Rooftop MCs can be likened to the Eric B & Rakim of Nigerian Gospel Rap Music, being the most influencial Rap group and also, one of the pioneers of the genre. To have held that down for more than a decade with the brand name still iconic as far as Nigerian Gospel Rap Music is concerned is remarkable enough, but then, Sokleva Hughes, a member of the duo dropped an album!
December 2015, the “Fistful of Stones” album dropped on Nerveflo off Sokleva’s Riverbank Music label and the first impression confirmed my suspicion all along (and seriously, I have been thinking about it for a long time), Sokleva Hughes does not go wrong with hooks! He has a fine way with hooks so much they complement the beats like they were made for them.
Some rap artistes get into the studio, hear a beat and flow to it, others get the hook and rap verses ready and create the beat around that, but with Sokleva, it does not matter which came first, the hook on each beat fit perfectly. I find my mind reciting the hooks hours – and even days after I first heard the album.
The first track on the album, “Seasons”, a previously released single is apt for a first track, especially since it is the track with which Sokleva makes his reintroduction, starting with “I’m back in the game… remember the name? Sokleva Hughes…”
I felt Sokleva aimed to kill 2 birds with a stone (since he only had a fistful… Lol) by giving us an intro track which is a full length song — but rich with introductory elements. On a rap album, the intro track is mostly skit but Sokleva gave us a full length song which did the justice of an intro track. This is quite emphatic in the chorus/hook of the song. Sokleva declares through the voice of Okey Sokay; “It’s my time, I was put on earth for this reason”, haven gave the premises that life is “turn by turn” and everything in life has its season. So considering all these, we can say that the salient message in Sokleva’s introduction is ‘I am bringing just a fistful of stones but trust me, this giant (whatever the giant represent) is coming down.’
“Helicopter” is so Rooftop MCs! I get the perception that the rhythm of the song is peculiar to Sokleva, just like “In the Up” as well. I was mentioning earlier how Sokleva does not go wrong with Rap hooks, it’s most evident on “Helicopter” and “In the Up”. You can find this peculiarity on “Hot” (Which is my favourite by the way), “Shakara” and “G.G.M” as well.
The heavy use of vernacular gives the strength of identity to “Fistful of Stones”. LC Beatz did not give us a breather on “Helicopter” following the hook up with one of the best Yoruba Christian Rap verses ever voiced! Nolly of Orangeville and CIA also came through on “G.G.M”. Almost all the tracks on the album made use of local dialects.
There is the use of slang and coinages such as “in the up”, “no dey talk to me with a malice”, referring to Protek‘s line in the verse 2 of “In the Up”, “mo nfo bi helicopter”, “G.G.M” and more.
In concordance with the name of the album, Sokleva diversifies with different Hip Hop sub-genres on the album so that you don’t have more than 2 — 3 tracks at most, carrying the same sub-genres. For instance, “Helicopter” and “In the Up” can be placed in the category of Drum & Bass, an offshoot of Jungle beat and Jump (Though you can find inconspicuous elements of Trap beat). “Shakara”, “G.G.M” & “Hot” are clearly rooted in Trap music, “Shine” & “Not Bad Enoff” have their root in Reggae while “Haya” and “Baba God” in Afro Hip Hop (sometimes referred to as Commercial Music) and more.
“Category” stands in a class of its own finding its root in West Coast Hip Hop. I have never heard XL2Letters come through on any track (that I know), like he did on this song. I almost thought Xzibit got born again and jumped in the booth with Sokleva! GAMiE tables some of the best lyrical content known to Nigerian Christian Rap Music on this song. He drops a figurative saying; “…fill in the blanks. I hit the bank and get PAID when I WORK that faith…” Get it?
Sokleva switches flow and sings on “Shine”. He did not hit any high note, neither did he complicate his vocals in any way but he still gave a lot of singers a run for their money. However, it was his rap that got me. The message of the song is clearly stated but he approaches from the angle of love more than that of condemnation.
He raps; “some no send change or even transformation. All they want is a Range for better transportation. Control numbers all the time, no be say them wan thief but every man get wetin him go like to achieve. I believe if we all will arise and shine, the glory of the Lord will penetrate their mind. How them go know if nobody show them sey better wey dey than the one that they chose. There is strength for the weak, prosperity for the poor…”
Now tell me, which sinner will listen to this message and not want to at least try out this “other way” Sokleva spoke about?
Christians are waking up to their responsibility of identifying the vices in the society and proffering solutions in the wisdom of God to them. What’s even more is that Rap Music always reflect the society. Before Christian Rap started identifying the social ills and trashing them, what Rap did was to promote these ills so that an average teen thinks its cool. So if all a Christian rapper does on his song is to talk about himself, either in the light of his blessings or challenges, I believe he does not understand Rap Music and its power, also, he does not have a full knowledge of calling (correct me if I am wrong), thus Sokleva says; “this is the reason why I no fit ignore, this knock on my heart so I open the door”.
As much as the lyrical content goes, Sokleva aced the album, save for a few articulation glitches on a number of tracks where the vocals are concerned. One of the encore moments for me will be the figurative verse 2 line in “Not Bad Enoff” where Sokleva makes use of the metaphor; “let me be BLUNT, like the MOST HIGH”. Get it? I literally went “Ooh!!”
What will a Nigerian mainstream artiste be without some ‘Commercial Music’? “Baba God” (another favourite of mine… got my eyes on that LC Beatz guy) and “Haya” verified Sokleva. Provabs‘ Rhythmic verse was almost tailored in Sokleva’s style, guess the chemistry was that strong on the track. LC Beatz has presence, you cannot hear a song he is on and not look twice.
There is a reason why Sokleva is a pioneer which surpasses the fact that he is a member of the most influential rap group. This is the fact that he has his own lane, like he rightly said on “Season”. In a time when Hip Hop songs are easily predictable in terms of direction, Sokleva has dug up unusual Hip Hop sounds, incorporated some familiar elements and created the Sokleva Hip Hop. There is no telling the direction he will go with a track but be rest assured you will love and sing along to the outcome… the only question left is — when are the videos coming out sir?
Album: Fistful of Stones
Features: LC Beatz, GAMiE, Nolly, Protek, Okey Sokay, XL2Letters, Soul & Provabs
Label: Riverbank Music
Twitter | Instagram: @SoklevaHughes
— Written by Alex Amos