Zinoleesky‘s Call of duty sounds so similar to what he’s known for, a merging of Amapiano and street pop that infuses elements of Fuji. Like Asake, he has found a niche for himself combining the swagger of Yoruba street music with the unpredictable log drums of South African house music. Beyond the similarities in the origins of their music, Asake and Zinoleesky are two artists that have been called out in recent times by fans of the Nigerian music industry.
Their crime? They produce music that is termed repetitive and formulaic, meaning that each artist has established a template of how he wants to sound and sticks to it. According to some, the artists should be made to come out of their comfort zone and try out new sounds. Both artists have never reacted to these sentiments directly, but their viewpoint is made implicitly clear in the music they’ve released. Asake went on to release Terminator two weeks ago, which fell largely into the same spectrum of music he’d been on. The success of the song, which debuted atop the turntable charts proves one thing. There is nothing more important than sticking to your guns.
In the congested music market, it is difficult to be original. Everyday, a new artist is being rolled out and it is up to the branding and marketing teams to confer on them an identity, unique markers to set them apart and delineate them from the rest. This task, though somewhat difficult, is handled fairly well by Nigerian artists, and gives rise to the various colours of hair, the weird clothing choices and distinctive personalities these acts take up in a bid to appear original.
The real task, however, lies in sounding original. For an artist to be so distinct that one can hear an instrumental track and think “this is an X-type beat” is a level of special that many artists crave to attain. And when they do achieve this status, like Zinoleesky has, they do not simply throw it away for another genre.
Zinoleesky’s history, if told by the average Nigerian music lover, will probably begin with “Kilofeshe”, the late 2020 release. If Zinoleesky’s first words in the song, “Amapiano/ amapiano/ amapiano” were predictive of the new direction he was about to take, the confident, now cult-like lyrics “Extraordinary things I’m doing/ ordinary things no fit move me again” must have been prescient of the heights this new song was about to shoot him to. Before this break out single, he had been knocking on the doors for a while.
A look at the songs he released earlier, like Joromi, Caro, and the rest of the Chrome EP reveals why they failed to shoot him to public relevance. They are all perfectly fine songs, no doubt, and would have been appreciated by fans of established artists, but for an up-and-comer like Zinoleesky, they lacked the oomph, that X factor he needed to announce himself to the world. With Kilofeshe, though, the difference in reaction was night and day. Only when he looked away from the conventional and instead thought to fish in unorthodox waters did he strike gold.
Going into the new year in 2021, the plan was clear to streamline his craft. First came the remix, which recruited amapiano specialist, Busiswa, with Mayorkun brought on for star power. And he wasn’t done. “Naira Marley” hunkered down on his newly discovered sound for an ode to his label boss, and four months later, “Gone far” was unveiled, with “Blessings” (with Niphkeys) hot on its heels. With these songs Zinoleesky ensured he was feeding his fanbase exactly what they wanted, while silently marking out his niche in Nigerian music.
On “Call Of Duty”, Zinoleesky leverages on his tried and true formula, and his partner in crime, Niphkeys delivers with amazing production once more. He is in the boyfriend mode, as he compares his love for a girl to a soldier’s devotion to duty. “Now I just want to marry her/ Loving you be my call of duty” he intones, and it’s easy to believe, coming from the same man that brought us “Loving you” earlier this year, and “Ma Pariwo” from earlier.
However, he cannot make a decision about some of the other women his life “My mind is split in two/ I love you but I love Simbi too”. The track is not devoted completely to the romantic, though, and Zinoleesky uses the second verse to reiterate his impact in the music scene “Mummy and daddy njo, boy and girls njo/ Omode pelu agbalagba, oloyun ton lo si antenatal” he says in Yoruba, essentially underlining his acceptability across people of all ages.
As Zinoleesky ramps up for a debut album or second EP that must certainly be in the works, it would be exciting to imagine what new tweaks he can add to his sound as he perfects his identity.