By Cameron Grieves
Arguably Chicago’s most eccentric rapper, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya has cemented himself as a focal point of creativity in the Windy City’s music scene through bizarre solo releases and genre-defying collaborations.
Ogbonnaya’s latest album, “Drool,” which was released in early March by Father / Daughter Records, is the culmination of years of musical experimentation. The end result is a magnum opus that laughs in the face of established rap norms.
Ogbonnaya has dipped his hand in a fair share of artistic projects in his relatively short musical career, mostly as a drummer for bands such as The Para-Medics and Ittō, but also on bass for Nervous Passenger and as a rapper in The Sooper Swag Project.
It is in his solo work that Ogbonnaya really flexes his creative muscles as an experimental rapper and multi-instrumentalist, and “Drool” is by far the most thoroughly put-together solo release Ogbonnaya has ever attempted.
The first song, “Cindy OsO (Ft. mOrimOtO),” opens with slow keyboard grooves and impromptu bursts of jazzy brass layered over a bubbly bassline that really sets the foundation for the extraterrestrial soundscape that pervades the album.
Ogbonnaya’s lightning-fast and ever-oscillating vocals effortlessly glide over the pillows of otherworldly sound like a jetliner skimming over waves of cumulus clouds.
“If she’s selfish, I can’t help it / Nah, I’d never leave without you / If you’re drowning then I’m drowning / If you fall I’m gonna catch you / When you’re sick I feel like shit / Taking germs right out your mouth / Put the mucus in my chest / Can’t even breathe without you,” Ogbonnaya raps in the opening lines, starting the album oS with an air of insecurity and emotional dependence that he gradually sheds.
The next couple songs, “nO drool” and “HWT//nO nEeD,” add more spacey distortion to the already trippy instrumentals, providing the perfect sonic background for Ogbonnaya’s flexible voice to espouse his rejection of negative influences and the pursuit of positive relationships.
“dOn’t turn me OS (Ft. JD AKA ThrashKitten and Mal Devisa),” infuses the album with frenetic energy that really intermixes well with Ogbonnaya’s consistently quirky vocals. The song also marks a lyrical pinnacle in Ogbonnaya’s theme of finding positivity in his life.
“I’m ready to glow... I’m ready to glow,” Mal Devisa sings on the boisterous opening hook as a wave of futuristic keyboards, drums and bass crash around her warm vocals.
“I don’t wanna hang with y’all / I don’t even fuck with you / Not today, not at all, never will, nah,” Ogbonnaya sings in the opening to “drool//drink that (Prod. By Liz).” This track really showcases Ogbonnaya’s propensity to embed his own voice in the instrumental process – all while poking wholesome fun at his contemporaries.
Ogbonnaya provides his most infectious chorus in “hOney On the lOw (Ft. mOlly MallOy),” a song that drips with distorted background vocals and a Nintendocore-esque bassline supported by sparse, minimalist drums.
“Let’s not pretend, when she say she being careful by it / She ain’t trynna get that honey on the low,” Ogbonnaya sings in a back and forth duet with guest artist Molly Malloy that perfectly builds an addicting wave of vocal reverberations.
“let gO Of my egO,” brings together all of Ogbonnaya’s wacky talent in a truly masterful representation of his unique sound. The hairpin-timing of his vocals leave the listener barely any time to dissect the many instrumental and vocal layers that compose this delicious sandwich of sound.
But perhaps “Drool” isn’t meant to be dissected at all. Ogbonnaya has constructed something truly unique at the peak of a career marked by unabashed experimentation and unrelenting collaboration. The sum of all these disparate parts is an album so wonderfully weird that it defies conventional interpretation – radically new in an era of consumer replications.