Even though it's his debut album, the project feels more like a crowning moment for the Marlian music boss rather than a launch pad.
Since his breakout year, nobody has shaken the core of Nigerian pop culture as much as Naira Marley has. Barely anyone could have guessed that his influence would sweep through the nation like it has when he came through with “Issa Goal” — one of his most iconic records to date — right before the 2018 World Cup. As a run ensued and stretched over the next few years, Naira’s music spread like wildfire and soon became gospel for those who felt represented by his message.
After a while, it felt like a mass conversion had occurred. Naira Marley became the voice that spoke what everyone secretly thought, being pictured as the poster boy for defiance and embracing our most hedonistic urges. This gives him serious relatability points, especially in a country like Nigeria that is plagued with a sense of faux-conservatism and judgmental tendencies.
He was unapologetically himself in all of this, but that is the most important ingredient in the mix for creating a cult following. While we can still catch a whiff of his influence and the “No Manners” lifestyle, Naira has taken a step back to oversee what he has built. He’s been present through his sensations Zinoleesky and MohBad as they’ve taken the country by storm in the last 2 years, and he still had one of the biggest songs of 2021 with “Coming”.
His new album God’s Timing’s The Best is his debut LP, and he says it is a pointer to patience and divine timing in his life. In between performing his fatherly duties and overseeing the rise of a burgeoning record label, Naira Marley seems like he’s had some maturing to do. His mental space is apparent on God’s Timing, judging by the level-headed delivery of his vocals over production that is softer than we are used to.
The result of this is a slow-burning project. At first, it all sounds like one long song, but luckily, one-listen reviews aren’t my thing. “Jo Dada” is a contagious, legwork-inducing intro, and while some parts of the project feel safe and like the Naira we know, all the fun is on the songs you wouldn’t expect from the president of the No Belt Gang.
He links up flawlessly with Zinoleesky on “O’Dun”, while “No Panties” and “Montego Bay” feel like two parts of the same song; a 3-track run which serves as the album’s core. Still, his raw, defiant self — Naira digs into his bag to unearth melodies that seem new even to him; but are still put together beautifully.
While the production on God’s Timing is consistently good, Rexxie’s performances are a particular highlight of this project. As Naira’s long-time collaborator, they have developed a synergy that is difficult to replicate anywhere else, and this is evident on tracks like “First Time in America'' and “Montego Bay”, to name a few. Super-producer Niphkeys delivered the intro, while other producers like AYK, Diquenza and LeoBeatss made appearances on the project.
However, there’s uncertainty over the execution of certain records on this project. Over the years, due to his upbringing in the UK, Naira has evolved his sound. His transition from the Drill/Grime scene to Afrobeats is quite unique, and while he is a one-of-one artist, God’s Timing housed some records that were more miss than hit. The H-A-P-P-Y rendition on “Happy” will definitely throw you off, while “Owo” and “Drink Alcohol Like Its Water” don’t really generate any real emotion either.
It’s okay however because generally, albums tend to have their fillers. God’s Timing ended up being a good attempt at a full-length project, and even with its flaws, Naira’s cultural impact is already too significant to be affected by a few ordinary tracks.
He rode into stardom with a series of singles. At some point, we might need to reconsider the notion that most artists need to release albums to solidify their discography. In the eyes of many fans, the success of God’s Timing has nothing to do with his relevance to pop culture. Even though it's his debut album, the project feels more like a crowning moment than a launch pad for the “Japa” singer.
As he has never been one to conform to societal norms, you could say that this is an allusion to Naira’s unshakable desire to do it his own way, at the ordained time. Maybe the rules don’t apply to him. Maybe they never will. With a career littered with iconic event after another, it is difficult to tell what else he has up his sleeve. But when we look at his dominant spell since his breakout year in 2018 coupled with his time as a label boss, it is fair to say Naira Marley will be stitched into the fabric of Nigeria’s pop culture for a little while yet.