Obongjayar Some Nights I Dream of Doors September Recordings
It has been a long road to Obongjayar’s debut LP. The British-Nigerian rapper, a.k.a. Steven Umoh, has released three EPs since 2016’s Home and a handful of collaborations with the likes of Little Simz, Pa Salieu and Danny Brown – each one honing his uniquely rasping voice.
Umoh’s largely shirtless live presence, coupled with this formidable vocal, usually serves to create a sense of bravado, but on Some Nights… he displays a new, more intimate side. Casting his gravelly baritone aside for a whispered singing voice on opener Try, Umoh sets the tone for the rest of the record: a tender confessional on self-discovery set to earworming hooks and electronics-grazed production.
While single Message in a Hammer sees Umoh in more familiar territory, posturing machismo over a thumping bassline, it is on softer moments like the Nubya Garcia-featuring Wrong for It or New Man that Umoh displays his emotional nuance maturity. On the former, Umoh weaves his falsetto around Garcia’s synth-processed saxophone, while New Man sees Umoh croon over a trap instrumental to question how much control he has over his own identity.
This self-examination runs throughout, from the Afrobeats of Tinko Tinko (Don’t Play Me for a Fool) to the yearning, James Blake-esque I Wish It Was Me. It is a vulnerable stance that speaks of the time Umoh has taken to consider this record. Rather than rush out what we might have expected on his debut, Umoh displays the mark of an artist growing in confidence: the capacity to try something exposing and uncertain. Thankfully, he succeeds.