If the common youth on the street was asked who made some high-tide type waves in the South African music landscape this past year, I struggle to see how the name Riky Rick would not make its way into that convo. 2014 was definitely the year where some highly fruitful ground work was laid by the rapper originally named Rikhado Makhado, and he slowly made the transition from simply being another run of the mill hip hop artist on the come up, to what some might consider a household name.
Now personally, prior to the reinvigoration of his career, I easily would’ve categorised myself as a Riky Rick detractor. The biggest blemish in his now budding career that violently haunts my mind is that nauseating bubblegum rap Da Les and him tried to pass off as real music in the form of ‘Barbershop’. Man! I just kind of feel like barbers worldwide would feel some type of way about being associated with such garbage.
Like a whole protest movement against the song could’ve been started the way it insulted our intelligence as music listeners. But anyway, fast-forward to 2015 and look at your boy Riky now! He’s released a highly-anticipated album on the heel of great reception towards some of SA’s biggest and most relevant bangers. Singles that include ‘Amantombazane’, ‘Nafukwa’, and ‘Boss Zonke’ undoubtedly had music lovers in a crazed state as another formidable hip hop figure was slowly taking shape before them. And even though I loved all the singles and had done a complete 360 in my appreciation for Riky’s music, I was still uncertain whether or not he could expressively share who he is beyond Boss Zonke, and create a well put together opus magna. Well let’s get into and find out!
The intro sees Riky revealing a very tender moment with the very same individual who graces the album cover with him. I’m of course talking about his infant son Malik. These kind of offspring driven sound pieces aren’t really novel to music, as we have seen this being done by artists such as Jay Z on the song ‘Glory’. Personally I feel like these album fillers can be a tad bit on the cheesy side, but we can let it slide on this one seeing as how all this mumbling, crying and screeching probably played an integral part in the revitalisation of the Riky brand. Plus the warm, soulful composition that accompanies this father-son interaction is pretty apt for that warm and fuzzy feeling…not that I felt any of that, I’m a man.
“A Time To Love”
Riky gets us started with a sincerely positive mantra on the second cut of the album. By conveying a strong sense of self-awareness, he shares the new dynamics of his personal relationship brought about by his newly acquired stardom and notoriety. The phrase “I’m just tryna be happy” appears in the chorus and this is definitely an apt soundtrack to that sentiment. Oh and I have to give props to the excellently executed live intrumentation on this joint right here. Nice one!
More personal stories being shared by Riky on some really soulful production. A pleasantly good fit for him, and the melodic piano driven cut has him dropping several jewels in terms of heartfelt and candid lines about his ever-changing life over the years. One that stands out to me is, “Dude, I’m feeling like I’m happy I met you/But chilling with you is f*cking with my potential. It’s almost as if this is an ode to all the life distractions he managed to miraculously avoid, whether it be being enticed by all the spoils of the game, or not being on the same wavelength with close friends with regards to personal growth. The hook is also pretty infectious on this one and would easily captivate the attention of an on looking audience. Got nothing but love for this.
While giving a shout out to his uncle for introducing him to a West coast legend, Riky asserts he feel like the rapper. The upbeat turn up tune sees Riky Rick in his element with him spitting highly catchy bars.
The spate of upbeat tracks continues on the anthem that had summer on lock! The phrases “Ungakhulum’ubhontshisa” and “Usabani usemasabebsini” were most probably uncontrollably uttered by nearly every youth that came into contact with Boss Zonke by the time the singles buzz had reached it’s zenith. I knew it was real when even monolingual Caucasians were claiming the lyrics as part of their lifestyle. If this was your ringtone at any point, chances are you’ve had difficulties answering your phone at any time because you’ve been repeatedly caught off guard by its catchiness. The lyrics were obviously crafted to be super catchy, memorable and overall lightheartedly fun and Makhado was undoubtedly successful in this undertaking. The Kwaito undertone is also praiseworthy on this one as Riky does not make the error of overcrowding the cut with unnecessary kwaito influences. Pop mabhodlela, awu pop champagne!!!!
After that jive-inducing banger, Riky gives the listener a bit of time to recuperate with this acapella driven interlude. We are serenaded with a bunch of vocal harmonies and this point of the album definitely signals a shift in the overall tone of the project. The listener is about to be introduced to yet another personal part of Riky Rick.
“Damn, I miss my n*gga man!” Undeniably the best way to sum up the emotions flooding through this powerfull personal account of Riky’s relationship with his pops. Estrangement, a sense of resentment, and even regret are all themes that the emcee authentically attempts to tackle on this emotive cut. The rapper bares his soul, both acknowledging and owning his flaws as a man while at the same time lamenting over the loss of a father he never got the opportunity to truly bond with. All I can really say is bravo for this.
“Love We Had (Interlude)”
So the second interlude of the album contains a sound clip of an extremely emotional and distraught women, the hysterical state she is in is probably caused by Riky himself. It obviously gives the listener better insight into what will be addressed on the next song, BUT in all honesty I could have done without it. I’m not too crazy about the lyrics sung by both Riky and Zano on this either. I mean, “Girl I miss the love that we had/But I never knew it was that bad”. It’s just sounding like a modern day ballad gone bad.
“Sondela (feat. Zano)”
Some beautifully played keys, dope vocals, personal rhymes and an inherently South African soundscape as the backdrop; the perfect recipe for a standout and memorable track. This is the song that Riky recently chose as the next single off the album, and it’s painfully obvious to understand why he made this move. Sondela is a song with incredible crossover appeal and a welcomed change in the type of singles the rapper has previously promoted. We are provided with a truly honest and mature perspective of what Riky perceives to be “real love”. This is really Riky on his grown man sh*t right here, so if you’re still in your “I’m just trying to hit it and quit it” phase, then this might not necessarily resonate with your commitment issues.
“Come Alive (feat. Okmalumkoolkat & Cassper Nyovest)”
The thought-provoking and reflective tone of the album takes a breather for a moment and we are then shocked with a surge of musical electricity (I’m estimating about 10000 gigawatts at minimum). The Diplo-type beat sounds like it was produced by someone on very highgrade acid, and I’m guessing this producer was Durban-based producer Muzi. This high-energy party starter primarily excited because of the two features in the form of Okmalumkoolkat and Cassper Nyovest. It’s no doubt that the great chemistry between all three emcees has been proven time and time again (think of ‘Gusheshe’, ‘Amantombazane’, ‘Special Somebody’, etc), so it didn’t seem farfetched to think that this song would be any different, and it most certainly wasn’t. ‘Come Alive’ basically sounds like a band of brothers (competitive brothers I might add) having fun by spitting some dope ass quotes over an insane beat.
Riky Rick once again reveals the extent of Tupac’s influence on his music on this cut by echoing the philosophy he preached for a large part of his career. Hey, the dude obviously likes him some Pac and you can never be mad at that. Another thing I can’t be mad at is the production on this joint, my goodness! Those ice cold synths all over the track really let you zone out to it, and that live bassline cannot be ignored either. Truth be told this sounds like some ish Riky asked the Justice League to slide to him on the off chance Rick Ross wasn’t feeling it. A contrasting picture is painted here; one of enjoying material spoils and another of struggle experienced in the process of trying to attain such spoils I can definitely picture myself blasting this in the late hours of the night making foes out off all my neighbours. Really nicely done!
“94/It’s Getting Worse”
Okay, okaaaaay, we get it, you’re a Tupac fan dawg! The Tupac homage here just does not connect anymore and is starting to seem quite repetitive and redundant. Not feeling the beat either. It sounds like the slightly less annoying cousin of that atrocious ‘Barbershop’ production. The eventual beat change towards the end fails in remedying the unsalvageable situation. I’m sorry Riky, but this song is skip button appropriate. NEXT.
“Bambela (feat. Black Motion)
One of the things I’ve definitely observed thus far on this album is Riky’s overall prowess and musical versatility when it comes to his art. This song highlights that very fact as this collaboration with house duo Black Motion spawns somewhat of a new sound that I could label as being somewhat of a tribal hip-hop. Once again Riky skillfully assess the moral difficulties that have ensued in his life, and that were prevalent in the lives of those before him. Surprisingly the listener is gifted with an unexpected and incredibly insightful spoken-word verse towards the end.
“Gone (Pt. 3)”
As the album begins to wind down, reflective Riky makes his way back onto Family Values. The sobering statement, “My life story is incredible, I seen a lot of drama/ I should’ve got Mary J. for the hook” is very telling of the kind of strife the rapper has experienced, but at the same time we get a sense that he is thankful for it and the people who have helped him overcome it. He is so thankful, in fact, that on this song with an 8 minute running time, he begins sending his shout outs before the albums conclusion, and at the same time appealing to the listener to continue riding with him on this musical journey. This joint also reminds me of the outro Lupe Fiasco delivered on his ‘Food & Liquor’ debut album, even the beats are somewhat similar.
We are one song away from the album’s closing and Riky manages to sneak in one more feel good, turn up influenced joint. You just want to applaud the guy for surprisingly sliding in another great piece of energetic yet uplifting music before the album winds down. I was a bit worried for a second at the beginning stages of the song because the beat sounded like it was going to be on that pure EDM tip, but fortunately it ends up being a distinctly special moment on the LP.
“Till I Die (Outro)”
Family Values is cleanly wrapped up with this contemplative gem which finds Makhado using a Kid Cudi styled intonation to voice the value of perseverance.
In summation, Riky Rick successfully managed to conceive a stellar debut effort. By the end of the outro it becomes unquestionably apparent that we are no longer being addressed by the same Riky Rick we encountered in 2009 and who gave us “I Need Money”. This standout member of the creative collective Boyz N Bucks has without question created a personable and relatable project that should live in the mind of listeners for years to come.
Release Date: 03.04.2015
Label: Makhado Makhado Agency
Production Credits: Riky Rick, Ganja Beatz, Muzi, Lwazi
Reviewed by Nhlosenhle Mpontshane