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On his Twitter bio, Funbi mentions himself as an artiste – not just the owner of hooks, but the whole verse thing. It’s an apt observation from him; he knows his career and fame has depended on collaborations, most of which are with rappers.

As a part of The Collectiv3, he has had some songs which have showed his ability to own a song, fully. I Want It Back, a reggae inspired song on heartbreak and manipulation makes his solo debut EP.

Hallelujah remains a commercial darling but Funbi’s decision to put out an EP many months later proves his artistic intentions. In an era of many sounds , will he deliver a unified experience for the listener? Let’s dig in…

On the opener Show Up, there’s a lightly threaded path of appreciation; Funbi flips his “the archetype” album track listing. Color is a livelier song, with Yoruba being incorporated into Funky Funbi’s lyrics. On social media, the hook (you don’t need to show your color kin to damo) has become a kind of catchphrase, but it is the line “when the night is over I might have to save you” which gets to me on every listen.

The title track is a performance of a lifetime, a master lyricist at work tapping into the cultural; already, the drums and their variations provoke colorful imagery of an agbada wearing dancer, even as Funbi’s words aim to serenade. The drums are frenetic from the start of Voodoo (so far, Spax’s trademark production has been a strong feature in Serenade) as Funbi sings “I’ve been longing for you” submitting himself to the lover. His Yoruba add a fine sprinkle of the indigenous in the track to make it a worthy meal.

Seyi Shay comes in for Body, the first vocal feature. For a lady well known for dominating her sexuality driven personas, it is hardly a surprising feature. Her verse is however, short, and fails to come up with any inspiration for a theme which should spark the dullest minds to unheralded creativity. Funbi’s vocal strength as usual, is a standout, and the drums and his generously deployed Yoruba makes Body a good one – just not good enough given the talent on the roster. 

Just as the unsatisfied critic is putting down his headphones in frustration, Efya shows up and absolutely rocks her feature. Ride With You almost seems like her song, with her slightly masculine voice melding smoothly into the rolling drums, and Funbi! Efya’s dominant effort makes for a cross cultural moment, another solid slab in the Nigerian and Ghanaian music industry brick house.

“See, but now I realize/it was a lesson in disguise” Funbi sings in I Want It Back, a hurt discernible in his voice but not enough to overwhelm his general positivity and the production which surrounds it.

Funky Funbi’s solo debut will make a lot of playlists and would present the perfect soundtrack for sexually charged lovers. As a body of work, Funbi keeps it short and cozy (about twenty five minutes, the average duration of a round of sex, foreplay included) but he barely experiments; instead, sinking deep into character.  

With this part of the world often romanticized as a place where “traffic is as bad as the news on a front page” – according to Poe  – Funbi owns the nights when the hustle gives way for romance, and soulful reflections. In that regard, Serenade achieves its purpose as “a piece of music sung or played in the open air, typically by a man at night.”  

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