Album Review: Jos To The World (#J2TW) – Ice Prince Zamani
Jos to the World (J2TW) is the first studio album by rapper Ice Prince Zamani on his own independent Super Cool Cats label. He used to be one quartet of the original Chocolate City line-up that included heavyweights like M.I, Jesse Jagz and Brymo. Long considered the weakest link of the original Choc Boys, what with his soft landing punchlines and cheesy lyrics, Ice Prince has always had plenty to prove.
His commercial sensibilities are impeccable, the hits come almost naturally to him and he seems nice enough to find himself at the top of everyone else’s list when guest appearance options are drawn up. Ice Prince can drop a scorching verse when the mood takes over him but more often than not, he is content with playing the redundant, boy next door role. One in which he is cast as an outsider to celebrity, quite unable to process his massive success.
Ice Prince has three albums to his credit now but with every effort, it seems that there is always something at stake. The debut album, Everybody Loves Ice Prince tried to take a measure of the artiste. After a string of successful hit singles, it was obvious everyone loved the boy with the sagging pants and not so strong flow, but could he deliver a coherent album? He tried to.
The follow up, Fire of Zamani was slicker than the average as Ice Prince had shed plenty of his rough edges. Sceptics just want to see if he had improved on his craft and if he could sustain his formidable run. He achieved the latter, churning out more singles that may have made rap heads cringe but found their way straight to the mainstream.
Jos to the World comes at a time of professional upheaval for Ice Prince. He has seen out his contract with Chocolate City and is riding solo for the first time in his career. Subsequently he digs back to his roots, to the culturally significant city of Jos, Plateau state to assemble this record and the result is a harmless, easy listening delight.
J2TW isn’t an autobiographical record as much as it is a rumination of his present status as one of pop music’s biggest names. Nigerian music continues to cross borders and Ice Prince while not in the leadership position, can at least take as much credit as Wizkid for helping to break down barriers. His sound is changing to reflect this as he continuously positions himself for a wider audience. But instead of resorting to gimmicks like hiring the services of a French Montana once again, the cross collaboration this time is a little more organic as he brings along thirsty underdogs from London (Krept & Konan), the US (Phil Ade, BRE-Z) and South Africa (DJ Buckz).
These young guns do solid, cohesive work and in some cases help uplift Ice Prince from his easy reductive fall back plan. Such that when he yells a dud line like Where the men dey/Dem dey for Mende, on the bouncy, club ready Want it all, it almost slides by unnoticed. Dancehall music plays a major part on the record with songs like Play List (with Yung L), Looking At You, and Belinda (with Timaya) featuring prominently as party kickers.
On the long form Hello, a sticky, sweet and sweaty collaboration with The Fresh Brit and Ava Hovanka Ice Prince introduces himself as a rapper, a singer and an MC and it doesn’t really matter what team he is playing on as long as the sound is as serious as what he has on offer here.
The first half of J2TW is easily the disc’s best part with bulk of production crafted by Chopstix and illkeys. Ice Prince could be dropping fire bars as he does on the back to basics opener, Me vs Mewhere he basically admits he is his own rate limiting step or trading bars with the younger Dice Ailes on Brokelyn, but where is all the fun in that? As a result, he makes room for Tekno’s hit making prowess on the crowd pleasing Boss.
The pop excursions implode on the disc’s second half with duds like For Yah (with Runtown) and another phoned in attempt by Tiwa Savage on the jerky, soulless. No Be Today. By the time the disc ends with the hopeful, churchy bounce of Rich, it almost goes out with a shrug. Thankfully, the Sammy Gyang produced bonus Show me/Deep Inside, comes in just in time to wrap things up on a warm, introspective note.
J2TW isn’t classic stuff but it is proof that rumours of Ice Prince’s decline may have been gravely exaggerated. He’s still got whatever it is that has made him such an enduring part of the culture and if anything, this record finally frees him to go whatever direction he chooses in the future. No pressure, no expectations. Just Ice. From Jos to the world. Via Lagos of course.
Album Name: Jos To The World Artist: Ice Prince Zamani Year: 2016 Tracks: 19