He calls this project, “Deal With It” and it is obviously more Hip-Hop in its concept as much as it is good Ole Phyno in delivery. But at 21 tracks, at a time when the album is at best a quaint tendency, Phyno may have outdone himself.
He is expansive in his reach. Invites big names and industry shakers to his tea party—and great songs abound, even if we have more of the same than the new. But not breaking any new grounds, makes the album sound a bit monotonous. And for a non-Igbo speaker, the flows aren’t particularly unique, even though I imagine an Igbo-listener is best to reflect on this.
If “No Guts No Glory” had magic and was sprinkled with the magic dust of enigmatic flavour, his second met the zeitgeist at the height of his fame. He had this East-West alliance with Olamide and they were churning out hits with street appeal within the gospel coda and doing great numbers.
Deal With It feels somewhat anachronistic. Local rap has begun to flounder and even though, this album speaks to the potency of language in the hands of those who know how to wield it, the non-local rappers are taking it back. Vector in his principal role at Hennessy, M.I giving executive instructions at Chocolate City, the two at the crossfire of words, beefing. The game is not the game as Phyno and co know it. Even Olamide dropped the weakest rap of his career on an otherwise good song, Totori. And Reminisce has showed that, like LL Cool J, there might be a prodigious career in acting.
Anachronism is that word that must abide with, Deal With It. It is Hip-Hop in gangster mode and hungry too. It is a rapper at his get-rich-on-die-trying mode. It is supposed to be a desperate black man’s cry in Igbo. But it doesn’t feel that way. Phyno already colonised the East and he’s still got big cronies in the West—perhaps if he had gotten Lady Donli to assist on some Hausa P, then we could conclude that he is finally trying to go Wazobia. But there is no language project on this one. This is a reluctant album attempting to get a rapper out of retirement.
It is one thing for an artist to get comfortable. It is another matter altogether for a rapper to get comfortable in their own skin. For a rapper to be comfortable with the zeitgeist is a totally different kettle of fish. Unlike Olamide who has diversified himself in geometric proportions as to adulterate his rhyming skills for a neo-Fuji singer with more club bangers than anyone in the entire industry, Phyno has always been laidback, with more of a producer’s temperament than a rapper’s zest. Alerts have gone round for a minute and his relevance in Enugu and other aspects of the South-East have never been at threat.
This ethos is what dominates the album’s mid-tempo mode. And while it is not particularly a minus, it is definitely not a plus. “Deal With It”, in the end, just populates the discography, more muscle than magic.
In retrospect, it is Phyno who may have to deal with that.