Review: Zed Ay Kay- ”Versatility” Album
In an industry where the perks of recognition does not often fall on the plate of some of the best talents, it would not be a surprise if the name of Zed Ay Kay does not register immediately. His music has not crossed over into the mainstream fold, not because the songs are not great. Rather, the songs do not “fit” the mainstream standards, whatever that means.
Zed Ay Kay’s musical journey began during his time at St. Augustine’s College when he co-founded the music group Replay. Over the years, he has successfully built and honed his craft, culminating in the release of singles. Those who have followed his career would recognize his overall growth as an artist. Not the one to follow the crowd, Zed Ay Kay has found his terrain – making songs that highlight issues that confronts the young and middle-aged Ghanaian youth. Skill-wise, one can notice the sharpness in his lyrics – relevant, focus and relatable. His musical range is also reflected across his music, as he is able to stride across the genres of hip hop, afropop/afrobeats, highlife, reggae and more.
Zed Ay Kay’s recently released album “Versatility” encapsulates all these qualities. The 14-track album serves both as an introduction of the artist to a first-time listener, and a seal of approval for the keen watcher of the scene, especially the works of non-mainstream artists.
Opening the album is a freestyle performance that places the album in context: Zed offers a backdrop to his artistry and thus, the album. “The way I creatively bring my songs alive; from conception to creation, melodies to rhythms, flows to delivery, then I dey ask my body say ebi me paa I do magic like that?”, Zed intones in a spoken word poetry style, blending Fante, English, Pidgin over a traditional highlife rhythm.
“Lemonade”, featuring Yaa Pono and Dahlin Cage is an afropop sounding record tackling the subject of love. It’s a confessional tune where Zed Ay Kay employs cajoling and tacit anecdotes to relay his intentions. “Lemonade” is metaphorically used to depict his sexual intentions. It’s easy to note why “Lemonade” is the standout- or one of the standouts – off “Versatility”. The production- the spacey beats and the hi-hats clapped drums along with the catchy sing-along hook and lyrics offers the song its appeal.
His use of metaphor continues on the mellow and smooth, dancehall tune “Ghanja Loving”. Along with Stacious and Jiggy, the three take turns to express how “high” they feel on love. With Jimmy serving a good hook, Zed and Stacious, playing the role of lovers, describe their affection towards one another. “Ghanja Loving” might qualify as a fan favourite due to its overall composition.
On the mid-tempo “Ask Yourself”, Zed Ay Kay and Candy DCM detail a failed relationship and the lessons learnt (”you blow the love out like your birthday candles”), ”Deliverance’” has Zed and Singlet charming with their Fante lyrics, exulting the physique of a lady. Zed continues the love chronicles on the Kumi Guitar assisted highlife drenched “Two Guitar” exploring how love could smoothen the worlds of two different people.
The allusion to versatility is exhibited on the reggae-inflected “Nah Give Up (Remastered). Like its title, the song exudes a positive outlook on life despite the numerous hurdles one has to scale. If Zed Ay Kay’s lyrics are the pegs of the song, Ras Kuku’s tender vocals firm up the positive ethos being preached.
Forging formidable relationships in this music industry is an important move for young artists. Not only do these alliances produce good results, these friends – often more experienced – are able to offer informed perspectives on situations. For Zed Ay Kay, the FOKN Bois – M3NSA and Wanlov- have become his OGs, helping him grow his craft. It’s therefore not out of place to find Wanlov and M3NSA on “We No Know”.
Rendered in the form of a young man seeking answers on the state of the music industry from a sensei, Zed and the FOKN Bois plough through what they consider as reasons why the industry and some artists feel stymied. Whereas Wanlov posed questions on what artist Zed want to be (“You be musician of the art or a musician of the pocket?”), M3NSA challenged artists to fix the crooked systems impeding the industry.(I wonder what zone M3NSA was in prior to recording this verse cos the first few bars…whew)
“Sika y3 abonsam a, then I wanna be a pastor”, Zed echoes on ”Sika Y3 D3″, a highlife styled tune that offers a crash course on financial literacy. Zed Ay Kay returns to the theme of love on a couple of records including the humour-laced “Me P3n Demara” where he swears to commit to a lady with “bad bitch” tendencies. The guitar riff that undergird the song is damn infectious. “Daben” and “Sexy Lady” carry an uptempo vibe with both touching on various aspects of love.
When was the last time you heard a song by the legendary highlife artists, Felix Owusu? Well, Zed Ay Kay got him on “Stop My Love”, the closing record off the album. The highlife groove, mid-tempo tone and the warm voice of Felix Owusu evokes a wonderful feeling.
If there is any criticism of ‘’Versatility’’, it comes in the form of the album being overly love-themed. That is, most of the songs explored the subject of love and centred a little on other subjects – financial worthwhile, life and its pressures.
‘’Versatility’’ is a good debut album for Zed Ay Kay. The album revealed his potential as a rapper and a musician considering the A&R work that went into the album. Again, there are songs like ‘’Lemonade’’, ‘’Me P3n Demara’’, ‘’Two Guitars’’ to propel him into the mainstream conversation. One of the people on the album that deserve commendation for their work is music producer Wei Y3 Oteng. His experience as a producer contributed in making the project a firm body of work.