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Mark Asari Shows His R&B Side on “Minus To Plus” EP

Steeped in mid- 90s R&B sound “Minus To Plus” is a celebration of love, success and a better future.

The late 80s and the early 90s babies had their teenage years defined by R&B music. From memorizing and karaoking some of the soul bearing lyrics from black American singers to slipping few romantic lines into letters to their childhood crushes, R&B music was a precious gift that many held on to with great care.

By the end of the 2000s, the appeal of that genre was beginning to wane. Artists who were once noted as proponents of that genre began to bend over to a new genre that wasn’t much a favorite of black American populace.

By the middle of new millennium, pop music (majorly a white genre) was stealing R&B artists away to it’s side. The reasons range from it’s popularity to it’s economic appeal. R&B market, compared to the pop music market, was very insignificant and the need to profit and expand their fanbase into a white demographic meant creating the kind of music that serves their interest.

That gradual switch in focus, however led to the gradual demise of R&B from their main music space. This development had led to some music critics to label R&B a dying genre. But, it appears the revitalization of R&B is gradually happening. That’s a conversation for another day.

For an artist, and for that matter a new one, to choose to go the R&B route on a project, in a market that accept pop induced music readily, could be seen as unimaginable since a pop record(s) is a surest bet for a new artist to earn acceptability. But, this isn’t the preoccupation of Ghanaian-UK act Mark Asari.

His 6 track EP, “Minus To Plus”, is an enterprise in self reflection, celebration of self and self belief. As the EP title indicate, “Minus To Plus” is about growth; it’s about resilience; and about victory. Mark Asari obviously has chalked some losses and wins in his life, especially in his career as a musician.

Steeped in mid- 90s R&B sound – with it’s mellow vibe, catchy melodies and mid-tempo feel- “Minus To Plus” is a celebration of love, success and a better future.

Mark Asari’s nasal falsetto offering peels through the kick and bass driven beats. The second song- which is also the title of EP- is a victory celebration. He sings about making it as these lyrics reflect: ‘School of hard knocks, I guess I’ve learnt enough’. He proceeds with, ‘I’m numb to the pain, I’m numb to the love, I’m numb to the hate’. These experiences are the backwood on which he’s floating to success : ‘Riding through the city with my windows off‘. Mark solicits help from Geovarn, whose voice is a something close to Bryson Tiller- sends caution to all the fake love spreading girls to stay back now that he’s successful.

Issues of love is dominant on the EP as heard on the opener ‘Ain’t Gotta Talk’, a request for a girl to back up her words with action (let your action speaks louder/You can’t be here selling a dream). The calamatic side of this joyous affair is heard on the Tion Wayne assisted, guitar synths and flashing piano chords dominating, heartbreak story ‘Baby Yo’.

The ebullient ‘Stay With Me’ carries a ‘ride-or-die-chick’ theme while ‘Me & You’ touches on a spending a life with a loved one. Whereas the beats on ‘Stay With Me’ sounds like something from Timberland’s playbook (think his drum heavy works on a Timberlake song), ‘Me & You’ tilt towards more traditional R&B influence.

The closing song ‘God Bless My Hustle’, despite it’s message of praying for godly mercies disrupts the feel of the EP. ‘God Bless My Hustle’ is a more up tempo, afropop song which doesn’t fit the overall R&B mood of the album. Perhaps, not a big deal but it snuffs something away from “Minus To Plus”.

Technically, Mark Asari’s shrill voice was within a perfect range. The producers did their best to highlight it’s beauty since poor mastering could have made his voice so piercing.

R&B might be on a downward slope, sad to say. But, for some artists who grew up on this genre of music, departing from it would be unthinkable. They’d rather be part of recuscitating the genre than abandoning it. And Mark Asari belongs to this brave crop of artists.

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