After enjoying a breakthrough 2018, rapper Zlatan Ibile’s having a longer time in the sun than anyone expected. He’s definitely one of the hottest Nigerian rappers, or artists for that matter, in 2019. And at the moment, he’s enjoying a streak that has taken him far beyond any worries about being a flash in the pan or another holiday-cycle fad like Mr Real.
While his skill is not in doubt, It’s perhaps telling that Zlatan is better known for his big dance hits than weighty rap songs. He may not have the insight to deliver scathing social commentary like Falz or SDC. But what he lacks in that department, Zlatan makes up for with raw energy, aggressive delivery and dexterity with slang. Those traits have resulted in some of the best verses by anyone this year. They have also taken him beyond the limits that his native language often sets on his fellow indigenous rappers.
Zlatan has also had a very eventful year, which means at any given moment, he has more than enough to talk about. And it’s shown in the variety of music he’s put out from his owambe starter, “This Year” to his post-jail single, “Four Nights In Ekohtiebo”.
To give you a better sense of just how much heat Zlatan has put out this year, here’s a list of his 5 best verses since January 1, 2019.
We’ve considered the themes in the music, his versatility and how much he’s strayed from his comfort zone.
- Zlatan’s “Four Nights In Ekohtiebo”
It’s easy to miss the fact that this song is just one long verse punctuated by Zlatan’s trademark adlibs. It was released after his detention and questioning by the EFCC and the subject matter is understandably dark. But Zlatan manages to make it more than just another post-jail rap song. He starts off by pondering over his previous few weeks, then exalts the habits – tenacity, self-belief and sadly, distrust – that he believes have given him his best year yet. His tone switches in tandem too; from aggressive to pained to grateful. It feels like Zlatan decided to just pause and take it all in, and the music feels great for it.
- Rahman Jago’s “Ijo Ope (w/ Junior Boy, Zlatan & Chinko Ekun)
The sheer glee on this song, starting with Junior Boy’s celebratory verse, is excessive. “Ijo Ope” means dance of thanks in Yoruba, and all three artists explain what they expect will happen when their windfall finally lands. For Zlatan, it’s a good time to go through the days before his triumph. He reminisces on hours spent betting on virtual dog racing and performing for free at the Afrika Shrine. The rapper uses the perfect metaphors to tell his story. Baba Aja means “father of dogs”. He also describes his free shows at the Shrine as “performing at Fela’s house” making it sound like a rite of passage than anything else. The effect is that when he finally beats his chest in the end – it all feels very well deserved.
- Candy Bleakz’s “Owo Osu” (w/ Zlatan and Naira Marley)
When Zlatan gets into ‘get that money’ mode, there are few rappers better in the game than him, except maybe the other guy on this song. Here, he’s enlisted alongside Naira Marley to provide support on rapper, Candy Bleakz’s debut single. Instead, Zlatan starts by almost pulling a Quavo and stealing the show with his adlibs. When it’s his turn to bless the mic, you can hear so much pent-up energy – like he has something to get off his chest. He impatiently tells us just how much he likes the bag by painting the picture of a chronic debtor who’s more concerned with popping bottles than paying up. On your first few listens, the verse sounds like a sub to someone only him will ever know. “I’m a mad man, pay my money and we won’t have trouble” perfectly captures this verse in one line. Please don’t owe Zlatan any money.
- CDQ’s “Onye Eze” (w/ Zlatan)
- Zlatan’s “This Year”
This is what success sounds like for a guy who’s spent years in the dark. Not many would have expected Zlatan to drop such an overt owambe anthem midway into the year, but the guy hasn’t really been one to play by the script. His opening verse here is everything we’ve come to love about him – he’s triumphant and energetic. It feels even better because of how he manages to switch styles across the beat while spitting bars like “Teletele mo
Feel like any other verse should have made this list? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.