Zlatan Abeg No Kill Us, aka Zanku, began its commercial appeal first as a dance, then as a song, before it became a humorous warning, then lent itself to the album title of the eponymous and enterprising Zlatan.
Before we got into the habit of obsessing about meaning, our legs were already flailing in the joyous attitude of what is now called Leg work. And it is something to be proud of: to break a new dance so early in one’s career, to, in his own words, “fade Shaku Shaku” at the height of its powers.
Zlatan should be proud. It took Olamide at least four years of mainstream success before he could break in Shakititi Bobo. And with this album, even though belated, Zlatan puts another good foot forward to underline the fact that his first success was no fluke and that Zanku could become some kind of personal franchise.
Breaking in a dance is quite tricky. For the longest time, Zlatan was not regarded on the basis of his lyrical prowess. The uproar of the new dance almost swept his claim to rhymes. It would seem that when Zlatan coined Zanku, he did not intend it only for the dance, he also wanted to make a comment on his lyrical prowess.
Fully formed, he came into rap with a knack for memorable hooks. This gift has taken Chinko Ekun at least six years to realise. Ekun is a fine rapper, in his own right, but the much-vaunted Headies needs to give a public apology to Zlatan for giving Chinko Ekun the Best Street Hop bust.
It is a no brainer, really, to think that Zlatan’s rise as a mainstream rapper is fortuitous. 15 songs into Zanku the album, the dance hasn’t quite faded, the groove is made for the shuffling feet and his story, which is all too familiar, is reiterated over and over.
Like most first albums, his lyrical concerns are the low hanging fruits of his immediate past realities, the journey to fame, the assertion of his status change and his abiding bipolar affectations for loose women (Olosho).
This is also tricky. One could easily slam the label misogynist on Zlatan. But in the street world of codeine, loud and other cheap drugs, Zlatan is only a mouthpiece. In the real world as we know it too, there are truly loose people, men and women alike.
Once it becomes possible to see Zlatan’s melodious rant as some form of projection, then one can settle into the hilarity of his song and one can then regard Sunita, his older Indian olosho, as some kind of Oedipal fantasy tempered by Old Bollywood.
The recurring male Indian morpheme of Gucci Branch on most songs is comical. Thankfully, Zlatan is also capable of being serious when he tells his grass to grace life story, how he navigates into stardom from Mapoly. His Yoruba instincts and traditional bents are all in check. Zanku reminds me of that refrain from an earlier King Sunny Ade number where he admonishes himself not to tire his fan, for Robb ointment has become expensive.
This Year is its own thing as much as it is a nod to Jaywon. Tiwa is elegant on Shotan. Barry Jhay’s voice on Adura Agba is just mellifluent.
Zlatan’s Zanku is predictable but manages to tick all the checkboxes. He has asserted that, unlike Mr Real, he is no dance mongrel—he is clearly more than the Zanku dance.