The album title, Take Not3s II, is a clear hint at what follows: a 21-year-old British-Nigerian man, rapping, singing, stopping short of back-flips, to commandeer everyone’s attention.
Alongside the title, the timing of Not3s new album is daring: the UK music scene is currently inundated with album releases from international heavyweights like Drake and Kanye West, but Not3s (pronounced /nouts/) who had first captured public imagination on songs like ‘My Lover’ and ‘Fine Line’ with regular collaborator Mabel, is clearly not short on confidence, swagger, and versatility across genres and styles.
Take Not3s II opens with ‘Got’, a celestial voice urging ‘Don’t lose your focus,’ before Not3s emerges to rap about his wide support from every city and brothers who may come through “if things start getting gritty”. A deserved album opener, ‘Got’ is a reminder to anyone who may have been lured to sleep by his singing that he can still hold his own in a fist-fight or rap battle.
‘Sit Back Down’, a previously released single, and arguably the most travelled Not3s song yet, thanks in no small part to serial hit-maker Maleek Berry. A steady dance ready vibe from London to Lagos, ‘Sit Back Down’ is bouncy Afro-swing with catchy lyrics, liminal recurrent steel percussion, and wiry synths that goes on and on. ‘Sit Back Down’ is definitely a bop for this summer and the next one.
‘Just Fine’ is a joyful victory lap. Here an R&B-lite singer, Not3s riffs on models in swanky suits and his wardrobe stock of several, near dizzying fabric, and on to some other things you would expect of one so young, gifted and obviously successful. ‘Just Fine’ is a vibe, but listener discretion is advised for anyone who may be struggling to pay their rent or going through a terrible break up at the moment.
‘Neverland’ may readily suggest images of the late Michael Jackson’s expansive ranch, but Not3s rather name-checks Neo from The Matrix, and the gist is of Not3s view from the top, and a prayer request that he and his team never land. ‘Neverland’ is a mellow, easy listen and its highlight is in the impressive wailing guitar back-up. ‘Tuggyszn (Interlude)’ was meant to be a pause for breath but at close to 3 minutes, it is understandable if one should get anxious to get back to the music.
Though a thoroughly imaginative songwriter, Not3s is not shy to let his influences shine through on this EP, reproducing lyrical gems from Skepta (on ‘Nigerian Eagle’), to Maleek Berry (from ‘Juice’), and most unusually from Mariah Carey’s 2010 hit ‘Obsessed’ on ‘Stressing Me.’
Some swear ‘Palm Wine’ is the love song of the summer. The album is here halfway through and Not3s had settled into baby boy mode, getting the flighty impulse of a teenage lover wishing to elope with his “lil bubba” to a place “where Martians live”. ‘Palm Wine’ is a beautiful tune that may likely get requested on late night radio a little too much.
‘M3 Not You’ is Afro-trap backed with flute synths designed hypothetically for the drive through on the way back after a heavy bout at the club. The refrain “I’m doing me / not you” seems oddly reassuring – and purging of whatever excesses you might have indulged in while partying hard.
‘Nigerian Eagle’ is the grittiest, definitely grimest song on the album. Pumping at around 140 bpm with perhaps the most scandalous hook on the project when Not3s rhymed in his Hackney accent: “Stars up in the place that’s just how we’re feeling / you step in the motive all the girl are leaving / broski with the bottles popping through the roof / peng tings jumping titties popping through ceilings, yeah.”
Take Not3s II winds down to a rapturous ending, with Not3s and his team having served a concise package clocking in at 33 minutes, in keeping with what appears to be the new format for EPs following Kanye’s succession of seven-track releases. The big question now for the young man is how is he ever gonna top this one?
Buy Take Not3s II on iTunes
Album: Take Not3s II
Label, Year: Relentless Records, 2018