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“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”
         Alphonse de Lamartine


Freedom, often pined over, is really unattainable. For if freedom is a break away, there’s a good chance it has been provoked. For some, it is through books; for some, music; for some, religion.

For Jesse Jagz, it was music.  Jagz is always in the studio, so much so that Audu Maikori, the chocolate city boss had to beg him to stop recording so much music for his debut album. This Prodigy has almost played with every genre. But he has found his most connection with Reggae.  His delve into this genre, a genre of music rich in musical flavor and spiritual tendencies is one to behold.

Over the past few years, Jargo has attempted to "evolve" his sound and brand/persona from not just a Rap/ hiphop prodigy but to a Reggae/soul socio-political artist, this transfiguration has been lost on a lot of observers/fans and one can even claim , his own label at the time. It isn't strange to point out that Jesse Jagz made his best albums (Including the classic,  Jagz Nation: Thy Nation Come Vol 1) when he left Chocolate City Entertainment.

The sharp contrast between both genres and cultures shocked the basic hiphop/pop fans , only true music aficionados embraced the new Jagz, shallow music listeners and band wagoners were even put off by his new look and hairstyle. The entire transformation sparked up speculation that Jesse Jagz was over indulging with Marijuana.

Side Note: All your favorite celebrities are over indulging. The feedback got to Jagz and his team at the time and he decided to tone it down a little and made "The Royal Niger Company'.

A contemporary of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, is eulogized in the opener of the Royal Niger Company. From the first second, there’s a chaotic sound, typically generated from the ringside buzz before/during a boxing fight.

Following the trademark flow of his mono syllabic end rhyme pattern, Jesse Jagz lets the beat lead him, a freestyle like pattern adopted. It is on the hook however, where he gets into his business for the day. He sings:

Give me the wisdom to see freedom isn’t free
You’ll search and you seek for knowledge from a tree
From the Earth to the sea war is for the free
It’s the wisdom to see the Lion in a G

A lion, asides being a cultural symbol in Reggae, (for surely, Haile Selassie is called the Lion of Judah) also represents a tough headed persona, one Jesse Jagz has been known to adopt so often it is second skin. (The label of his erstwhile Jagz Nation imprint was of a ragged Jesse face flanked by two lions.)
Image result for jesse jagz thy nation come

With his Hip Hop background, Jesse Jagz uses the opener Louis to set the first block of a bridge between two musical cultures which, over time, has become as deep as religion to him: Reggae and Hip Hop.

Keeping up with the racism accorded to the black skin, Jesse Jagz, in an elevated fashion from Africa, samples Howard Beale’s rant from the movie Network. “I want you to get mad!”

My life has value, God damn it! With that adding a cinematic value to the track, Jesse Jagz invites the cameras to document his art; recognizing that the voice of his peoples and chosen genres has been terminally stereotyped.

If the “Colombian gold” doesn’t get an ode of a track, it probably isn’t a Jesse Jagz album. On The SearchJesse Jagz and DUGOD go about enlightening who is usually a woman, soliciting for the healing powers of Sativa.

With the hook, a glimpse is given into the Creative Process which preceded the album:

Late at night when my pen gon’ bleed
I look around what a friend gon’ need
A friend with weed is a friend in deed
We pick those sticks and we blend those seeds
I dial up, spend more G’s
Inhale then we bend those knees
Feel it in the air there’s a gentle breeze
Please won’t you let a nigga blow these trees?

It’s easy to imagine the studio where this album was worked into fruition: the distinct smell of weed in every corner, the sound of pens scribbling on paper, an instrument stinging the air as a producer or artiste tries his hand at something.

Jagz on his birthday

For a man who goes by “The Greatest,” it comes a shock when even those duo of words becomes an understatement. When he’s not making songs about spiritual enlightenment and sexual nuances, find Jesse Jagz running lyrical miracles around your favorite rapper.

Asides the ear catching quality of his trademark end rhymes, Jesse Jagz is able to switch up tempos in between words in a verse. Three songs on Royal Niger Company prove this.

On Supply And Demand, he wears the 2pac bandana and with his flow, picks out parts of the Nigerian music industry which he feels, is all hype and no artistry. Similarly to the theme of closer How We Do, he goes by the mantra: don’t mess with the phonies, support the real.

Show Dem Camp do make a brilliant appearance on The Case but it is Jesse’s duo of verses that take home the cherry. Starting off from a theological vantage point, he descends in his chariot of technical brilliance, rapping line after line, reasons why no one should mess with one whose ‘pen is my (his) temper.”
That Ghost verse though.

The song, The Window, rich in its instrumentation, is frequented by a cock’s crow. With an East African sound being adopted, Jagz enters into a stream of consciousness mode.

Limiting his songwriting in tune to the visual disability of standing by a window, he manages to shine a light on passing persons and philosophize on the distance of bodies. 

Each of the three verses begins with a question, a metaphysical inquiry into the physicality of spaces. In the third verse, he takes a well timed shot at detractors:
“Now this is what I think of when I sit in my chair
But all they wanna know is what he did to his hair.”

From the searing Jumar hook to each impeccably delivered Jesse Jagz verse, there is an obscure quality to every word. Instead of revealing the true intent of the song, it thrives off the visual quality; you see the picture but you don’t quite know what to make of it.

It is upon such mystique that Jesse Jagz has built his throne. When his MTV Base Freestyle went viral and he was awarded an Headies for God On The Mic, you could feel the desperation to reward his genius.

But in typical fashion, he rejects this mainstream love, in his tough headed way. In the same song, he raps that he shall live alone till he dies. A reviewer of the album, Wilfred Okochie, says: It will pay the price for its unfriendliness to the pop charts. Well said, but I doubt Jagz gave that much of a thought whilst making this album. With every song like an intentional mazy tunnel in which one must lose oneself to “find” oneself, he has succeeded in being outside the mainstream industry but still in it. Like Brymo, he remains a graceful beneficiary of his early Pop credits and, however one might hate to say it, the Abaga name.

Now, he presents himself as an image of the revolution, one in which he has had conversations with the Ara singer about. His music is undoubtedly ‘deep’ — it is like an enthusiast of poetry once said: for some poems, in every line, they strike a secret understanding within you but perused further, falls flat.

There’s an overwhelming feeling that comes with seeing artistes from different generations on a project, even if dead. 2pac’s interview on Mortal Man, while posthumous, didn’t seem anything like it. The Compton icon was getting advice from an elder, a product of the same streets that shaped them both.

On the Royal Niger Company, a list of icons that stand out as references and inspiration throughout, with some tracks bearing semblance the peculiarities in their art. 2pac’s spoken word features on How We Do, the closer. “Don’t support the phonies,” he says “support the real.”  In songs as the aforementioned and Supply And Demand, Jesse Jagz’s flow is heavily influenced by the legend’s, even the subject matter. If he was ever going to make an expressive album from the insides of a musical culture often subjugated to misrepresentation, a man who, the government thought he posed a threat with his “Outlawz” movement.

Over the years, rappers like 2pac (and they’ve been very few of those) have moved into a larger role as a metaphor. It is no surprise to see his trademark face printed on T Shirts and other articles. For the sakes of freedom, for the feeling that perhaps, we can tap into the fearlessness of Amaru Shakur, we buy these things and rock them with pride.

Fela too, makes an appearance on Sunshine, with heavy influences from his electrifying Afrobeat sound dominating the production. In keeping up with the importance of setting in Fela’s music, Jesse Jagz’s verses do portray the inner workings of a City; he also promises a “jam” to soundtrack the idiosyncratic of said city.

Add to these, the Chaka Khan and the numerous movie clips that stand unabashed in its qualities. At the end of some songs, there – like Show Dem Camp have been known to do – is a movie flick placed. Each fulfils its nature as a complementary and necessary cinematic medium. That epic Howard Beale rant lent an anger so necessary to the song, it engulfs the whole project.

Image result for jesse jagz and tesh carter
Jesse Jagz andd Tesh Carter

Chaka Khan, Tesh Carter and Sarah Mitaru – strong influences in the album, asides being women, all sing of the ideal “Jagz woman.”

Burning Bush, off his Thine Nation Come album, presents a situation widely believed to be true.

She say she like to burn bush
Say that’s the only way that I can learn the truth
So I listen to her as she slowly rolls the kush
Desire is the root and evil is the truth

According to the narrative, a woman introduced a young Jesse to sativa. Throughout his music, whenever there’s a lady, she’s either drinking, smoking, dancing or saying something incredibly profound. All these, depictions of freedom, are to Jesse, a narrative that can’t be done away with.

Whereas in mainstream media women have been sidelined as trophies, sufferers of the male gaze, Jesse Jagz’s women are all equal to – if not more than – him. He sees them as co – participators in the madness which is life.

The Royal Niger Company is a different cup of tea. Jesse Jagz is a flirt with genres and sonic embellishments which earned him the title of “Nigerian Kanye West.”

With the Chicago Native’s recent falling out with the Black community over his support for Donald Trump, it is worth remembering that Jesse too, had his moment. He left Chocolate City, came back and released Odysseus. But in quality, the ten track album – even with celebrity features from the likes of Burna Boy, Cynthia Morgan (now Madrina) and Styl Plus – doesn’t quite match up to the brilliance of RNC.

There comes with it, a certain quality put into protestant music, a selfless kind of love, tender eyes fixed on the greater things.

Jesse’s RNC is a product of necessity: each feature is purposeful, every sample not a vendetta for obscure artistic flourish. The cover, inspired by an iconic RenĂ© Magritte painting – a photo of a man holding different articles which point to a part in the history of the country – is like a revered collector’s priciest possession.

According to this pre release video, it was a stylistic design, the artiste was into showing one thing but hiding another, something significantly more important. In the album, Jesse do tend to flit his attention between unrelated themes even in a verse, his flow is sometimes too much of an ear candy but the hidden beauty is revealed in the production, silent in their sheen. Almost five years later, you’ll hardly find a better produced Hip Hop album. In his review for Y Naija, Wilfred Okochie has high praise — “Ambitious, daring, cerebral and painfully beautiful, Royal Niger Company is Jesse Jagz at his height, bravely doing the kind of music he wants to do. A deserving companion piece to Thy nation come and a worthy successor, RNC Is possibly the best hiphop album Jesse Jagz has put out yet.”
It might be his magnus opus.

Everything, from start to finish, works to the narrative of Black Excellence. A similar album would have to be Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly which similarly, taps into the black experiences and some of its heroes and, at some point, Kendrick revealed its original title was “To Pimp A Caterpillar (2PAC).”

Most importantly, the Royal Niger Company was Jesse’s imprint on a world he would one day depart. Whereas 2pac and Fela left their music and activism, and Kanye West, a necessary reinvention of Hip Hop, its standing amongst other genres as a marketable one, Jesse Jagz will leave us with the Royal Niger Company, his attempt at painting his truest self, the one in which the listener, like that poetry enthusiast, will instantly recognize his genius but may never truly understand it. And that’s okay.

It is crazy how due to the uncleared samples on “The Royal Niger Company”, Jesse couldn’t  really sell it or profit from it, via digital sales and streaming,  It is business decisions like this that led to the lackluster follow up, “Odysseus”.

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