By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
Key Tracks: “Cindy OsO,” “HWT // nO nEeD,” “drOOl//drink that”
Aristotle’s maxim “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” comes to mind when thinking about Nnamdi Ogbonnaya and his latest release, DROOL. The Chicago-based artist has put on a number of different masks, granting him access to a number of environments that are home to the likes of jazz cats, hip-hop heads, avantpop art kids and mid-twenties Kinsella worshippers. He’s a multi-instrumentalist who has created under several pseudonyms and genres, filling various molds. On DROOL, Ogbonnaya stumbles back onto solid footing with his most cohesive release yet.
The 13-track album falls like jelly off a knife, morphing seamlessly from one odd shape to the other, but always retaining its solidification. Ogbonnaya combines vocal pitch alteration, flow, and bouncy instrumentals to establish a goofy, albeit complex sound. The opener, “Cindy OsO,” swerves up and down with synths and saxophones, giving the listener an early introduction to the accessible strangeness to come.
Of the MC’s past experiences, the one which has shown itself to be the most interesting on DROOL is Ogbonnaya’s background as a math-rock drummer. The rhythms, both percussive and vocal, on this album are enough to make the listener say “Woah,” without overshadowing the other elements of the album. For example, the triplet beat frosty synths on “HWT // nO nEeD”, and the offbeat drum opener on “sHOULD hAvE kNOwN” come to mind.
In the past, Ogbonnaya has often been compared to the prolific André 3000, and for good measure. His over-the-top showmanship and daring production make him a real threat in the underground rap world. Rather than adopting a sway, or notifiable cadence, the rapper rolls all over different types of rhyming patterns and flow structures. From the lazy sway of “hOney On the lOw” to the quick-Kendrick spits on “drOOl//drink that,” there’s rarely a repetition in the flow.
What this boils down to, is that when Ogbonnaya sings “You never write shit like this / You could never write shit like this,” he means it.