For the past year, Zlatan has been one of Nigeria’s most essential stars, collaborating with a lot of the biggest names in afropop — from Burna Boy to Davido — and helping them elevate their respective tracks. Now, he’s finally dropped his debut LP, Zanku, which alternates between expected and pleasantly surprising.
Although Zanku’s lead singles, “Shotan”, ‘Gbeku” and “Yeye Boyfriend” all hinted at a project at risk of succumbing to monotony, the album’s heartwarming opener, “Wake Up”, immediately puts that worry to rest: The track finds Zlatan switching up both his flow and message, as he raps about his humble beginnings.
Granted, there are a few too many songs on the 15-track album that rely on Zlatan’s tried and trusted hit-making formula — zanku-ready bops that are typically devoid of depth — but the rapper manages to inject the project with flashes of brilliance, particularly when he raps about his rise (“Love & Gain”, “If You No Know”).
As for the featured acts on the album, Zlatan gathers together a healthy mix of big-name stars and gifted newbies, and every single one of them soars. The most impressive guest, however, is ‘Rookie of the Year’ winner, Barry Jhay, who delivers a stunning chorus on one of the album’s most memorable tracks, “Adura Agba”.
So, although the album has its many flaws — the biggest being how frequently Zlatan finds a way to slut-shame women — it’s still a serviceable debut. For one, it proves he has a lot more range than he’d originally led us to believe; and it also serves as a reminder that he doesn’t need an assist to shine on a song.
Listen to Zanku below: