]


Alongside Chike, Wurld, Ogranya and Johnny Drille, Ric Hassani belongs to a group of Nigerian artists who create the bougie version of Simi’s music. Their sounds weave Alternative, Ballad, R&B, Folk and Soul into one, delivered mostly in English.

If American and UK music is going through a renaissance of female-led R&B, Nigeria is seeing its equivalent of love-themed music, led by attractive men.

Their boyish good looks and their vocals are an instant hit with mostly young women who drool and sing along to their lyrics with the dedication of the five virgins who waited on Jesus. At the bedrock of these elements usually lies beautifully crafted, mellow bits of music production, tailored to carry amorous messages into willing hearts. The chords are gentle, and so are the cadences.

The Prince I Became is the 17-track follow-up to Ric Hassani’s 2017 debut album, The African Gentlemen. On its album cover, Hassani does away with the suave, happy and well-dressed zaddy figure he’s cut on the cover of his previous bodies of work. For replacement is a headshot of Hassani; eyes closed and deep in meditation.

In place of the dapper shirts around his neck is a set of jewelry to go with a shirtless upper body. He isn’t deep in thought as on the covers of The African Tour EP, The Acoustic EP or ‘The African Gentleman.’ His mood is unassuming and quite the enigma, and this album art could be conceived to represent the personal and creative evolution which Hassani aims to portray on this album.

More than ever before, his steps and utterances are more assured, almost like he’s finally lived the love, lies, success, gratitude and heartbreak that he’s previously sang about. He’s as convincing amorous Afro&B record, ‘Everything,’ the chronicles of sex on synth-pop track, ‘Body Conversation’ and the explicit anger-phase of the heartbroken on ‘Thunder Fire You.’

In fact, ‘Thunder Fire You’ is uncharted territory for Hassani as he rains curses on an ex-lover and tells her to go to hell and tell Lucifer, “Blanco sent [me]…”

Okay, he didn’t say that…

The point is, Hassani’s music now has bite and venom, more than the drowsy love-fest that it used to be. More than ever before, men would relate more to his music, not because of what they hope to achieve but because of the unsavoury aspects of life that they’ve lived.

The anger he has felt in life hasn’t made him any less of a wide-eyed dreamer and a believer in love that romantic novels are made of. On ‘Angel,’ he jumps aboard Latin-pop to make sweet promises and deliver sweet wash.

Hassani also uses love to confront the possibility of his own inexistence on ‘When I’m Gone.’ The track is the sonic representation of the love-filled alternative to the cliche, ‘Show me love while I’m here, not when I’m gone…’

The best part of the Afro-Ballad is its recreation of mid-2000s elements of the African-American church music. The vocal exercise beneath the track, the choral backup, the uniform claps and the organ accompaniment are reminiscent of 2000s records like, ‘I Believe’ by Yolanda Adams, from the timeless dance movie, Honey.

While he mostly still sings in English, he now mixes more enjoyable Pidgin into his music to reflect another shade of his confidence. ‘Do Lai Dat’ is mostly delivered in premium Pidgin, with funny accentuations on English letters on lines like, “Anything you rock is final, forget about ‘Dolshe’ and Gabbana [laughs cheekily]…”

His real life successes also reflect in his music. On the beautiful R&B-based ‘You’re My Baby,’ Hassani sings, “I go be your bank and ATM…” just before offering a cheeky, confident laugh. If you sold out a show in faraway Honduras, you might have a similar confidence.

In the past, he might have featured accomplished international acts like Cabo Snoop and Xcellente, but recent growth and success have brought him top-tier, momentous features like Sauti Sol on ‘My Kind of Woman,’ Latin-pop superstar, Nicky Jam on ‘Angel’ and Kuami Eugene on ‘Do Lai Dat.’

The album also has some needed uptempo Afro-pop range. The Highlife chord progression and Ghanaian Pop percussion of ‘My Only Baby’ has wedding reception written all over it. One hopes its video is also shot in a village setting. ‘Mine Forever’ featuring Zoro and ‘Do Lai Dat,’ also heavily coast on Ghanaian Afro-pop influences.

Reggae then forms the basis of ‘Rain,’ which opens to sounds from a musical clock. The record is a tale of gratitude and acknowledgement of his belief in God, which then peaks on the very Gospel track, ‘Victory Belongs To Jesus’ featuring CalledOut Music and Frank Edwards.

In the spirit of a Simi record, Hassani sings in Yoruba to close out his album with ‘Korede.’ He vaunts the providence that drives his success, prays to God for mercy and employs certain humble-brags. He also tells the story of the time he had one shirt and one jean after quitting his job to focus on the music.

His mom told him she’d had enough of his antics, but he kept going and now he’s here. It’s actually interesting that the final four tracks on this album are very unashamedly christian. Talk about authenticity in a world where theism is seen as subservience.

This is evolution with authenticity.

Final Thoughts

While the album does have its seamless moments, it’s still too long at 17 tracks and 54 minutes. Hassani and his songwriters are impressive at what they achieved, but the album’s length exposed some average and unassuming tendencies across the album and certain songs.

Before the Christian ending to the album, it had gotten overly ‘familiar.’

Equally, Hassani’s titled, ‘The Prince I Became’ seems insufficient to capture the many angles to this album and the many sides which Hassani shows on this album.

‘Prince’ has a connotation of softness. The album might have been better with ‘The Man I Became’ as its title. ‘Man’ has a dense representation and multi-application.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequencing: 1.5/2

Songwriting and Themes: 1.6/2

Production: 1.4/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.3/2

Execution: 1.3/2

Total:

7.1 – Victory

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