Ekiti Sound‘s first full-length album, Abeg No Vex, was easily one of my favorite releases of 2019, a skillful and unpredictable sonic bricolage exciting largely for the rapid pace at which producer Leke Awoyinka leaped from one tone and sample to the next. His new record Drum Money demonstrates just as much affinity for stylistic diversity. It also sees Awoyinka take a smoother approach to production, with subtler but no less impactful transitions between moments inflected by combinations of juju, jazz, hip-hop, funk, and EDM. Flow is key to Drum Money, and Awoyinka keeps his strong without compromising his carefully curated eclecticism.
Lead singles “Chairman” and “Home” are a couple of representative standouts. For the former, one of Drum Money‘s early tracks, Awoyinka teams up with rising Lagos-based rapper Aunty Rayzor, whose rapid-fire verse cuts nimbly through a vibrant wall of brass. Synths and Awoyinka’s cool vocal performance further fill out the mix, building a consummate dancefloor track. Near the end of the album, “Home” is equally energetic but tinged with hefty philosophy (“This is the life you have to decide / This is the night you have to untie”) sung over crisp beats and a muted swirl of melancholy guitar.
Within each track, Awoyinka layers elements with finesse to serve a wide range of moods. “Free the Boy” features currency-centered chants, more lonesome guitar, and chilled-out percussion. “Ebi Pa Mi” opens with ominous synths that give way to a lilting refrain before returning in full experimental force. The album’s title track features Awoyinka rapping coolly over lo-fi piano loops.
Later on in Drum Money, “Ghost Leader” emerges as another dynamic highlight making clear and trenchant political statements (“Ghost leader, you / We believed in you,” sings a chorus throughout; “Ghost leader, you / Stole all the votes” adds Awoyinka) over righteously angry horns. Gentle acoustics shift into impassioned dissonance and back again on “Raindrops”. One of the final tracks, “Mami Wata”, invokes the titular water spirit amid heartbreak as the entire instrumental ensemble contributes to a sonic cycle of mourning and healing.
Both Ekiti Sound full-length records have been stellar in such different ways that it’s hard to imagine what will come next. It’s easy to imagine Abeg No Vex as the raw material and Drum Money as linear growth in musicianship and resources. Perhaps it’s more accurate, though, to think of them as different manifestations of Leke Awoyinka’s core creative values. Distinct though they are, both releases share an investment in multiplicity and possibility: worldbuilding through music production. Abeg No Vex is full of atmospheric extremes; Drum Money’s climate changes more gradually. Both point to Ekiti Sound as a moniker where many genres, guests, and tones can thrive.
There’s no sophomore slump to be found on Drum Money. Instead, there are seamless connections between London and Lagos, vintage and contemporary, acoustic folk and electric funk. More in center stage than ever before, Awoyinka wears the spotlight well without taking away from his impressive skill for sonic collage. Drum Money clarifies Ekiti Sound’s potential as a long-lasting project powered by innovation and heart.