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ALBUM REVIEW: Cheque Makes A Mashup of Reggae-Dancehall, Trap, Hip Hop and Highlife on His Debut Album Titled Bravo.

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Bravo is the project that properly initiates Cheque into the league of artistes who exude versatility and the ability to creatively improvise sounds in their respective musical crafts. One of the few most different albums released in a year when Afrobeats and its variants are the order of the day…

A year after getting signed by Phyno to Penthauze Records, deep into the hullabaloo of 2020, Cheque released Zoom and the song instantly became an anthem for Nigerians. Even though the majority of music users in Nigeria are not accustomed to Trap as a genre of music, Zoom enjoyed numerous airplays on radio stations and it did well on several streaming platforms as well.

Being a boy from a family that places so much value on education, Akanbi Bamidele Brett, or Cheque, never thought doing music would be possible for him. The 26 years old rapper was born and raised in Okitipupa, Ondo State.

Cheque started his career with the stage name Kyle B, a career he debuted at the university with his first official EP titled SOON in 2015, a year before he graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. DML (now known as Fireboy DML), Zamora and Chinko featured on the extended playlist.

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Akanbi Bamidele Brett

Both Fireboy DML and Cheque were signed to Cruel Station, a label with which their contract expired in 2017. The two shared an apartment together before the two moved in with a friend who owned a studio.

Cheque would move to Lagos, after his convocation at OAU, to chase a career in music. After Phyno discovered him via a freestyle video he submitted under a contest held by Reminisce on Instagram, Cheque appeared on Olamide’s 2019 EP titled 999 alongside label boss Phyno and Rhatti on a track titled Warlords. In fact, Cheque’s first release under Penthauze tilted Nyem Space had his label mates, Rhatti and Nuno.

Nyem Space was immediately followed by Zoom and an EP titled Razor, Zoom being its lead single. A remix of Zoom with Davido and Nigerian-American rapper, Wale, was made afterwards. A year after, Superboy Cheque released his debut studio album titled Bravo with History featuring Fireboy being its lead single.

A lot of people have questioned the longevity of Hip Hop with doubts about whether or not the genre will be able to stand the test of time as it is now being starved of attention by the lot who patronize Afrobeats and its numerous variants. Perhaps, the advent of Amapiano has made things worse for Hip Hop in Nigeria. The attention is now focused on the dance-infectious genre and Afrobeats, to the detriment of Hip Hop.

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With active rappers like Olamide, Falz and Phyno now subconsciously tending the bars of Afrobeats, Hip Hop is left with others like Reminisce, MI, Vector and others who are now showing signs of winding down.

There are the likes of Zlatan and Naira Marley too whom critics have always refuted as rappers because their music tend towards what they nickname “lamba” and what Headies Awards tagged “street hop” than Hip Hop.

Many aspiring artistes started off as rappers only to switch to singing along the line. Buju is an example. There are also a few who choose to be a rapper anytime they so please. Burna Boy is a perfect example of this. The question that continues to beg for an answer is: has Hip Hop now become so unattractive in Nigeria?

In this unfavorable condition that Hip Hop is swimming in, there are the likes of Rema and Cheque who switch between Trap, a subcategory of Hip Hop, and Afrobeats. While Rema cannot be trusted with Trap because he seldom does the genre, Cheque makes it his first choice as it landed him his breakout hit, Zoom.

Trap itself has not enjoyed wide acceptance from Nigerians, although a few listen to foreign Trap songs from Roddy Ricch and his counterparts in the US.

Trap is a subgenre of Hip Hop Music that originated in the Southern United States during the early 1990s. The genre got its name from the Atlanta slang “trap”, a house used exclusively to sell drugs.

In response to the claim that Hip Hop is dead in the country, Cheque took to Twitter in October, 2021, to say “the reason they say Hiphop is dead in Nigeria is because most heads fail to recognize the vibe has changed, they still wanna rap like it’s 2010 or previous!!!!! Well, it’s 2021 and it’s all melodies now. Get with the program and help your culture.”

With the above idea Cheque shared, it is safe to say Hip Hop has evolved in Nigeria and a lot of people are not ready to accept that reality. Whether or not lovers of Hip Hop accept it, Cheque does not hesitate to reflect this evolution of Hip Hop on the album Bravo as he swings between Trap and Afrobeats with Olamide, Jackboy from Haiti, Fireboy and Ayra Starr lending support to him on the 13-tracked project.

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The tracklist of Bravo album by Cheque.

Rockstar is a drive through the past—reminiscences to “everyday when my life was insane”, “losing hope” and “people wey love me”, “struggling” and longing “to overcome”. Amidst all these are “vultures” who “came for the money” and “tell me you love me when you don’t”.

Cheque has had a fair share of struggles in life. He is no stranger to envy and hatred from friends too. In all of these experiences, he demands he is treated as a “fvcking rockstar” that he is. A rockstar is a famous or successful singer of Rock Music. He rejects being treated as “nothing”. The Trap song gets really amusing when Bamidele speaks Yoruba on the second verse of the song.

Ayra Starr has described herself as “19 and Dangerous” with the title of her debut album some months back. This is exactly why her presence on track 2 is important. Dangerous details romance between two lovers, with the male demanding aggressive “loving” while the female simply reassures her lover of an undying love. It’s Afrobeats, not without certain elements of Trap by the way.

Loving Cheque can be so demanding. The demands continue on Call Me Baby. Cheque requests “let me call you baby”, “let me in your head”, “hold me down”, “look in my eyes”, “let me beat that ass” etc. Cheque knows what he wants in a relationship and he is not shy to ask for it—he needs “no Hennessy” to “speak my mind”. He is so confident!

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Cheque taps Haitian rapper, Jackboy, for assistance on No One Else. The Trap game gets faster here. Cheque alludes to “B”, his woman. He praises her for being with him when he was at his lowest. He tenders apologies to her for “all the wrong things I prolly did” as well as assures her he is “never changing with the money”.

Jackboy on the other hand concentrates on the romantic part of the relationship as he dabbles about “riding that d!ck” and the fantasy that her “body was made for me”.

The indebtedness Cheque bears in his heart towards his woman continues to hold sway on Love of my Life (LOML). Both Cheque and Olamide are eternally grateful to receive the “love wey me never see before” from their women respectively.

LOML swings between Afrobeats and Reggae-Dancehall and obviously, it is the second most outstanding track on the album, after History featuring Fireboy. Cheque leaves Olamide to do the rap while he focuses on singing. Credits to Zaky Amujei for making the instrumentals simple yet entrapping.

Served heartbreak by a lover whom he turned down “Bisi” and many other girls for, Cheque makes a proper Hip Hop tune his go-to as he gets enshrouded in regrets and sadness. The chorus of the song makes the whole experience feel like a flashback. The chorus is written in present tense while the other parts are written in past tense.

Cheque himself informs us in the chorus that he is presently “sitting at a corner” and “staring at you baby naked”. We are also told that there is “no more heartbreaker”. Cheque is now in love with a new lady even though he once swore “I no go do am again”. He is “blinded by your love”. To justify this action he thinks he may later regret, he likes to believe that the new lover used “jazz” on him.

The mood is that of happiness and fever, therefore a Highlife vibe is served on Body to mark Cheque’s new found happiness. Body confidently expresses the singer’s fantasy about a female’s physique. He however needs assurance from the enchantress before “I spend my money”.

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At this point on the project, one becomes conscious of the fact that Cheque is a shape that circles 360 all round. When he is not rapping on Trap or Hip Hop, he is singing on Afrobeats, Dancehall or Highlife—Cheque is simply versatile.

Six years after the first collaboration between the two, Cheque reunites with Fireboy on History, the lead single of the album, Bravo. History is a song of meditation as it discusses matters serious enough to make any sane human sober.

By the theme of the song, Cheque and every other human “get history” —we all have a past. Coincidentally, Fireboy and Cheque got a history of collaboration too when they first sang together on the latter’s first ever project in 2015. As a matter of fact, both of them were unknown at the time, bearing DML and Kyle B at the time respectively.

History exposes Fireboy to Trap and the singer takes the bull by the horns as he shows prowess under a condition (a genre) he is not accustomed to—that is versatility on his part. While Fireboy simply prays for the fortitude to bear life challenges, Cheque carelessly but painfully warns his haters of the danger he represents—don’t “tryna break me, I’m a beast” with a heavily truthful reminder that “what is dead may never die”.

Sweet Love and Change feature Cheque’s commitment and gratitude to his lover. While the former comes with more demands made to the woman, the latter is a recollection of his rise from the “trenches” to fame. One is Afrobeats, the other Trap.

On Anybody, Cheque boasts of his strength and his drive for money with a middle finger shown to “anybody” found guilty of hating. One notices the beauty of Yoruba on Trap here. Pray on the other hand is a kind of Highlife song specific to wedding parties and “owanbe”. The chorus of the song however samples a popular old Yoruba Highlife tune.

Bravo grinds to a closure with Free, a repetition of Cheque’s background. However, he gets recklessly daredevilish while he dares the “enemy”. He longs to be “free”. Of course, freedom is a thing no one ever wants to live without.

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Superboy Cheque

Many things readily take one aback about Cheque and his debut album. How he swings between different genres of music comfortably, his soothing vocals, the few instances of pun, the pictorial lyrics, the hunger in his flows are all characteristics readily available to make anyone marvel.

This is Nigeria where majority of music users only care about dancing. Yet, Cheque is confident enough to stick to Trap, something not widely accepted by the lot in the country. This show of confidence sure deserves a round of applause and the rapper naming it Bravo did not exaggerate. Bravo to Cheque!

Based on execution and delivery, Bravo is a beautiful body of work, safe for the repetition of themes—when Cheque is not talking about his background, he is threatening his haters or talking about love and thanking his lover, all repetitively. The only themes that do not get repeated on Bravo are the theme of heartbreak heard on Blind, track 6 and the theme of meditation specific to History, track 8.

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