Milli’s art leads the way for an industry push for freedom, and “Don’t Ask Me What Happened” is both the battle cry, and the first blow.
Extended Play – Don’t Ask Me What Happened
Artiste – Milli
Producers – Beats by Jayy, ReinHard, Ckay PatricKxxLee
Record Label – UpNext Universe (2016)
Duration: 26 Minutes
From Surulere in Lagos, we have a man whose music is being created to be bigger than himself, larger than instant gratuity, and speaking for more than the need to be true to oneself. Milli speaks for art, bleeds for it, cries for it and f*ucks it hard. That’s why the past two years of his life has been a steady rush from base level to his well-chronicled discontent.
Brought on board by M.I Abaga in 2014 to Loopy Music, it was Milli’s contribution that played a valuable role in the creation of “Chairman” and “TICBN” albums, from Chocolate City. But while he slaved his heart for the greater good, his personal fortunes plummeted at each turn, and in a revolutionary move that took into account the business and legal aspects, he finally too his leave from the bloated record label.
A thinker through and through, ideals drive the young creator. An insistence by M.I Abaga for him to be conformist in his sounds, and reactionary in his creative process to fit in with industry standards, was the catalyst for his discontent, and ultimately, his exit. That’s why this EP means so much for him. It’s a reining of his emotions and need to prove his worth via art, and by achieving success, break the Nigeria music industry hegemony of radio sounds and a reliance on Afrocentric melodies to break even. This is protest art meets personal divulgence meets entertainment meets young dreams meets activism. All of these mantles can ride on this project, as it changes to meet the various back-stories and intentions that birthed it. ‘Promethean’ is a good descriptor for this.
With Beats by Jayy, ReinHard, Ckay and PatricKxxLee on the production, it’s ambition that flows through as subject matter for ‘We up’. He states his credentials and expresses his happiness, with cymbals, electro-fusions and finger-snapping, playing supporting cast. He rides on through the similar straights on ‘Wave’. An insistence to stay away from his time at Chocolate City is a strong inclusion on these openers. ‘Jealous’ a high-octane Trap cut is a stunner, with PatricKxxLee showing vocal dexterity and production. This is the gem of work, although that’s a close call with their other collaboration, ‘Animals after dark’, a projected party favourite.
For Milli’s singing and R&B leanings, ‘Hood’ is a dynamic inclusion which serves as two sides of his offering, with syncopation and emotions scoring a home run. Project swansong, ‘Made for this’ closes this on a deep, personal, immersive and introspective track. His vulnerability after leaving Chocolate City is addressed here, but focus still remains on his art as the main reason for his existence. “Someone tell my mama that I love her, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it” Milli admits before promising to “always be himself.”
Only ‘Unlooking’ has any sonic kinship with the prevalent sounds of Nigerian radio, a fact that underscores the progressive nature of the project. There’s a bravery that Milli exudes with the entire project. M.I Abaga’s executive objections about Milli’s sound might still resonate in some quarters, but by staking everything on his new movement, Milli is fighting a war that is bigger than his story; he wants to prove that these sounds can be accepted, enjoyed and made pop. Art should express and be embraced, not adulterated and fettered. Milli’s art leads the way for this fight, and “Don’t Ask Me What Happened” is both the battle cry, and the first blow.
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