Now where do I start from on this one? From the very beginning I hear you say. OK, In the beginning was a lawyer who got restless with his musical talents and decided to put it to work – writing, arranging and producing songs for other artistes. He got quite excellent at his craft, and the big names kept rolling in, he produced for well known Gospel acts and even top mainstream artistes brought their work to him to engineer, mix and master. His popular sign off on his works ‘F-L-O Baby or FloRocka’ and his vocalisms on their tracks became a brand. As time went by, he “found” his singing voice and decided to step out into recording his own work, and history began. We plug to you gifted lawyer turned prolific producer turned unique and Inspirational Rock Singer/Songwriter – FLO.
FLO (Real name: Nathan Akiremi) is a multi-talented Nigerian Gospel/Inspirational fusion musician. Fusion because there are elements of a number of genres in the music he makes – you can hear Eastern sounds, Reggae, Afrobeat, World Music, Jazz, Pop, Urban and Rock elements all in his music. He has been described as eclectic; his songs stand out in a branded style of composition and arrangement, his voice – exceptionally distinctive & refreshingly matchless, his music – very captivating. As FLO the producer, he has written, co-written, produced and worked with countless numbers of Nigerian mainstream and emerging artists including the likes of Efe, Aaron T Aaron, Vivien Stephen, Kore, Midnight Crew, Onos and Ibiyemi. He has also worked with legendary 70’s and 80’s American disco group Shalamar on a recent remix.
Distinct with his long hair, a humorous persona and a diverse outlook on life and music, FLO grew up in a musical family; his mother was a classical soloist while his father was a writer, singer and musician. In December 2010, FLO released a Christmas album – Christmas According to FLO to huge acclaim and reception online as well as on the Nigerian music scene and earlier last month (June 2011), FLO released a new solo effort by way of the 14-track album – The OverFLO. With songs on this album, you are sure to be held spellbound by his immersive lyrics, persuasive melodies and distinct harmonies but just don’t take my word for it, let us peruse some of the music.
We begin with “It’s Not About You and Me” – a song (according to FLO) borne out of an experience with a “road rager” interestingly enough. The rocky guitar strings and twangs welcomes you to this song. It starts out with a “dirty grunge” pair of guitar strums and a telephone vox. Almost immediately, the chorus comes in with angry Gibson guitars running here and there! Then comes the verse with the guitars still rocking the background. At 0:54 minutes, the backing vocals come in strong with aggressiveness to buttress the verse. By the 1:51 minute mark, the pop drums establish themselves as the backbone of the song but the most interesting portion of the song comes at exactly 2:20 minutes. The guitar solo runs in smooth successive sessions giving that grunge “Michael Jackson” appeal. The song ends with a heart pounding stop with the lead vocal. Get pain relief for this one!
This next song is “Addicted” – the first song on the album – and I spoke to FLO on the inspiration of this song and he had this to say:
“Having grown up with a Christian background, my life tended to tilt towards ‘christiandom’ naturally. However as I grew older I got to realize that a lot of Christians tend to move further away from their faith for all sorts of ‘justifiable’ reasons. It almost seemed as though professing Christianity was gradually becoming an antique of sorts. I find some Gospel artists trying to ‘para-phrase’ their belief in ways that would sooth the listening audience. I believe that every religion has its foundation in its history. And you gotta be proud of who you are and what you profess to believe in – otherwise its all a farce. ‘Addicted’ speaks of my belief in my religion and my conviction of the God that I serve. Its not a track for everyone. If you feel connected to it..so be it. Most of my songs are written from a viewpoint of my ‘personal experiences’ and this track is no different. However towards the end I made an ‘alter call’ in a very subtle way! But of course, you gotta hear the song to understand what I’m talking about. Besides, another reason I placed this song as the 1st song on my album was to give the listening audience a notion of ‘who’ and ‘what’ I stand for.” – FLO
“Addicted” is a contemporary Gospel song which has a very urban groove with some R&B licks stealing in at random intervals. It is upbeat with the bassline running arpeggios every opportunity it gets. The backing vocals are very ‘in your face’ with harmonies that get you hooked! Once in a while, you find that groove creating that ‘moonwalk’ moment especially from the 3:00 minute mark. There’s a break at the 3:23 minute mark that gives you a 5 second window to catch your breath while tempting licks and several break beats towards the tail end of the song give “Addicted” 5 stars in my books.
Coming up next is a song titled “Ope Loye O” which means “You deserve all the thanksgiving/praise” in Yoruba language. This is one of my favorite songs on the album – it is essentially a song of praise and worship to God and a song to appreciate Him with. The hook of the song in itself is an old communal praise song which FLO re-adapts and remixes in a very musically relevant way. This track starts off with an Asian flute rendition and then at 13 seconds, the chorus comes through with sleek and velvety backing vocals that make you wanna lift your hands up – this is definitely where Pop, Reggae, Hip-Hop and Rock meet Contemporary African rhythms! “Ope Loye O” morphs with rock guitars streaming in at intervals while the verses are laced with Ragga tones with the lead vocals surfing through with the same Reggae smoothness. I must say that the backing vocals make this song a must listen and at 2:14 minutes, the song takes a turn into deep African praise laced with traditional call and responses. You just gotta love this track!
Last but not least in our review of The OverFLO is “Let it Go“. A nu-sound track laden with R&B licks .The song starts with a sweet piano arpeggio driven by synth brasses and a tapping Hip-Hop bassline. The verses are quite distinct with the synths and piano taking the lead whilst the lead vocal morphs through them all. As the chorus swings by, you get to hear those sweet ‘Tina Turner-like’ rock guitars. The kick drum keeps the song on a leash with strong pounds on every bar! Very melodic and sleek is what I like to call this one!
“Let It Go” has a poignant message for all to hear. The song speaks of some of the issues and struggles we face in life and how a lot of times we stay ‘stuck’ in a mode of unforgiveness, bitterness and rage. Even the melody and rhythmic tones of the song are intentional. Although, it makes you wanna get up and sway from side to side, the song holds it compelling nature and the message still sinks in. It speaks of past and present pains that we unknowingly harbor – that have subconsciously relinquished our ability to love, give, receive and live. “Let it go” takes you through that thought process of coming to a self realization that nobody should cause you to stay in an emotional dark place – this is a song for all ages.
On The OverFLO, FLO shows promising and exceptional artistry, musicianship and songwriting dexterity among other great traits and personally, I confess that I have become a fan for life. Having come to the conclusion that this is music I’d like to have in my collection not only because it’s inspirational in content but also because you have to agree that musically, it’s quite different from the mold and has the potential to last longer. It has that uncommon musical revolutionary effect that will be around for a while in my opinion. Other songs worth checking out on this record are “I Want to Praise” which features the phenomenal and energetic singing sensation Yinka Davies and Michael Abdul of Midnight Crew – Africans and non-Africans alike will love it for its Afro-feel while “Give Him Praise” is also a groovy one to listen out for. “I’m only Human” is another personal favorite for its real lyrical content (it speaks of our human frailty and a desire to be better towards a possible perfection) .This is one of those albums where it’s actually difficult to have a favorite, you won’t ever find yourself skipping a song to get to the next. Take me up on it and get a copy. If you want music that’s energetic, edgy, unique, interesting, inspirational and captivating all at the same time, then my advice to you is this – add The OverFLO to your record collection.