Essentials: D-Truce's Smoke Break
On his latest effort, Smoke Break, D-Truce makes his case for sonic longevity.
Released as the follow-up to 2019’s 2 Birds, 1 Stone, D-Truce’s (government name Chukwuebuka Dusten Anyasie) latest effort, Smoke Break, is a testament to what it means to be a rapper stuck between two worlds but remaining steadfast in his pursuit of mainstream success and appreciation. Formerly signed to indigenous label X3M Music, he released an album and a slew of singles under their banner spanning two years. With three LPs under his belt already, most would ask if the best strategy would be releasing a fourth. On Smoke Break, D-Truce’s case for longevity is made with the help of some new friends.
Not many artists in the same category as Truce have as much mileage as he does. He was signed before 2012 and again in 2014 (by X3M Music, home to Praiz and Simi early on) by 2017, he had been through two record deals and elected to thread the indie path. Dropping mixtapes as far back as 2011, his relentless efforts to break into the mainstream hit critical mass with the release of his single, “Better Days,” with the assist from his former label mate, Praiz. He also dropped his Truce Shall Set You Free mixtape in June that same year, featuring two of his major singles, "See" and "Hold On," which enjoyed airplay on radio stations nationwide as well as some online buzz and cosigns from industry heavyweights. Earning guest spots on A-Q and Modenine’s mixtapes could possibly slake most young rappers’ thirst; however, this fuelled his discontent. Achieving radio presence and the respect of his contemporaries did not translate into a core fanbase and he has since retooled his approach to that end. Pursuing different passions landed him a spot on Africa Magic’s Tinsel for a short while before his redirection into the music business.
Opening with a short and sweet intro track titled “Keep it Kewt”, D-Truce’s rapping chops are quickly put to the test. He navigates the brief but memorable intro with experienced finesse, familiarizing his listeners with the subject matter that carries Smoke Break for most of its 27-minute run time – heterosexual relationships, avoiding drama, disproving haters, and impressive weed. Placed over a bass-heavy beat, his flow coasts through unhindered and crossfades perfectly into the second track, “Text My Ex”. Featuring Bryan the Mensah, the pair attack the bouncy beat expertly, doing their respective verses justice by sticking to the topic and modulating their flows where necessary. Switching up the range of topics from carnal activity, “Fly Away” is an early celebratory record that finds Truce putting his best Nigerian stoner rap foot forward, assuring his audience of the impermanence of their problems and the need to take THC-induced breaks ever so often while navigating the uncertainties of life (like PHCN).
“Go Hard” presents the first Afrobeat entry on the album, earning it its African genre tag belatedly but worthily, the Zen assisted record has all the elements of a radio hit while introducing unfamiliar listeners to one of D-Truce’s more discrete attributes, his singing. Tracks like “Run the Cheque” help display just how at home D-Truce is on a variety of sounds as he skates over the modern-day American hip-hop-inspired beat with ease albeit some slightly worn subject matter, “Riding” is very much in the same breath, except this time the record sounds like it was made across the pond from its predecessor as he employs patois on the hook over a distinctly British Grime beat. “Too Much” is a bright spot on the project; an introspective D-Truce approaches the record with a direct list of goals he’s set out to achieve, while SGaWD sets it off like a timed explosive with her R-rated verse, one of many she has delivered so far this year. She closes the track with a short bridge that ties it together and sets the bar high for the album’s next list of features.
On “Walahi”, D-Truce flexes some R&B muscles and is greatly aided by Tide’s hook and verse as the pair dovetail on the heartbreak anthem. The singlemindedness of both parties translates on the record, especially over the final hook where they back each other’s vocals, further reinforcing the pain they both express. He maintains the energy on the following track, “Real One,” alongside Bella Alubo and Femi Leye, this time, less concerned with retribution for his ex and more inclined to find a better version of love than he has been exposed to. Backing vocals by Bella and Femi provide texture for his simplistic hook before he launches into possibly his introspective verse in the album’s bottom half.
The eponymously titled “Smoke Break,” featuring Bayblanco, opens with a brief voiceover by Truce (that isn’t quite in tune with the rest of the record). It stands as the most experimental rap song on the project, courtesy of the former’s vocal performance on the bottom half of the song before leading up to the outro “Spaceships,” where Truce elicits his disenchantment with the music industry (in another voiceover) due to simply being involved in it for too long. He addresses fellow professionals who are perhaps more short-sighted than they need to be, highlighting more specific goals such as acquiring a terrace when he retires and his need to remain inaccessible to many of his peers.
While his penchant for weaving words to significant effect remains intact, D-Truce’s most commendable act on this album must be his feature selection and placement. Touching base with a new generation of artists is something many artists struggle with, especially if they are not commonly considered successful in the creative space. Yet, that is what propels Smoke Break from repetitive cloned dribble into one of the country’s most cohesive releases this year. Appearances from a different class of artists (notable mentions include SGaWD, Tide, and Bennyblanco) offer an edge that ends up being exactly what D-Truce needs to begin garnering a new legion of faithfuls.