Patoranking’s Wilmer is so amorphous, it defies categorisation. This is not a good or bad thing. Let’s just chalk it up to ambition and a tripping A & R team.
God Over Everything, his debut, was a mixed bag that flew mostly above average. Three years later, he segues in with a playlist masquerading as a sophomore album named for his daughter, Wilmer.
A playlist, a poorly curated and named one at that, is the perfect description of ‘Wilmer’.
There is definitely an Electra complex reading of his song for his daughter. Baffling is how he insists on using the language he recruits for serenading on the dance floor.
He invests his vocal cords on tingling sensation and goes hyperbolic in a manner similar to a smitten man in his interaction with his daughter.
With Wilmer, the girl-child, out of the picture, the language hardly changes.
11 tracks later and 42 minutes of spool time leaves any listener with a muddle of thoughts. Even the umpteenth listen suggests that there is something shape-shifting going on with this Patoranking project—but you can’t seem to place your finger on it.
Patoranking’s reggae resists conformity. At one point, it is a derisively percussion-derived dancehall; at other times, he is trying for affectionate Lovers Rock. All the time, the music swings between tempos and tries for that African flair that Yemi Alade seems to have mastered. He experiments with other sounds, with some measure of success. From Fela’s brand of Afrobeat to the contemporary Afrobeats, his music keeps shifting. The fact of whether it is acoustically satisfying is a question for another sentence.
Although thematically trite, Wilmer may have been more exciting if Patoranking dared to move in the uncharted terrain of exploring relationships close to home. Instead, he tries for anthems. A Black emancipation anthem on ‘Black’. A fizzy motivational chant on ‘Champion’. A swaggering dancehall anthem on ‘Temperature’. His attempts are fickle and hence, revealing his report card is like breaking bad news.
On the revolting ‘Black’ Patoranking amps up his political verve to tackle the black experience. Somewhere between poor spoken word and bubble gum rap, his message dismisses itself, perhaps because there is no true anchor for his ideas. To his mind, ‘Black’ is black’s problem and love is all that is needed to solder us together so that Africa can be great again. With profound respect, that is balderdash, but full marks for efforts, even if he needs a lot more reading done.
‘Champion’ feels electronic and a tad forced. In Patoranking’s vision, this might be a soundtrack for those traipsing down the aisle to catch an award but the song has got no soul to carry the weight of such auspicious moments. Rather it should be reserved for shower-room mirror motivation.
‘Temperature’ has the grit and energy of dancehall. It taps into the trope with the right register and acoustic turns of phrase. Perhaps one of the finest moments on the album, but it is also one of the safer bets on the album.
In the end, Patoranking’s Wilmer strives to deliver a similar experience one has with God Over Everything, – mixed feelings.