Album Review: ‘The Villain I Never Was’ By Black Sherif

‘The Villain I Never Was’ is a beautiful project that silences critics–the doubters–who think Sherif is not dynamic enough to tell stories beyond the scope of the ‘underdog’.

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Artist: Black Sherif (Blacko)

Label/Distributor: Blacko Management/Empire

Genre: Hip Hop/Rap/Trap/Reggae

Date of Release: 6 October 2022

Producers: JAE5, London…and more

Album Art:

TVINW

African music is so endowed with instruments that we often forget about the magic of good lyricism and vocals; whether you appreciate any of them more, Ghanaian rapper, singer, and songwriter Black Sherif serves it all on a platter in his 14-track debut album entitled The Villain I Never Was.

Somewhere between Akon and Bob Marley, Sherif’s dynamism on The Villain I Never Was was laid bare. From singing to rapping and to trapping, many struggle to exhibit the kind of expressive beauty that he does on the album.

Yet, it is the highlight of Blacko’s first brainchild, as it takes the listener on a lovely journey where his tone and fluid lyricism overflow with poignant themes that make avid the beauty of music.

The album opens with the 2-mins-45-secs ballad titled ‘The Homeless Song’, as Sherif croons “I’m at my down-est in life.” Raised in Konogo, Ghana, keen followers of his craft would have noticed how they not only paint a picture of a difficult life, fleshed out by the agonizing subjects of suffering, betrayal, and deceit, but also stubbornness, mysteriousness that translates to a strong desire to prove the doubters and crossers wrong. These touching themes remain constant throughout The Villain I Never Was.

The positive affirmations on “Oil in my Head” and “45” with JAE5 contextually lighten the mood. “45” is a pun for “fortified,” with the daunting feeling of failing and learning the hard way taking center stage. Sherif tells Apple music about the record:

“The [word] ‘45’ is actually not in the song. I drew that 45 from ‘fortified’, because that’s the first line in the song. I’m talking about people that have positive [intentions] for me. People are saying ‘Easy Sherif; easy’. I understand them, but it’s up to me to decide. I’m like, ‘No, broski; no easy. I go hard only’. I’m about survival. My people got to eat; we got to feed the streets. Things have to happen. There’s a revolution going on.’ Beat my back and let me go. ‘Tap tap beat, tap’ means ‘Sherif keeps going’. And still realising, this is divine. So me not going easy will not be in vain. Having that faith.

On “Soja,” he sings “My own-self dey kill me,” admitting to self-sabotage, and struggles with inferiority complex and anxiety. Again, Sherif holds his listener spellbound with his pungent vocal and clarity of expression.

“Soja” is followed by “Prey Da Youngsta” and the self-explanatory “Sad Boys Don’t Fold.” But it’s on the 7th track “Konongo Zongo” that Sherif more so addresses his mysteriousness, self-worth, hardheadedness, and street-appeal. At only 20, the Konongo bred boasts a sapience often attributed only to men north of 30. His looks don’t giveaway anything either and his words are sometimes reminiscent of America’s rap and hip hop legend 2Pac.

The average African fan is often swayed from recognizing the beauty of clever and deep lyricism by their inclinations to warm to hit songs and club bangers that get them dancing, yet not a single song on this album compares to the traditional club songs, with Sherif sticking to his beliefs and backing himself to succeed with this style both critically and commercially.

Nonetheless, The Villain I Never Was clears any doubt of whether Sherif is dynamic enough to tell stories beyond the scope of the ‘underdog’. This is a project that any true lover of music would preciously appreciate, as it begins from the first second to invite the listener to commit emotionally and mentally– a dedication that is well and truly rewarded in the end.

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

3.5/5

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