Spotlight: Exposit – A Peek Into A Spoken Word Poet’s Imagination
Exposit: A Look Into A Spoken Word Poet’s Imagination
In a time when local identity has almost become a forgotten phenomenon; children have traditional names they do not know the meaning of and speak a language that has no tie to their country, a tribal voice might be a necessity. Something; or someone to remind us who we are and where we’re from.
Enter Adebola Afolabi or, at least for the purpose of this piece, RezThaPoet.
Being one of the frequenters of WAPI – a now-defunct initiative by the British Council, I am familiar with Rez’s work first-hand. Around that time it seemed as though spoken word was experiencing resurgence, with Sage Hasson gracing interviews with Sound City, hanging out with the lyricist Mode 9 and Plumbline shooting highly acclaimed videos for his pieces. But then, with the disappearance of WAPI also went some of these enthusiasts – at least, from ‘public eye’.
Enter Taruwa, another space for these word-aficionados to wield their craft and for a while, Rez also performed there but it seemed more like the paroxysm of a dying animal as opposed to a purposeful action with an end in sight.
Suddenly, word on the ‘street’ was that Rez is recording a spoken word album.
Careful digging revealed that indeed, on the 25th of July, Rez released a spoken word album titled Exposit Deluxe Edition. I purchased a copy of the album via his website, downloaded it and settled to listen.
First single from Rez: I AM
Exposit Deluxe Edition opens with an ‘Introlude, Greed’ that takes into account the narrator’s perspective of something happening at a party. It appears as though, after observing a guest for a while, he cannot hold himself anymore and exclaims; ‘Na greed! I tell you, na greed!” Another ‘guest’ berates the narrator for not minding his business – and the track segues into another one; Awoof, continuing the theme of the intro. This time, Rez tells the story of several characters, how they fall prey to greed in varying circumstances and the consequences of their actions, reinforced with the repeated theme; “Awoof dey run belle!’
It’s a Nigerian term – but the applications are worldwide.
The first thing to note about Exposit/Rez is how liberally he colors his pieces with Nigerian slangs and terminologies. Sometimes, it seems as though he neglects his foreign crowd, so painstakingly earned by touring in Paris, South Africa, Namibia and so on, but the constant use of English sort of brings the narrative home. Germaine is a somewhat-regretful ode to friendships turned sour because of miscommunication and assumptions and growing apart. Asake is the ballad of love and romance; and this is the arena in which Rez flexes his writing/reciting muscles, weaving through native and contemporary expressions in a bid to capture the elusive Asake, the object of his affection/attention.
The Future is the definitive track by which I sum my experience listening to Exposit; introspective, bragging, confident, fearless. Rez’s vocals are accompanied by a haunting flute that does much to capture the calmness of the piece. Lines like ‘the future is coming for you/head-on collision/hear the sounds – as/the future is humming for you/the stars/galaxies and the universe – all turning for you/so all you need to do, olo mi (my love)/is to respect time and soon the world/shall revel in your sunshine/” puts into perspective the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a love one which could be anyone of us. The Future is clear in its message but leaves itself open to multiple interpretations; a message of hope in one’s dreams or a romantic ode to the object of one’s desire.
Lloffa is a sweeping track on greed and conflict with footnotes in history while One and The Same, the second single features a Sikiru Ayinde Barrister sample of the refrain ‘Omo Nigeria e je ka ronu jinle’ meaning ‘O Nigerians let us think deeply’.
All through the album, reference is made to Rez’s linage and traditional roots. All of these come to a head in the opus, first single and ironically last track I Am. Rez’s braggadocio is at its most evident here, reminding the listener of his royal ancestry and traditional background amidst a simple instrumental that leaves enough space for vocal flexing. It’s too easy to imagine Nas on the same beat.
While Rez’s writing is almost impeccable, his delivery is somewhat hesitant on a number of tracks, as though questioning his narrative or the potency of his pronunciation of certain words. However, Stormatique’s accompanying jazz riffs makes this most indiscernible and makes the listening experience a sweet one all by itself.
It’s a fitting way to begin what many hope will be a really long career – a long and illustrious career.