I am always the last to know anything, living in my own head for a majority of the time and all. But last year, I discovered Phyno with ‘Man of the Year’ and I have been asking myself how I did not feel the earthquake that must have happened when he came on the scene.
Anyway, I know now and I am about to give him the same obsessive treatment as I give anything I like. Expect a few weeks of this. I am not sorry!
First of all, I have absolutely no desire to see Phyno without his shirt – and not because I suspect he might look a bit reptilian (he reminds me a bit of all those crested lizards. I wouldn’t want to mess with him). But because I heard him before I saw what he looked like and I do not wish to objectify him, at all at all. You all know I am a bit irreverent but this boy has TALENT in spades. You can tell he is extra serious about his art. Respect.
I have never heard anyone make such mincemeat of Igbo in rap before. He shreds it. He just plays with the language; tossing it out, deftly applying puns, flipping the language on its head like a pancake before he devours it.
Nwanne look into my eyes/ Ego di m n’obu/ Money on my mind/All you need is owe me/Egbutego m the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/A dighi m agbo ncha/But my nigger I do me/ …If you go against me/Ntuo gi down ka alusi. (‘Man of the Year’.)
Brother look into my eyes/There’s money on my mind/All you need is owe me/I’ve eked out the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/I don’t lather soap/But my nigger I do me/…If you go against me/I’ll throw you down like an idol.
Looks simple enough, right? Wrong. Igbo can be difficult to rap in and rhyme which probably explains why not a lot of people are doing it. Those bits in bold are one of the ways you can tell someone who learnt Igbo from speakers because you won’t really find those in books – at least not the first one, which is a reference to male masturbation (frothing, ejaculating). The second is a nod to the Igbo way of showing displeasure in personal gods. In the old days, personal gods who disappointed or did not perform as expected could be disposed of or burnt aka ‘thrown down’.
There’s a lot of English in this verse and in the whole track in general and I for one wish Phyno would never speak English again, but it serves as a modifier for the Igbo, in a way a lot of us would speak it casually. He even calls it by its popular name: Engili-Igbo.
I am not a music critic by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t tell you anything about the beat or the arrangement or anything like that. But I know what I like: poets in any language, people who make language fresh to the ears. In this, Phyno gets my vote.