So I was watching the latest roll-out for Falz's recently released album, ''Moral Instruction'' which comes in the form of the almost nine minutes long visual documentary, 'The Curriculum' and my immediate thoughts were, how often do you find musicians on this side put in so much effort into creating something more than just the expected out of their releases?
From the way Falz has gone about the unfolding of this body of work, going as far as getting the legendary Lemi Ghariokwu to design individual art covers for every song on the project, the unique listening session and the thought process deployed in making the sound streamline with the ferocity of his message, he is onto something special and he can sense it.
It also clearly portrays an artist that is desperate to see his album take a new meaning in the ears of its listeners and produce an introspective emotion in line with its message to re-awaken the people into action.
And with the successful release of 'Moral Instruction', Falz has been able to convey a message effectively not just with the music but the beauty of its accompanying details.
On the album and its criticisms
With music, comes critical examination and more especially when it is one from an established artist.
The internet age has subdued the symbolism of what an album represents in the life of an artist such that it is more common to 'just' release them these days, at-times without any form of publicity or build-up than treat it with thought and some form of bond.
On his fourth studio effort, ''Moral Instruction'', a sparkly 9-track project that toes the conscious path and gathers ingenuity from one of the continents most celebrated musicians in the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Falz is finally being taken seriously by his listeners, nine years after he made his entrance into the industry.
As if this bold attempt in itself is not enough to warrant deeper scrutiny of his music, the instant reactions to his lead single, 'Talk' was a pointer to the level of criticisms that would come with his attempt at being the voice of the masses in a country where there are voices aplenty, informed and otherwise.
And the criticisms have poured in. From polarized online retorts to scathing reviews and think pieces [Over 30 the last time I did a random google search] with different views and nuanced commentary by the writers.
Let's be clear, no artist is above criticism, NONE, and when the topics on your album touch on controversial and evolving grey-area conversations like 'Feminism' and 'Transactional Sex', then the criticisms are only expected to become louder, rightly or wrongly.
And of course, an artist choosing to make meaningful music as against what normally obtains does not in any way also excuse the person from being put through the lenses of evaluation.
Whether the artist loves the critics or not, they need them, the industry needs them and while criticisms at-times are spurred from a place of preconceived bias and emotions, which can be subtly hidden in the most poetic, meticulous, and brash pieces written with a mindset to 'crush' or 'demystify' the artist.
Or even the critic seeming to elevate oneself over the creator, the truth does most times find a way to creep into the picture, if only you are willing to look beyond what you see or read immediately.
However, with the visuals for 'Talk', Falz made a progressive and sentient attempt to correct the mistakes he was called out for on 'This is Nigeria' and this only shows that feedback can always lead to better art, even if it hurts.
While the comparisons with Fela are very much a stretch, Falz has the opportunity to make an impact and create his own legacy as himself.
Depending on how well he navigates the waters of controversy, reinventing his craft into a more serious and personal character and tapping into the vacuum that artists have left staying away from music with impactful lyrics, he is firmly on the path to building his art into a cultural relevancy and becoming one of the most successful rap careers in Nigeria's recent history.
But should criticisms deter the artist?
In the midst of the Twitter drama, some of his fans have urged him and other Nigerian artistes not to bother creating songs with meaningful lyrics and continue feeding the audience with basic dance music, which will largely not be perused under the lights of the dance floor.
This type of 'advice' is why the artist becomes afraid to release their songs into the world for fear of people's judgement, or hide under the safety of trending sounds, but there is no way an artist can escape being critiqued, especially if the person seeks the height of excellence.
Criticism is not judgement, just outsiders, removed from the sentiments of the creative process, recognizing ''The-what-could-haves'' and wanting the best out of what has been created, and since creativity is tangled knee deep into personal expression, subjectivity naturally comes along.
Dear Nigerian artist, criticism is a vehicle for growth, especially in an industry like this and the fear of being critiqued should never stop one from taking risks or pushing the envelope of one's creativity. Let your art continue to speak for you.