On his latest South African house music leaning EP, Grammy-nominated producer takes the road less travelled and excelled.
Passion and Consistency. Two qualities that could propel one to heights beyond their own imagination. Yes, having the talent can get you noticed. The distinguishing factor, however, is staying passionate and consistent. The road to earning that stripes can sometimes be long, arduous and lonely. But, when the rewards starts coming, it pours in abundance.
That is partly the story of GuiltyBeatz. The music producer has been one of the most consistent and experimental producers of his time. His approach to producing music involves borrowing from different influences and condensing them into a pleasing sonic palette befitting of the times. Like most of his compatriots, GuiltyBeatz plays within the confines of what is in vogue. His sounds are not as futuristic as Gafacci’s or as avant-garde as what Juls crafts. GuiltyBeatz has his own strengths including the crafting of sounds that bends what is in vogue.
2019 was the year that the Italy born GuiltyBeatz earned his rightful stripes after his song “Akwaaba” became a viral sensation. The dance inspired song which featured Pappy Kojo, Mr. Eazi and Patapaa not only became a smash hit in Ghana and across Africa, it also got traction in Europe and the US, including rotation in NBA arenas. The success of the record contributed to the Banku Music signed producer making the cut for Beyonce’s Grammy-nominated album “The Lion King: The Gift”. The producer/DJ has also worked with Mr. Eazi, King Promise, Wizkid, Falz, Pappy Kojo and many others.
With all these successes, it was just a matter of time for GuiltyBeatz to release his own body of work. And, that’s exactly what he has done with “Different”. Composed of six (6) tracks, “Different” strays from his known dance-inspired, afropop filled sonic template. “Different”, as the EP title indicates is different in sound. GuiltyBeatz taps into the rich and riveting South African house music sound that is gradually taking over the continent. The excellently produced EP is a bouquet of unbridled happiness.
In an interview with notion.online, GuiltyBeatz would reveal how that cohesive sound was achieved:
“Creating the EP has truly been a labour of love, whilst I was on tour last year and working with different artists, across the world, I would spend time developing the beats”, he discloses. Inspiration from different spots of the world “whether that be LA, New York, UK, Italy, Jamaica or Dubai” would be morphed into what is heard on the EP. According to GuiltyBeatz “a lot of the artists on the project recorded whilst I was with them in some of these places, so each track really was a moment that had been captured”.
The sonic treat that unfolds on “Different” begins with a short skit of a man demanding to be paid. The gentle afro house rhythms unfold afterwards, playing for 17 seconds before the voice of the Nigerian rising star JoeBoy, a label mate of GuiltyBeatz part opens the beat on “No Love”. Singing predominantly in his local dialect, JoeBoy’s tendering yet quivering vocals align with the soothing breeze from the boards of GuiltyBeatz. On “Uthando”, Guilty recruits Nonso Amadi, who whips a stirring vocal work that breathes with such genteel aura. The transition between “No Love” and “Uthando”(“My Love” in Zulu) is very seamless that it appears GuiltyBeatz chose to chop the same record in two parts rather than put the two artists on the same record.
On the standout record off the EP, J.Derobie, also signed to Banku Music features on “My Vibe”. The dancehall heavy record shows the gifted J.Derobie exulting a lady for her ‘vibe’. J.Derobie sounds confident and comfortable on this song that could be mistaken for a Major Lazer output. (If J.Derobie is allowed to stay true to his reggae/ dancehall roots and not forced to stray towards the more commercially appealing afro pop sound, he’d grow to become one of the important artists of the genre).
Ghanaian Afro soul singer Cina Soul teams up with Mr. Eazi on the soul stirring, mid-tempo “How Long”. What makes this song amazing is how the scruffy voice of Mr. Eazi finds balance with the duvet-esque delivery of Cina Soul who confesses how “something inside my heart is calling… I wanna know how long I must wait”. Mr. Eazi’s display of longing characterized by his gasping for breathe towards the end of the song is ridiculously charming.
The posse cut song off the EP, “Condom Collector”, changes the mood of the EP. The high temp tone of the rhythms offers the song its exuberant feel. The lyrics, especially the hook is unapologetic explicit. The Daddy Lumba “Ase3 Ho” is a perfect precursor to what the song is about. Closing the EP is the equally inviting “Iyabo”, the lead single of what became the “Different” EP. Just like the seamless transition between “No Love” and “Uthanbo”, one barely recognizes where “Condom Collector” ends and “Iyabo” begins.
“Different” scores high on a number of points including the flawless transitions between songs and sequencing of records. Another remarkable moment of this EP is seen in how GuiltyBeatz eschewed fillers. He rather filled the album with six solid songs. The shortness of the EP coupled witn the solid song sequencing affords the EP its replay value.
In a clime where afropop is the favourite genre that almost all producers and musicians lean towards for obvious reasons, it is impressive to see GuiltyBeatz, one of architects of the genre deciding to take the road less travelled by many West African producers. But, taking risk is what has brought GuiltyBeatz this far. Fearlessness; the ability to experiment, to try new things is what makes him standout. Like the inscription on the back of his jacket in the album cover indicates, “the future will be different”.
Words by: Swaye Kidd