A Review of Santi’s ‘Mandy and The Jungle’

Since he indicated that an album was on the way back in mid-2018 when his single “Sparky” premiered on OVO Sound Radio Episode 63, his fans waited in quiet anticipation, as well as lapping up snippets of songs they heard at shows, most notably at the inaugural editions of BBK’s Homecoming. Now, one year and 3 singles later, the project is here in its entirety.

Santi’s transition from rapper to vibes curator initially left a number of the Nigerian youth still pining for the old days — when he went by the name Ozzy B — hoping he would go back to hopping on tracks and go bar-for-bar with some of Nigeria’s [and Africa’s] finest rappers; but following the release of Mandy and The Jungle, it would seem that everyone has accepted him just the way he is, and we hope he never changes.

In his interview with The Native Mag in April 2019, Santi said, “On Diaries of a Loner, I was starting a journey to an unknown place. Birth of Santi came as I found some things that would help me create the map for my journey. With Suzie’s Funeral, parts of the map now became clearer. I am in more control than I thought I was, and there are all these directions, left, right, u-turn, that I could go. Now with Mandy [& The Jungle] I can see the whole map.” Santi might not know exactly where he’s going, but he sure has a lot of people, most especially the Nigerian youth, following his every step.

The album’s intro “Raining Outside” is a mid-tempo monologue about friendship produced by Higo. Santi’s vulnerability is portrayed through his lyrics, and the mood is further driven home with Higo’s somber synths and subtle drums. Tracks like “Monte Claire”, “Where You Been” and “Demon Hearts” are designed to get the crowd jumping: excited with a chance of mosh pits. American artists DRAM and Seki — who you might remember as Izzy back on Santi’s loosie “Icy” — gave wonderful guest performances characteristic of their trade, with Seki giving his best Playboi Carti impersonation with his “you can get hit with the…”

Santi gives melodious background vocals in his self-created dialect popularly known to core fans as Santinese on “RX-64” and “Maria”, both featuring Krisirie and GoldLink respectively. GMK’s production coupled with GoldLink’s guest verses gives the audio version of the land flowing with milk and honey, with GoldLink riding the beat expertly. Krisirie’s vocals are in perfect synergy with Santi’s, and complemented with production by one of Santi’s trusted lieutenants Odunsi [the Engine], the song gives us the impression that is some sort of unorthodox love song that makes you want to run away with the love of your life.

On “Raw Dinner” featuring JBFC’s top member Kida Kudz, the rapper responsible for “Jiggy Bop” gives a brief but significant contribution to the project, owning the beat and harmonizing how best he knows. Tay Iwar on “Murvlana” and “Settle Down” is as immaculate as ever, gently letting the girl in question know that he is no longer going to be the man she runs to when she needs comfort on the former, while Amaarae complements him angelically on the latter. The singles off the album still sound amazing despite having been rinsed over and over.

Santi’s work ethic and chemistry with all his guest artists as well as producers has given us a body of work that seems destined to stand the test of time. We hope Santi doesn’t stray too far from us in the near future with releases, but we need him to take his time. His legacy as the leader of the alté scene in Nigeria is cemented, and he has been able to carve a niche for himself and his peers in the ruthless space that is the Nigerian music industry.

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