The mood of Maleek Berry’s music is captured in the video for 'Kontrol', lead single off his 2016 EP, Last Daze of Summer. Girls, bright colours, dancing, the man himself taking in the scene. Only adjustment needed is a slight increase in the number of people in the video. Then you can post a photo of the scene to social media. Caption: "Mood: Maleek Music".
That video has racked up over 10 million views on YouTube. So: the man whose music is for the giddy moment has captured the imagination of the young and healthy. People of the moment, that is.
For some time he was the man behind several scenes, supplying beats blending the western with Nigerian sounds to artists like Sauce Kid, Wizkid and Wande Coal. Now he has his face out there. Going by the consistency of the polish and verve on Last Daze of Summer, Maleek Berry seems to have saved his best tunes for himself.
As with many of his producing colleagues, he has realised that in a generation where singing artists are little more than yabbering muppets aided by auto-tune and spanking beats, producers themselves with a modicum of singing talent can front their own sounds. The EP has just the one featured artist.
This realisation should lead to some terrible singing but there is no rule saying the use of that auto-tune technology is limited to known vocalists. The bar is low enough for audiences to not expect a vocal gymnast at every turn. The current climate—which the man himself has contributed to—is suitable for Maleek Berry, who takes advantage and has made a collection of songs unambitious in terms of melody, vocals or songwriting. Rather, as with Mr Eazi, Mr Berry’s genius is the provision of an abundance of vibe. The music makes you feel good and that is all that matters. There’s no conflict—no clouds; all silver linings. Unlike say, Burna Boy, whose EP had downers, Maleek Berry, who like Burna has had his Nigerian roots tempered by years of absorbing the London underground music scene, has made a musical companion to alcohol. “10 bottle don go down,” he sings at a point.
Last Daze of Summer is a deftly groovy package. From opener ‘Kontrol’, a song about a dancing girl inspiring lust, to the closer ‘Eko Miami’, which is about a party spanning continents, the music takes the fact of its own existence easy. “We go turn up, turn up, all night,” goes the chorus on the last song. By "about", I mean what can be gotten from songs that mostly sound like all chorus. But, of course, in a way the Last Daze EP is one long song with one theme: life is a party. Even when he tries to avoid the friend-zone on 'Let Me Know' or pledges loyalty to a woman on dancehall tune 'Nuh Let Go'.
The one breach of the album's sunny vibes is on ‘Lost in the World’. The narrator is a little more sober here. It is a sobriety that will soon be drowned in alcohol—which makes the next song title, ‘Flexin’, apt.
‘Lost in the World’ might remind American hip-hop fans of the Kanye West song of the same title but it is a song done in the spirit of Drake’s 'Marvin's Room’ which has an intoxicated man call an old girlfriend. But where Drake’s ex is perhaps happily settled with a new beau, Berry’s is out having a good time. “If you ain’t spend that money,” he sings, “she gone leave ya.” He moves from blaming the girl to blaming himself. Which could mean Mr Berry has combined several romantic stories here.
“She say life is a drug," he says. "She lost in the world.” Well, Maleek Berry’s afro-psychedelic vibe on the song, complete with talking drum patterns and some strumming, is nearly as potent. You want to hold a glass and dance slowly. It is the EP’s best song in combining the dominant hedonistic vibe of the collection with some vague truth about love and youth in the lyrics. You crave more of this emotional bite from Mr Berry, but he doesn’t want to dwell on it. He needs to move on—if the song is autobiographical. I understand; you might as well. Rockstar or not, apparently, we've all been in that romantic black hole. With this background, when Maleek Berry sings the EP's last line—“so we no go remember”—you might want to give him a hug or recall your own romantic woes. Resist the impulse. Dance instead. It is why Mister Berry has made an EP with such wonderfully danceable beats. You need to forget. And party hard.