“Atomic Muse” is a seven-track tape released by the multi-talented artist, NiiQuaye about a week ago. His name might not toll on the music scene in Ghana- he is not a front line or mainstream artist, yet. NiiQuaye’s talent, however, has been heard on many hit songs released over the years in this country.
His contributions have come mostly by way of playing background duties – offering his technical assistance on other people’s projects. His credentials run deep. (Check out the pinned tweet on his twitter page). NiiQuaye is also the frontman for the well-known music band Musical Lunatics.
“Atomic Muse”, the title of the tape was settled on primarily because of the history NiiQuaye shares with the township of Atomic Junction in Accra. As he told me: “My musical influence [is] all from Atomic Junction/ Firestone and Madina”. “99% of the project”, according to NiiQuaye “was also birthed in my studio at Atomic Junction”.
The choice of title was thus, an ode to the place that had and continue to influence his music buds.
Love and its various shards are explored on “Atomic Muse”. The EP intersects the cleavages of Afropop and Afrofusion, RnB and Afro-soul into a ball of a sonic buoyance. The EP also features artists like Cina Soul, Boyd, Ko-Jo Cue whom NiiQuaye has established a strong musical relationship with overtime.
He also solicit contributions from GoodGirl LA, C.J. Biggerman, Wanlov, T’Neeya and Sister Deborah on some of the records.
Below is a track-by-track review of “Atomic Muse”.
Remember Me ft GoodGirl LA ft. Sister Deborah
As an opener, NiiQuaye’s decision to commence the tape with the song is excellent. GoodGirl LA’s singing is crisp, her Nigerian accent, flow and street lingua combined effortlessly, gliding against the melodic highlife inspired groove. The bassline and horns that floated within the beat offered the song a soothing, evanescent and hip feel.
GoodGirl LA sees through the ‘raps’ or ‘toast’ as the Nigerians say – a guy is showering upon her (“I dey laugh your rubbish oh baby”). For her, assurance and commitment are paramount as the hook suggest. Sister Deborah makes an appearance, offering a rap- sing performance. NiiQuaye could have chopped off her verse, especially that part that led to the closing chorus since it dragged the song a bit longer.
Uber ft. CJ Biggerman
“Uber” carries a South African House music enchantment. CJ Biggerman delivers an account of his encounter with an uber driver who is delaying his date with Akua. The song portrays a different side of Biggerman – his delivery lacks the verbosity and aggression often present in is rap.
Instead, his verse sounds more playful, enjoyable and the repetitiveness of the hook provokes a sing-along effect. On “Uber”, groove replaces lyrics without sacrificing the excitement that the record evokes.
Anger ft. BiQo and Alee
“I’m just made up this way, I react when I’m hurt inside”, BiQo croons at the start of the song. Over soulful RnB productions, “Anger” is a therapy session between BiQo and Alee. BiQo is the guy with anger issues and Alee, playing the role of a shrink reminds him that ‘violence is not the answer’. Vocally, this is a perfect match-up.
The two play to their strengths- both in style and approach. It’s not too surprising considering that NiiQuaye has worked with both artists and is aware of their strengths and how to bring out the best in them. BiQo and Alee did not disappoint on “Anger”.
Bo ft. Cina Soul
Serene piano chords ushers us into this RnB flavoured record. A song about missing a loved one, NiiQuaye’s vocals evokes an honest feeling of desiring someone. The expression of longing and its associated emptiness is felt through his tone. This is my first time hearing NiiQuaye sing. His performance compensates for the abominable act of anglicizing his Ga on the record.
Cina Soul who is featured on the song brings it home: singing mostly in the Ga dialect while revealing her lingering loss. The expected spine-tingling soulful croon often present in Cina’s music was not apparent on “Bo”, albeit her voice complemented the mood of the song. Thanks to the spirit that nudged NiiQuaye to include ‘Bo’ on the EP.
Bebe ft. T’neeya & Wanlov
“Bebe” is a revisitation to the afropop sounds. The beat carries an undulating tone where T’neeya finds a home, exalting a lover. As the record rolled, I kept wondering why T’neeya did not sing her part in French. Not only would the record have resonated within the Francophone market, the production carried an element of francophone influence.
That switch would have synced into Wanlov’s enunciation of some certain words with his French accent. “Bebe” is a couple of minutes longer that expected. NiiQuaye could have done away with the 30-seconds humming of the chorus before the song faded.
Juju ft. Boyd
This track carries the sensations of afropop, with love as a central theme. Boyd, who has in recent times established a working relationship with NiiQuaye delivers a treat, where he ponders if the loving he’s enjoying is enriched with juju (black magic).
”Juju” swirls with infectious vintage guitar riffs and traditional flute rhythms that immediately tells the origin of the sound. Prior to the release of ”Atomic Muse”, NiiQuaye and Boyd had worked on their uptempo, afrofusion track “Mi Lobi”.
Akweley ft. Ko-Jo Cue
Now, that classic ”Dede” by Amandzeba interpolation on “Akweley” is exceptional. Ko-Jo Cue comes out swinging with his rap flow, wearing his ‘kumasi borga’ swag, lyrically speaking, as he tried wooing his love interest, Akweley on the uptempo record.
As a debut EP, NiiQuaye stayed within the afropop/afrodusion musical template that defines many of today’s music from the West African belt. By blending RnB with afropop elements, NiiQuaye did not only ensure a balance in respect of the EPs sonic appeal, but also played to the strengths of the artists he featured.
The quality in production, the short tracklist, and the music on it makes “Atomic Muse” an enjoyable listen.