“Folarin, How Is Studies?”: A Review Of Falz’s “Moral Instruction”

January 15, 2019

Falz’s fourth studio album leaves little to the imagination.

The lead and only single, Talk is Falz pointing fingers as he runs through Nigeria’s most salient problems.

On the day it was released to a social media frenzy, Falz also shared the album jacket, designed by Lemi Ghariokwu, most known for his work for Fela Kuti.

He is also featured on the album. The title, however, gives it all away.

If the album’s title “Moral Instruction” suggest a pious class on Nigeria’s woes and how we’re responsible for the mess we find ourselves in, that’s because it is.

By now, such social commentary is not unexpected from Falz.

You’d have to go as far back as his debut “Wazup Guy” to find what could well count as his first politically-charged song.

On “How Far” featuring Sir Dauda, Falz manages to express genuine shock that the same people have been at the country’s helm for generations.

He then goes on–”They say we go write the future, them no give us pen/Give it up for VIPs, them be our problem/Vagabonds in power, as Fela called them“.

In the years since, Falz has come to embrace commentary and offer his own two cents–most notably on “This is Nigeria”–on issues of cultural and social relevance.

“Moral Instruction” comes at a time where he is a forerunner in the conversation about activist musicians and a new Fela.

It is only fitting then that the album’s opener “Johnny” is led by a boisterous sample of Fela Kuti’s “Johnny Just Drop”.

The story of a young graduate shot by an insecure, trigger-happy police officer is all too familiar to the average Nigerian.

Stellar production by TMXO puts the song at a confluence – Falz’s delivery assures you that this is hip-hop, yet there is that indisputable bounce on the guitar that makes you want to swing and lose yourself.

But there is nothing to swing to. This is, at its core, a sad song.

On the first verse, Falz makes references to the seemingly endless violence in Jos–“Dem kill am for Jos for no just cause/nobody fit comot for house, who born us?“.

He proceeds to narrate the moment when Johnny dies – “una don run go chop, Oya give me my own share/before them talk one, he say ‘shut up!’/who dash you liver/talk small, I go cock gun/small time, e don pull trigger”.

It is in moments like this, when Falz passionately addresses the violent inanities and the lack of decorum that have become part of life in Nigeria, that the album works best.

On “Talk”, he points the finger at the usual suspects – politicians, religious leaders, the regular man and his apathy as reasons for the state of the nation.  

“Amen” is where he comes the men at the helm of wealthy religious institutions whom he sees as jet-setting swindlers selling hope for donations and Sunday offering.

Take our offering set up uni/and your church members no fit afford the school fees” is a line that should incite some conversations in a few Alumni Whatsapp groups.

In an industry helmed by flamboyant stars making assembly-line pop music, Falz is eager to be seen as the one directly addressing issues we have grown numb to.

It is as he emphasises at he ends “Talk” with one final confession–”na me talk am”.

It is when this eagerness veers into contentious territory, that Falz’s brand of activism becomes problematic.

This brand of moral instruction turns a familiar chapter on “Talk”–where he continues a pattern of berating sex work with the lines–”Instead make you work, you dey find Alhaji/Eh eh, you dey find Alhaji/You come turn your body to cash and carry/Eh eh cash and carry“.

His insistence on addressing sex work as an immoral symptom of greed has drawn criticism.

But the outrage became much louder after journalist Joey Akan posted a video of him explaining his distaste for ‘transactional sex’ (amidst several questionable uses of the term “feminist”) at his listening party–which is being interpreted as a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.

The problem with using morality as a lens is that it is entirely subjective and constantly evolving.

Our ideas of good and bad overlap at obvious points –bad governance, corruption, murder–but at others, holding one’s beliefs over another’s can reek of self-righteousness.

Unlike his appraisal of religion, Falz’s personal opinion about sex work refuses to explain how it sits in the larger context of societal ills and the sorry state of our nation.

The reality of sex work in Nigeria, more often than not, is the result of too many social factors.

Falz addresses some of them but others, like simple choice and outdated laws are beyond his scope on the album.

However one may feel about ‘transactional sex’ though, we cannot strip people of their right over their own bodies.

Falz’s approach is problematic – but not fatal.

That’s because “Moral Instruction” and the incisive political critique it pulls off is held together by some very good music.

Trap meets Fela’s disruptive energy on “Follow Follow” via a sample of the classic “Zombie”.

The result is a song that has the potential to distract you from the fact that 30 years after, we, not soldiers, are the zombies here.

“Amen” is as rich as red velvet cake. It is led by a poignant sample of Fela’s “Coffin For Head of State”, and thickened with excerpts from interviews and Falz at his most lyrical in years.

In an important election year, Falz’s moral instruction is a reminder that we have become all too comfortable in this dysfunctional society we’ve made for ourselves.

At its best, it is militant and demanding. At its most controversial, it is another’s can and nearly disappointing.

For everything he does to address our collective apathy, his choice to point fingers at perceived wrongdoers on the basis of his own opinion feels like an easy way out.

To his credit, Falz seems to acknowledge this on the album’s final track where he says “After all is said and done/I do not have the right to direct the finger of guilt or the look of contempt at my guy/for even I can barely see through the speck in my eye” but it’s a little late.

It is almost a given that this album will be defined by the nuance in the conversations it has and inspires.

It makes the album more apt for the times than we could have guessed.

The curse of morality is that even though we all agree certain things are wrong, no-one, not even Falz or the funky ghost of Fela’s activism is ever absolutely right.

You'll like this

February 17, 2020

Somadina — “dont need” ft. Jay10 Last month, Complex rightfully heralded Somadina as one of the Nigerian up-and-comers to watch out for in 2020 — alongside the likes of Tems, Joeboy and Fireboy DML — and now, the gifted rising star has proven why with her astonishing debut project, Five Stages. On the EP, Somadina […]

October 9, 2019

M.I — “Warrior” ft. Kauna Due to his ongoing beef with Vector — the general consensus being that his eloquent diss track, “Viper”, put him over the edge — M.I is enjoying an outpouring of love, as fans revisit his old projects. So, it’s no surprise that he just dropped “Warrior”, a solid track that’s […]

March 8, 2020

Welcome to the daily Ultimate Love recap. Ultimate Love is the hottest reality show in town, and we’ll be giving you a recap of all the drama, the awwns and the ehyas. Stick around! Saturdays are for cultural performance in Aunty’s Love Pad. For this week, they showed us how a royal coronation is done […]

Segun Akande

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

Watch

Now on Zikoko

zikoko - third mainland bridge shut down
July 6, 2020

Breaking News: Third Mainland Bridge will be shut down for repairs from the 24th of July, 2020. This headline makes very little sense because Lagos has been on lockdown back to back for months. That’s months of nobody being out on the bridge, months that could have been used to do this maintenance work but […]

Recommended Quizzes

how much of an ajebutter
February 12, 2020

Are you an ajebutter or not? Well, if you’ve gone through life blissfully unaware of its harshness, then you probably are. Now, we want to know just how high you rank on that ajebutter scale, using your food preferences as a (very accurate) measure. Take to find out:

November 19, 2019

Regardless of what society has tried to tell us, enjoying sex is not something to be ashamed of. So, in a bid to celebrate our generation’s sexual agency, we’ve created a quiz that will accurately (again, keep your complaints to yourself) infer how many people you’ve spelt with. Try it out:

April 1, 2020

Everyone has a Nigerian bank that matches their personality. You could either be as likeable as GTB, as efficient as Access or as mature as First Bank. Either way, all you have to do is take this quiz and we’ll let you know with almost 100% certainty. So, go ahead:

November 30, 2019

With No Nut November FINALLY coming to an end, we’ve decided to mark the torturous month with some more horny content. After quizzes that guessed how many people you’ve slept with, how good you are in bed and who you’ll sleep with next, this one will guess when next you’ll get lucky. Take it to […]

More from Pop

July 1, 2020

Nigerians have the wrongest idea about a lot of things and if we’re being honest the media is responsible for some of that misorientation. By the media we mean Nollywood, yes this is a call out. Nollywood needs to dead these pandering these ideas; 1. Portraying rape as only voilent.  If we investigate this matter […]

June 27, 2020

Before you read this post, here is one thing we beg of you: if you have the phone number of any of these actresses, please link us. We need to be taken kiarof by them. You’ll probably ask, what’s a sugar baby? Well, read this to understand: What She Said: Who’s A Sugar Baby? 1. […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.
February 6, 2020
Who doesn't want to find love? In our bid to help, we paired up a bunch of single Nigerians, sending them on an all-expense paid date, and interviewing them before and after they met.
January 27, 2020
Nigerians Talk is what happened when a motley crew of young Nigerians were put in front of a camera and asked a bunch of apparently random questions about life, love, money and more.
September 24, 2019
A group of Zikoko staff go on a road trip to every mainland country in ECOWAS West Africa

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X