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Essentials: AYLØ Has Mastered His Aesthetics On New Album, For Good Reasons.

If his debut Honest Conversations signified a time when a young boy found himself living in a foreign country, For Good Reasons is indicative of a man with skilled hands and a steady mind.

Nobody presses play on an AYLØ project knowing what to fully expect. The most obvious reason is his adeptness at blending and bending genres, blurring the lines he knows you might want to keep him confined behind. Another reason is his mindset regarding self as reflected in his moniker, staying true to himself by wielding the freedom to change as he chooses. For Good Reasons sees the Benin City native emerge into a new level of artistry, ready to make the jump from mysterious maverick to imminent superstar.

Since the pandemic, AYLØ’s trajectory has looked up. After working with Soulection on the release and distribution of his almost-perfect Clairsentience, he headlined his first Lagos show in March 2022, curating an intimate outdoor experience and helping fans put a face to the name we only see on our streaming platforms.

AYLØ’s musical escapades are deeply rooted in jazz and gospel music, manifested through a fusion of afro-pop, alt-rap and psych-R&B. He alternates between rhythmic speaking and crooning, and in some environments, his delivery could possess a reggae undertone. If his debut Honest Conversations signified a time when a young boy found himself living in a foreign country, For Good Reasons is indicative of a man with skilled hands and a steady mind. And while the album is without a literal storyline, its sonic progression is consistent and coherently curated.

The arm-out-the-car-window artwork could be a pointer to where best For Good Reasons might be enjoyed. Not until it strikes you that justice can only be done to cuts like “Drtv2” and “James Bond” in front of an adoring crowd. The former explores a fresh take on dancehall renditions, bound to induce whines and euphoric thunderclaps reminiscent of bashment dance floors. Zilla Oaks and Psycho YP are rapping for dear life on the high-octane “James Bond”, weaving distinct patterns over Sptmbr Yngstr’s engulfing 808s.

Storytelling is a skill that goes beyond songwriting. One thing you would notice if you listen to, say, a Majid Jordan record, is the story being told is as present in the record’s musical production and arrangement as it is in the literal words being sung. AYLØ is aware of this. The bigger picture of his lyrics is incomplete without the mood that’s carried by the music’s production. “Butter” could pass as the second part of his 2019 “Paris”, they’re specially set for sensual situations. Merry-Lyn and SUTRA did well to ensure “Butter” ended up being one of the record’s most memorable tracks, and although production on the record is within the realm of airy and lo-fi, it still leaves a sizable imprint on its listener.

Listening to the project also opens your mind to the fact that AYLØ’s music is one that holds a lot of ambiguity. It is birthed at the crossroads of his desire to reveal intimate parts of himself while still shutting us out — we end up taking a lot from the project without actually… taking anything at all. This means his music immediately lacks a level of relatability an artist of his calibre would thrive off of.

Tena Tenpo’s performance sets the tone for “Lxst” but ends up pulling most of the track’s lyrical weight. “90 For The Rims” could easily be renamed “The Song About Nothing” and it would fit perfectly. Even “Denial”, arguably the project’s best song, comprises looping lyrics which only tell half the story he’s trying to express. They are all wonderful songs regardless — just not for the same reasons commonly associated with why songs are regarded as great. Maybe that’s what makes him stand out.

Nigeria’s alté scene is notorious for housing personalities who want to be different at all costs, but the paradoxical effect is that only very few people end up actually being distinct enough to make a lasting impression on you. On the other hand, AYLØ has done the opposite, staying largely recluse during alté’s most vocal and revolutionary period, seemingly unready to grab the spotlight and dictate the show. This is the most outside he’s ever been, possibly showing his readiness to exist without the protection of his shell.

For Good Reasons toes the line he has drawn since announcing himself to the world in 2017. Parts of his personality are manifested through introspective, psychedelic and action-packed records that have roots in younger versions of himself. Experimentation is a feature of his game, and being able to produce and engineer his own music allows him to bring every thought, vibe and half-truth to life through his bawling 808s and airy, lo-fi sounds. The only difference now is that he has truly mastered his aesthetics.

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