Settling on “Headstrong” as a title for a debut EP sounds both bold, defiant and, to an extent, reflect a reality. The title also project the mindset of a guy who walks the fine lanes of perturbation and self-belief. He hears the chirps from fans who want more, listens to the critics who question his ‘pop up’ and vanish’. It also reflect a conscious decision to turn these fan worries and critic bashing into strength by offering them, not only something of value, but also, prove to them how unjust they have been in questioning his motives- and whether he can break the mould of his own insecurities – if any indeed existed.
As the ‘pop-up-and-vanish’ antics goes, this blog has been a critical voice in that regard. We have stood upon the mountain screaming the ‘how long shall this continue mantra’, not out of frustration but more about prodding him to seize the moment or as the saying goes ‘strike the iron while hot’.
Nobody questions the musical gifts of A.I. Any debate around this has been forcefully settled since around last year -even though some might shift the hands of time to 2016- when he scored huge success off songs he helped craft. In 2017, he had the biggest summer anthem with the Kuvie produced, Vision DJ owned “Grind”. Being a featured artist, A.I confirmed his status as an incredible vocalist, and also proving himself, in a formidable manner to a new crop of audience. The resplendent afropop hit became the unofficial party anthem last year – and its potency continues to reverberate till date.
A.I made his entry on the Ghanaian music scene in 2014, following the release of “Anger Management”. As the title demonstrated, the song explored how rage, if uncontrolled could wreck once future. Stewed in a sparsely languid hip hop and afropop fusion, “Anger Managenent”, backed by a conscious social media campaign, courted the desired attention.
After years of relative silence, (relative silence since he was putting out some tracks on his SoundCloud page which weren’t aggressively promoted; it was one for true fans find), A.I popped up once more, this time, more vibrant and energized, like a pumped up pugilist ready to claim what he knows belongs to him. His performance on Jayso’s ‘Making Tasha Proud’ unlocked the stable, allowing this mare to gallop around.
His impressive performances on ‘Making Tasha Proud” and “Grind” led to many artists calling: E.L (on ” Shine”), Trigmatic (“Motromodwo”) and Obrofour (on ” Love Anthem”). A.I himself, would put out a few records of his own in the year past, including “Burn Fat”, “Moving On” and “Paper”.
So, with exactly a week to go for the official release of his nine track “Headstrong” EP, here are our three (3) expectations.
“Headstrong” should be a statement EP
For many, including fans of A.I, the sensational verses and singles, however impressive they were, have not necessarily marked A.I’s formidability within the music front. “Headstrong”, therefore should be an affirmation of his talent: sonically and lyrically speaking. That is, he must prove beyond doubt that he can be super nice on songs even in his sleep. And nine songs are enough to establish that claim, for the simple reasons that, this is his debut and has invested a lot of time in crafting it. Anything lukewarm would therefore be unforgiveable.
It should transcend Genres
The attraction of today’s afropop/afrobeats and trap sounds have become so pervasive over these past two years. The patterned tone of the sound is gradually rendering it monotonous: sucking the nectar of attractiveness it possessed dry. I hope “Headstrong” won’t excessively hedge its framework on this pattern.
A.I has proven to many that he can hold his own on whatever beat he is offered. He is also not a one dimensional artist. I want to hear him cascade across a variety of genres: hip hop, R&B, Afropop, afro-dancehall just to highlight his unique talent. Granted the EP boast no features, he has all the time to, like the male peacock show off his majestic resplendence.
A cohesive EP
The inscriptions on the artwork for “Headstrong” is, in itself a very clear indication of what inspired the EP. The commentaries – whether frenetic queries from starving fans, and critics – was the fuel, along with his own experiences that has ultimately shaped this project. I expect the song sequencing and production to be sharper than an knight’s sword. With talk of withering songwriting and lyrical content, I expect “Headstrong” to bring these seemingly lost art back to the fore.
The depiction of A.I exhaling a thick smoke and various comments on the cover of this EP isn’t for artsy purposes. It’s a depiction of a man who has heard it all and ready to showcase his full potential. And, perhaps, help propel Ghana music to the next phase.
“Headstrong” is to be released on Sept. 15.