Before you even hear, “Cindy OsO Ft. mOrimOto”, the first track on Chicago rapper and multi-instrumentalist Nnamdi Ogbonnaya’s latest LP, Drool, everything from the record’s goofy cartoon cover art to the random capitalizations in the song titles screams, “This one’s for the weirdos!” And thank God. In a genre that has become overloaded with mundane, lazy-lipped, slang-slinging pretty people, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya delivers some much-needed, thoughtful wordplay and forward-thinking rhythms and melodies for the otherwise alienated, oddball masses. Drool is for every hip-hop fan who’s been craving something different than the mindless, simplistic, lackadaisical dreck that’s dominated streaming services and record store shelves for the first quarter of 2017.
Straight out of the gate, Nnamdi’s slick production and instrumentation brings to mind influences as disparate as TV On The Radio, Aphex Twin, and Wendy Carlos. Ogbonnaya’s pitch-shifting vocal style (which sounds remarkably like a record scratching) is a perfect match for his clever rhymes that often dissect polysyllabic words, helping to articulately flesh-out his idiosyncratic compositions.
Any artist who’s tried knows it’s not easy to write a hook that’s at once complicated and catchy. Nnamdi succeeds at this in
splendid form during “let gO Of my egO” when he hypnotically chants, “Oh I poked the no no, and they scold the wood Gipetto, rigor mortis after coitus, you know they don’t wanna let go, Buddha rub the belly, R the Kelly, make ‘em echo loud, get up off that, get up off that, let go of my ego now.”
Drool isn’t perfect. Although the first four tracks are strong and the album’s second half has some good moments, the record does suffer from a bit of a saggy middle. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the same place where the bulk of songs with features reside. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a one-of-a-kind performer, and it’s easy to imagine him having to compromise his material to better suit his guests. Fortunately, however, there’s more good than bad here, and Nnamdi’s refreshing eccentricities and skillful production help to make Drool a unique and enjoyable listen.