(Review) No Apologies – AJO, UG Hip Hop’s Hennessey
No Apologies is AJO’s second full length project. No Apologies is an EP that follows AJO marks (2015) and it’s a more distant taste with focus put on lyricism and intelligent rhyme crafting. The intentions of this project are quite ambitious and like the process of brewing, steps are followed to arrive to that. No Apologies spans for 36 minutes, has twelve tracks and let’s get into each below:
As Skits are synonymous with most hip hop albums, mixtapes and EPs, No Apologies doesn’t shy away from that. No Apologies kicks off with an Intro that has a number of his fans, friends and core supporters commenting on who AJO is and what his journey dates back to. You discover that AJO is not just a rapper who woke up in 2014/ 15 and debuted Rap Music I Sing. He has been doing his thang since 2004 when he was still in school.
The intro serves that purpose so well, to introduce us to Mr Ariong James Oscar. This move was appropriate and thus communicates already the themes of this No Apologies EP. The persons who talk about him on this track span from Ugandans, folks in Tanzania, and Nigeria shows his fan base distribution.
No Apologies ft Essie prod by Alz Analytical & Nxcco
Without wasting time the EP goes into No Apologies a track which features the sensational vocalist and singer Essie. As a title track it is important to appreciate the melodies he presents. He acknowledges he has been around and thus took him time to arrive to this. No Apologies has the raw feel backed by the piercing hook by Essie and in away AJO welcomes everyone to his music pervaded by his self-praise as a dope rapper. If you don’t agree track three does that very well.
“Enter the ring if you got the Code to A pass list” -Kamikaze
Kamikaze prod by Nase Avatar & Martin (Urban Aksent)
A track that is embedded in very important wordplay for this EP and its awareness of the game executes well. Kamikaze is a Japanese word inspired by the suicide bombers during the Second World War and AJO employs this as a symbol of himself in reference to the Kamikaze bombers. Kamikaze was his most successful single and first to be released last year. If you are willing to mess with him you likely might suffer the lyrical consequences is what Kamikaze submits.
He plays around with industry names to come up with his bars for example; “pop a bottle of that Bobi wine/ Nggas better Be-be cool/” Kamikaze carries the actual No Apologies sentiment echoed in the hook: “You don’t want it with me3. His fascination with women like Keko, Irene Namubiru (“Cougar Town is in here”) and Karungi Sheeba (who he references again on The G 2 Cypher) is made clear.
“Look into my eyes /tell me what you see/ if its love that you find/
Am Your Aphrodite/”
Aphrodite ft. Akongo prod by Nase Avatar
The possibilities of AJO are so manifest on No Apologies. Aphrodite is a Greek mythology inspired song and definitely about the goddess of love. The lyrics are not far from the Greek mythology and history. This performance reminds us of his talk about love on Trip off his debut mixtape. Aphrodite is a single ready song that is yet to be dropped. The appeal is embedded in acoustic, afro soul and hip hop with reach melody sparked by Akongo’s lovie dovie vocals. He speaks of a sweet time he found this lovely lady that he equates to Aphrodite (pronounced as Afro-dy- tee). Emcees also fall in love and he does prove this by expressing with symbols, metaphors and unexpected similes.
“Stole the Devil’s shoes stumped on the rappers like dude we ain’t Merry (Mary) making am a Hot Stepper”
Word Smith I prod by Nase
From Word Smith we just get into the final effect that No Apologies has hidden if not carefully listened to. Word Smith has two parts. Word Smith I which is produced by Nase Avatar and the beat by Nxxco is a very energetic track. This allows AJO to show his performativity appeal as well which reminds you of his approach and delivery on Impossible. It is the perfect follow up and stream of boisterous rhyming and spitting. And he asserts, “I hope these ni***s no I am unapologetic/” He boasts that he is the “god Of War/ you the god of No/”. He knows the game is competitive but for him he [four D’s] it thus No Apologies is a fourth dimension to the game. Word Smith is actually a title he gives himself without mention much but lets his work do that for him this is possible with a close listen. Raw and deep is the line to end with!
“Like a drum, the thunderous cheers that interrupt my mental hum/
Whispers of foot prints loud enough the numbers come”
Like A Drum ft. Nina MC prod by Alz Analytical
At this point of the EP one may wonder the direction it is taking. To one sense Like A Drum is a selfish effect that shouldn’t be taken lightly. On another sense one can interpret it as an interlude to this EP that actually introduces to us why AJO doesn’t have to apologize for his word smith-ism. Like A drum marks the end of the first part of this EP. It is a raw performance that reminds us this EP was meant to showcase his lyrical dexterity even though a few minutes ago he was being lovie dovie.
Still wondering? The drum is actually a symbol we may miss; a symbol of communication, loyalty, knowledge and divinity. To this EP the tagging onto the drum makes the EP both problematic at aliteral level. Thumbs up for him upon risking a beat-box delivered track here, this gives the project variety.
“Bipolar like a polar bear on savanna land” – Rhyme Scheme
Rhyme Scheme ft. Essie Alz Analytical & Nxcco
He reintroduces the sweet voice lady Essie on Rhyme Scheme. This track is AJO’s attempt to story tell which he falls short of at this point but still shows off his rhyming skill. No Apologies then becomes a guided manual into AJO’s craft and abilities which he is not ready to apologize for having. It is well paced and raga inspired delivery just gives his style a new different attitude which he remarks as “gat a new school touch and an old school sound…” Essie does her thing well on the hook singing, “new, they got me on a new / rhyme scheme yo”. He packs this one with hilarious or deep gritty quotable lines like; “I can end your career by popular demand” and he is not joking because [he] is “wicked like I am from Liverpool town”. He owns the moment so confidently and it’s about the bars right?
Word Smitten prod by Nase
“Rappers claiming they Ball/ F.U.B.A!! F**k*d Up By AJO”
100% Word Smitten is the biggest outcome of his lyrical narcissism. And like a diamond in the rough [he] blows [our] minds with it. Word Smitten is for me the most directional track on this EP as regards its stamped; WORD SMITHISM. AJO comes from a background with writing and a very infectious one – being slept on and when you get the chance blow up. His debut Mixtape was well placed but was an introduction for him. Word Smitten is a self-conscious track he knows he can deliver bars he knows he is good and please stop sleeping on his career he can make good music. This speaks for every rapper or is an underdog’s statement upon being under looked. To me this is my most favorite track given its production and arrangement. Nase sampled American rapper Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled 7 which makes it rich and speaks volumes about Nase Avatars’ love for sampling. AJO mentions “I am a witty rapper…” and definitely seals the deal for us – we are on a ride of rich witticism, smith-ism when it comes to penning down ideas. He is in no doubt infatuated with words and how to play with them and so for “wack[y]ass rappers can never relate”
“Dear Moma, I wrote you a song/ hope that when you listen to it, it will get you involved” – Family Ties
Family Ties prod by Nase Avatar.
I said AJO falls short on story telling for Rhyme Scheme and yes he does because Rhyme Scheme isn’t really a story but wishful thinking. Besides writing crafty bars; Family Ties is a very deep version, the story telling AJO in back and forth reminiscence. He pours out emotions of come up, maturation, family fall out and hard times as a boy few believed in. “Family Ties no disrespect” is statement that also resonates with what he says on Episode 13 of the NuveyLive Podcast ; “it’s okay for rappers to be mad”. Point here is, AJO on one level is saying to him hip hop is also a therapeutic art for him when he writes; spit about what inspires him and an escape route. The notion of No Apologies gets sealed with family ties, which is an outcry of very sad memories and overcoming thoughts.
Word Smith II prod by Alz
Being lyrically fit he bounces back on Word Smith II but with a turntable inspired sound produced by Analytical Alz. In a way he pays tribute to the Turn Table art form and tones down his delivery unlike Word Smith I. The project is so planned or well directed. Word Smith II is a more representative inventory for it is broken in bits (verses) and a bridge “Time to take over the world/ Where you from?UG!” comes in between. It would be worth to have ended at this point of N A. Word Smith II is a more laid back but still raw bars filled work that signify the end of a Ugandan rappers rich ferocious rhyming, word arrangement and idealizing skill of concepts. The subject matter is no different from Word Smith I.
“Leave you in a trance and I transform to a Deceptacon / Now am plotting n*ggas connecting dots on ouija board” – Freak A freestyle
Freak A free Style prod by Alz
Is the second official single that was released off this EP. It is a little detached as regards to its formation but well it’s another AJO portion or dose. It is actually the actual epilogue to No Apologies, it centers on AJO’s free will writing and intellectual or turn your head back to catch that line again slant. With phrases like “Homie I could end your reign [rain] like a weather analyst” doesn’t escape the themes of the EP. It is a more resigned self-celebratory song with lyrics at the core center. It sums up what exactly the EP aimed at.
“lay waste to these rappers and they wanna waste lay” – Ekoskuku
Ekoskuku prod by Nase & I-am-Recktor
Ekoskuku is produced by Nase Avatar and beat by Nigerian producer Iam Recktor (only contribution on this project). Ekoskuku is a good track, with a new school appeal and club centered sound. It is buried in 808’s that makes it far detached from the No Apologies approach all together. It attracts head bobbing and the related with less to quote from as the EP seemed to have taken a shape of quotably. Ekoskuku was a much delayed song produced earlier than all the rest and it’s satisfactory that it comes last as a celebratory overtone for the EP. It is an outcome of a repurposed project and for that sequencing it passes. We cannot of course ignore the energy put in it for it leaves you in a state that requires you to ask for an encore- it seems like another project is starting all together at this mark.
No Apologies is definitely UG Hip Hop’s Hennessy one has to focus on its classic derived make up. It’s an expensive taste if you ask me, when it comes to listening to the project that is buried in recollection, word smith-ism, witticism and appreciation that took about a year and two months to be brewed. A 9 /10 is just appropriate for No Apologies; due to adopting of the concept well enough and sticking to it. No Apologies is a rich sound that will test time for the brand and ideas on it.