Ladies, gentlemen and those in between… We plug to you Ayo the Nigerian Nightmare. I was introduced to Ayo’s music late last year through a friend who recommended Ayo’s debut mixtape Delusions of Grandeur and I’ve since been following the Harlem rapper’s career. Ayo – born and raised in Nigeria before moving to Michigan, USA in his teens – is one artist to watch out for in the coming months. The rapper who now resides in New York embodies his experiences from living in both countries into his music; merging them into a uniquely crafted sound. Musically versed as you’ll hear on his mixtape, this budding artist beams quite a noticeable resemblance to one of his Hip-Hop influences Lupe Fiasco.
Known also for his exciting live performances, Ayo is backed by his 5-piece band who go by the name of In-Motion and are always present at his shows. As Ayo explains, “in motion is a movement that encourages people to allow the passion, goals and ambitions to thrive them”. It is apparent that this phrase is a staple Ayo goes by as he extends his talents further from being a rapper to displaying a few of his spoken word skills as heard on popular track “Yemoja”. Ayo’s work has gained him good recognition from serving on a Hip-Hop panel that included Lupe Fiasco, Byron Hurt and Toni Blackman in 2011 to interviewing Russell Simmons for MTV. He recently released his Daydreams and Nightmares mixtape with a performance launch at New York City’s Free Candy venue on June 15 and if you’re wondering why you hadn’t previously heard of Ayo, we’re about to fix that…
Kicking off this feature is the first song and title track from Ayo’s new mixtape titled “Daydreams and Nightmares”. The song starts off with one of the most creative and witty introductions I’ve heard on a mixtape in a while, aptly building up anticipation to the music that lies ahead. The easy going chorus is a welcome contrast to the thorough lyrics on the song, which highlight Ayo’s experiences growing up. Staying true to his style of music, the song covers all components of a well-balanced Hip-Hop track; a rhythmic drum pattern laced with multiple synths that work well with his delivery. The female vocals which drop in on the instrumentals at the 4:00 minute mark backed by piano chords also adds an unexpected but welcome addition to the track.
“new kid in high school, missed the first draft of who’s cool”
This next song “Ponds of Reflection” steers away from the electronically generated instrumentals apparent on the Daydreams and Nightmares mixtape. The combination of bass drums, cymbals and piano chords come together to create a sound that appears to have been recorded live. I haven’t been to any of Ayo’s live shows yet but I’ll be surprised to find that this isn’t listed on his track set and isn’t already a crowd favorite. This track – with a Soulful and infectious hook – also has a more personal and heartfelt message about love and his experiences which always makes for great music.
With a name that includes the term ‘nightmare’, its only apt for Ayo to have a song titled “Dreams”. Featuring Omni Blaize on vocals, I’m still curious to know what instrumentals Ayo raps over on “Dreams” but it is definitely one track that stands out from Ayo the Nigerian Nightmare. Ayo’s staple conscious lyrics are backed by the edgy New York inspired sounds to make for one of the dopest Hip-Hop tracks on the mixtape and a song that, in my opinion, should be making the playlists on New York radio stations.
“My dream is to make it, eat my cake while I bake it”
Guess I’ll leave you with one extra plug, “She’s Leaving” which is one of the more commercial sounding efforts from Ayo. This song – also listed on his most recent mixtape – made a first appearance on his debut mixtape Delusions of Grandeur. The lush kick drums and hi-hats mesh oh-so appropriately with the organ keys playing throughout the track. Featuring Omni Blaize again on vocals who adds the R&B feel, “She’s Leaving” shows us a different side to Ayo while still keeping his ethos of making meaningful music.
The 16-track mixtape – with executive producers Ayo The Nigerian Nightmare and Yuri “DJ Foto” Portugal – is a true blend of great Hip-Hop music. Other notable tracks on the mixtape include “Fixed Me” featuring Marisela & Chris Littler which has a hook that stays with you even after listening. The song “Bad Men” – also a big favorite – journeys with Ayo as he reminisces about times growing up in Nigeria. With lyrics like “wish I could tell you it’s changed (but) the country is still run by bad men”, Ayo’s need to be conscious opens up conversations to being compared to a young Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Relating this to his last mixtape, there is a definite recognizable growth in his music, delivery and content. Another plus which everyone can appreciate is his originality as you can tell Ayo is determined to establish himself uniquely rather than craft his sound to something we’re used to. With strong musical zeal and distinct stage appearance, which includes donning a hat from his native land, Ayo certainly has the potential to daydream his way to the top.
Download: Daydreams & Nightmares