November 30, 2023

ExposAfrica Magazine

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D’banj: Stress Free, Chapter 1 Album Review

Stress Free, Chapter 1 is the 5th studio album from entrepreneur and legendary musician, D’banj. The singer/songwriter/harmonicist can boost claim to top-of-the-shelf bodies of work like No Long Thing (2005) RunDown Funk U Up (2006) and The Entertainer (2008), that have all turned out to become classic albums that defined the sound of a generation. D’banj attributed the new LP to his desire to make an album that creates a mental picture of his current stress-free state, after being through hard times in the past.

Banga, the intro to the LP, is a blend of blaring instrumentation and boisterous lyrics. D’banj’s lyrics on this song perfectly mirror the underlying instrumentation, forming a sophisticated symphony. The deafening horns, jangling guitars, and constant rattling vocals combine well to create a tension-filled roller coaster track that forces us to listen to every musical instrument at once.

The overall playfulness and hilariousness of the LP can be felt deeply on the title track, Stressfree. A traditional Afrobeat record that found a way to hit its mark, thanks to the wonderful sound production and a matchless saxophone delivery from Seun Kuti. Stressfree proves to be one of the finest moments on the album.

The 3rd track, Welcome to Lagos presents a catchy hook and sax riff combination that is well above par. Yet, it does not quite meet up to the standards of the title track. The verses were almost mediocre and did not showcase the singer in his finest moment.

Avocado, the 4th track, transitions into a modern Afropop sound and takes us away from the traditional Afrobeat vibes of the previous tracks. The song highlights very melodic renditions from the Grammy award-winning Burna boy as well as a nostalgic outro-verse from D’banj, as he reminds everyone why he is called the Kokomaster.

D’banj tries to once again evoke a Fela Kuti-inspired Afrobeat in the 5th track of the LP, Zombie. Regardless of the great instrumentation of the record, D’banj failed to meet up to the high lyrical standards long set up by Fela. Be that as it may, the call and response from the sax make the song a very lively tune.

Bangerlee displays his musical diversity as he goes into full Amapiano gear on Big Vibe, a song that features a CheekyChizzy bar that feels very rhythmic on a surface level but empty when given a deeper listening. D’banj’s desperate measures to save this record proved abortive. Nevertheless, Big Vibe’s playful and carefree nature plays an important role in solidifying the “stressfree” aesthetic of the album.

Ikebe was written by Teni and was released as a single earlier in the year. On this track, D’banj sings very heartfeltly on his internal struggle with a woman’s buttocks. However, D’banj’s overindulgent lyrics take away any form of deep lyrical meaning that Ikebe bears.

The album comes to an end with Open the Roof. A song with a great hook and equally good instrumentation. However, D’banj once again failed to leave a lyrical impression with the verse.

Album Score: 7/10

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