Version 3.0… Rebirth Of Blackmagic
For many, the road less travelled might just be their path to self-discovery and development. Nigerian singer, Efemena Mukoro, popular as Blackmagic, proves thais with the latest release of his third studio album, Version 3.0, a compilation of soul-seeking Afro-fusion sounds that etches the singer’s uniqueness as an artiste.
Coming after a five-year no-album hiatus, the new body of work was recently released independently under his Based on Belief Entertainment. Following his meteoric rise to stardom locally, one thing has stood out for Blackmagic; his refinement of sound. Easily perceived as one of the pioneers of the growing afro-fusion sound movement in Nigeria, or what is popularly mislabelled as ‘Alternative.’ His sound has always titled to an elegant cocktail of fast-paced rhythmic afro-pop, rhythm and blues and afro-beat.
Blackmagic’s previous projects entrenched the singer’s musical success in the multi-billion dollar Nigerian industry: Version 1.0 (2011), Version 2.0 (2013) and Black Friday (2015), with hits such as the afro-pop/r n b melange Repete, the Oritsefemi-assisted smash rap/pop single, Pass you by, the electrifying love melody, Wonder, and many others. It has been a romantic musical adventure between the creative musician and his teeming audience. And in many ways, Version 3.0 solidifies that.
Having been missing-in-action for four years – except momentary recent single releases such as No Need (2018), Anything for love (2019) – the latest 12-track album feels like a portrait of a fabled phoenix rising from her ashes.It is a delicious and soul gratifying 51-minutes of sound engineering from industry heavyweights likes Xela, Spax, Ikon and Bond, who craftily harmonise hip-hop drums with African guitar melodies, soft piano riffs and other sounds, to create sweet ‘milk-like’ sounds. Interestingly, as typical of Blackmagic, the project features only two collaborations from Afro-fusion singer, Tems and rapper Big Bad.
From the very beginning, you can identify Blackmagic’s succinct storytelling with his Tems-assisted opener, Soon, which typically apologises for his long musical absence and reveals that he was struggling internally with “catching inspiration”.
The stories flow freely throughout the entire project, stretching on various facets of the individual’s personal struggles with life and with society, yet acting as a representation of what every regular person faces; the typical human conditions (stress, failures, positivity, regret, etc.).
The whole album, from the second track Koole, acting as an advice to people to find peace of mind, as he also struggled to find, to Dreams, talking about the struggles with climbing the success-ladder; Anything for Love, about striving to sustain his romantic affection for his lover; No Need, about a betrayal; to the last track, Everything among others.
The singers lyrical prowess is very evident in this project, with his use of symbolism to represent themes throughout the body of work; like in Koole, where he uses “NEPA just dey rest for the town, e no dey work/ generator vibrations louder than your thought,” to symbolise the extant epileptic power supply problem in the country.
You can also discover this in Ponmo, where he says “Based on road no good, our leaders need jet/ our youth is in a mess/ some dey thief pant and some na piano dem dey press/ Is that the reason Jesus wept”.
Asides from the relevance of the album to the topical issues confronting the polity, Version 3.0 retains its groovy appeal, through most of the album, with songs like Bad Intentions, Ponmo, Soon, Anything for Love, and I do causing you to momentarily tap your feet or sway to the melodies, unconsciously.
However, the album suffers from a track list arrangement problem. Version 3.0 arranged the album with most of its strongest sounds at the bottom of the album and some less appealing ones in the middle of it. It poses a problem for retaining the audience’s attention. However, a devoted listener would have no issues waiting to the last second.
The album’s identity is a very soul-seeking one, where the Based-on-Belief crooner tags himself “Starving Artist”. It captures a musical rebirth of an artiste, who takes us on a journey of self-discovery and self-love, as he also out rightly captures in the album’s outro, Everything. On this track, he admonishes that ‘There is no love outside, if there is no love inside/ and for there to be love inside, you have to love and accept yourself.”
This album is likely to have an impressive audience acceptance, as well as industry recognitions, even as Blackmagic continues his voyage into the music hall of fame. It is like the much-deserved sequel to (although a little less dramatic) his previous projects, and is more soul seeking and introspective.
Definitely, this album is worth a re-listen. Though it might not top the club charts, but the longevity of this brainchild is worth the sacrifices, which the artist describes on an Instagram post as offering up “material well being in order to focus” on the project.
Born Efemena Mukoro also referred to as Ejay Blackmagic, Blackmagic is a Nigerian singer, rapper, and songwriter, who is well known for his funny raps style. His kind of music consist of Afrobeat, Hip-hop and Soul, which he blend to give fans that unique sound that keeps the head nodding all day.
The Delta State native attended the King’s College, Lagos, as well as studied Computer Science at the University of Benin. He started his music career at a very young age, with interest in rapping and singing. As he grew older, his interest in music also increased greatly and he had the opportunity to have direct access to cameras and recording equipment.
As time goes on, he was able to have an idea of what life have in stock for him and what he can do better. From there, his interest in music began to grow to the point that the passion could no longer be put on hold.