The fate of Hip-Hop is currently dim with Afro-beats, Afro-pop, Azonto, Jollof-music; (you guys should decide on a single name for this genre already!) taking over the airwaves, giving small space to rappers to breathe. The art form still thrives even in these hard times. This brings us to Jamal Swiss and his recently released debut LP; Based On True Events. The 12-track effort is a concept album; in which Jamal tries to shed light on his daily struggles as well as his current situation.
We got a taste of what to expect on 2am in Lagos which features Strizz. On the triumphant ode to Lagos, the song opens with a catchy anthem-like hook. Jamal tries to describe the Lagos life and goes further to advice his audience to get up and follow their dreams. The production on the song is superb but at certain points Jamal makes it hard to listen to him with stretched-out rhymes, screaming and questionable bars (“when a mad man asked me the time, people out here waste no time“). His delivery gets boring and he sounds like he’s struggling to get his bars to fit within the song.
On the album opener Stupid which features Davina on the hook and chorus, Jamal dishes some personals of a failing relationship and how much he wants to give it a try even if it means losing himself. The song being up-tempo forces Jamal to play catch-up to the beat throughout the song making it lose its emotional feel within the verses. Next song is Black Corolla, this song would have worked wonderfully without Jamal on the hook, he drains the energy out of the hook. He really made a song about driving around the city in a black corolla, this is definitely not your braggadocious rapper. This is followed by “Professional Friends” which is one of the standout tracks on the tape and the shortest length-wise. His vocals for the first time sound polished on this record. The production which is handled by Willow C puts you in a summer vibe and makes you want to speed on a highway with the speakers blasting the chorus over and over. “I got professional friends, we fly we never landing”, might be a while for me to stop saying this phrase. This song celebrates the good life and winning with your team.
The album follows this pace in the next track, High. It seems clear Jamal gets comfortable on low or mid-tempo tracks. His delivery sounds much better and his rhymes are much more audible compared to high-tempo cuts where he sounds like he’s catching a bus. Willow C who happens to handle the production again does an amazing job, the piano chords are reminiscent of a 90’s R&B cut by a pop star. “My lover in zion, lemme take you higher, no place we can’t reach, she say we nor fit” croons Jamal on the follow-up track, Zion. This song could’ve thrived with just one rap verse or none. The IBK produced record is a cool Hip-Hop laced Afro-Beats joint. This seems like a perfect fusion and perfect for radio. With an all too familiar subject matter about wooing a girl, the rather infectious hook makes this song worthy of the loop button. This is followed by Fly Away which continues with the same subject matter.
Jamal later switches things up with Selfish, singing the hook as the opener he lashes out, “I love myself, I’m selfish, forgive me if I care about no one else”. How do you switch up like this after trying to woo two girls in the previous tracks? He honestly breaks new ground when it comes to subject matter on this record.Willow C takes the production on this track as well. Two tracks later we have TTHB, an inspirational song which features Buwa and HD. This song is one of the highlights on the entire record. The flow and delivery get more exciting for Jamal as he expresses a level of comfort with his verse. Everything about this track checks out right; the motivational chorus, the instrumentals, the rap, the local dialect. 💯
On Yeah, Jamal gets philosophical by asking how the world would be if the theory put in use in Justin Timberlake’s sci-fi action thriller, ‘In Time’ were to be practical in the real life. J.D takes the spotlight on this song with his crisp flow and witty rhymes, he displays different styles within his verse which he pulls of with ease and comfort. This song preaches to the audience the need to hustle and make something for themselves. This is one of the clean cuts on the tape. On Everybody he doesn’t stray much from the previous theme but this time with an inaudible chorus. He ends the album with Live Life, a feel good vibe about enjoying life and celebrating the little moments in it.
There are more misses than hits on his debut effort which only makes us expect more from Jamal Swiss on later releases. On the right songs he’s able to shine and narrate his story well enough. More work needs to be done on his delivery and his beat-selection, however. If he’s able to polish his sound and get his songs mixed and mastered perfectly Jamal Swiss might be an actual threat in the rap industry. This was a good effort but not enough work here to make him get the buzz we believe he deserves.