Kizz Daniel’s ‘Barnabas’ is experimental yet fresh [Pulse EP Review]


Across the album, the Flyboy boss seems reflective and contemplative, as he crafted musings around different episodes in his life as a lover, a dreamer, a youth and a believer.

Earlier in the year, Kiss Daniel became a topic of conversation. So this writer made him the focal point of a Facts Only episode which examined his career, talent, third album King of Love, his reputation and his journey. King of Love was a fantastic album with high replay value, but the industry didn’t support it.

From the perspective of an observer, it also felt like there was no expectation for Daniel’s music – ‘King of Love’ simply didn’t hit the right channels. Even those who listened complained about Daniels’ tendency to fall into a tiring template. They also complained about his familiar approach to music and his plateauing sound – which felt like an exaggeration.
So far in 2021, he has released three buzz-worthy singles, ‘Currently,’ ‘Flex’ and the chart-topping ‘Lie.’ He has also followed them up with a curiously-titled quasi-surprise EP, Barnabas.

While his first two albums were significantly filled with formulaic music, which evolved within the Kizz Daniel sonic blueprint, and had a tendency to slowly creep up on the audience, King of Love was his adlib-driven best studio album, which failed to creep on people.

Records like ‘Eh God (Barnabas)’ retain the classic formulaic Kizz Daniel essence – a blend of killer adlibs, quasi-traditional Yoruba percussion that’s suited to owambe and a hook that seems cut from the staple of Yoruba police bands – but records like ‘Pour Me Water,’ ‘Addict’ and ‘Lie’ represent a shift that conforms with demands of Contemporary Nigerian Pop music.

Those three records contain coherent lyrics, backed by structured songwriting and easily trackable storytelling delivered in English or Pidgin. The style of music feels peculiar to newer acts like Buju, Fireboy or Cheque, delivered via the Kizz Daniel essence in cadence, vocals and technique.

The beat for ‘Pour Me Water’ might easily attract someone like Buju.

Nonetheless, Kizz Daniel showed this on his ‘King of Love’ track, ‘Tempted To Steal,’ which was a step away from his established brand of music. Sonically, ‘Pour Me Water’ and ‘Addict’ also represent a slight evolution for Kizz Daniel. Across the album, the Flyboy boss seems reflective and contemplative, as he crafted musings around different episodes in his life as a lover, a dreamer, a youth and a believer.

On one hand, he seems addicted to unrequited love, backed up by episodes of intermittent intimacy and garnished with lies. On the other hand, he is a lover of the good life [Addict], who defers to God on ‘Eh God’ and ‘Skin’ to offer solemn prayers about the ideal life he envisions for himself.

While some of these things are not new, the overall feel of ‘Barnabas EP’ is calmer, more methodical and slightly more experimental. Experimentation isn’t new to Kizz Daniel: we’ve seen him execute Afro-swing/R&B with ‘Bad’ on No Bad Songz, but ‘Addict’ is appropriately-timed. ‘Burn’ is a Bashment/Dancehall record and ‘Skin’ is a two-step Soul/R&B track from a Pop perspective.

In essence, ‘Barnabas’ is a maiden totally experimental Kizz Daniel body of work. However, ‘Oshe’ endures a forced Cavemen feature – it was totally unnecessary and cliche. The record needed someone else entirely. Kelvyn Colt had the right flow on ‘Skin,’ but he lacked the appropriate pockets that B.O.B or Andre 3000 would have easily produced.

On the track list front, it feels like ‘Barnabas’ endures a chaotic sequence. But on subsequent listens, it becomes obvious that it’s not a concept project. Instead, it’s a diary session, with songs crafted around different entries. Thus, it only needs to achieve sonic cohesion/progression and it did just that.

At times, it feels like Kizz Daniel aims for a larger audience beyond Nigeria. The music is sufficient this time. But how sustainable is it? Only time will tell.

Even though the music tells us a story, it feels evasive and insufficient to truly offer a cogent insight into Daniel’s state of mind. We know he can tell stories like this, what we’ve not gotten is age-appropriate music that offer true insights into his mind state. He might need to be less guarded in the future.


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