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Essentials: Peruzzi's Rum & Boogie

Peruzzi's latest studio album is a refreshing display of the singer's songwriting dexterity and mellifluous melodies as he saunters through the corridors of silky R&B, lustful afropop and where both genres intersect.

Since breaking out in 2018, Tobechukwu Okoh professionally known as Peruzzi has had a music career synonymous with a see-saw. While he might have featured and co-written some of the biggest records in recent years, his career has been punctuated with a number of ugly snafus. In 2019, he was involved in a nasty debacle with Pamilerin Adegoke, as he was accused of whacking the popular online influencer across the face. The next year, his debut album, Huncho Vibez was yanked off streaming platforms following a contractual controversy between DMW and his former label Golden Boy Entertainment. More recently, the 31-year-old popstar was accused of rape by a Twitter user identified as Princess Jayamah, a claim he has since strongly refuted. However, despite all the drama surrounding his career, one thing has always remained crystal clear: his immense talent. Peruzzi’s impressive catalogue of songwriting credits and scene-stealing features and singles in a short period speaks volumes, clearly highlighting his nifty pen game and stirring knack for melodies and harmonies.

While Peruzzi’s antics might have created polarizing views about the man, his music has remained mostly solid. His recent string of singles leading up to the release of his album sees him more focused and experimental than ever. And after several pushbacks and postponements, Peruzzi’s sophomore full-length album, Rum & Boogie arrives just about a year and a half after the release of his debut. The album is divided into two neat quarters, each with a distinct tone. In the accompanying note following the release of his album on Apple Music, Peruzzi explains, “The Rum part represents, or tells, all the love stories and the emotional stuff. The whole ups and downs of life, all that shit. And then the Boogie part一it has all the club songs, all the uptempo songs. It’s all the stuff people haven’t seen me do before一me trying new things.

The themes Peruzzi explores on this album aren’t exactly diverse. The music mostly revolves around love and lust; the bedrock of his previous projects. However, he finds refreshing ways to sing about these themes, using his clever songwriting skill while also finding new mellifluous melodies to present his ideas. On Telepot, he wears his heart on his sleeves as he serenades his love interest over sparkling plucked guitar strings and rhythmic drumming. “Murda” is a smooth, slow-tempo record that sees Peruzzi effortlessly flowing and interpolating lyrics from Wande Coal’s “You Bad” over Mr Eff’s lustrous production. On “Somebody Baby”, Peruzzi and his label boss, Davido combine to good effect as they both take turns singing about being led on in the most relatable fashion. You can almost hear the pain in their voices when they both come to the shocking realization in the hook as they both belt “Wait! So you get somebody, so you be somebo somebo, somebody baby”

“Girlie” is among the few ham-fisted songs on the album as Perruzi delivers scatterbrained lyrics over pretty flaccid production. Songs like “Juba”, “See Love”, “Gunshot” on the other hand sees him at his best as he coasts over familiar beats while delivering sturdy lyrics.

While a double-sided album runs the risk of sounding disjointed, Rum and Boogie’s bisected structure surprisingly does not affect its pacing as the first half of the album seamlessly flows into the second. The first half of the album is filled with mostly mellow, romantic cuts, the second half on the other hand is packed with boisterous records tailor-made for the dance floor. On “Available”, arguably the catchiest song on the album, Peruzzi and veteran vocalist Wande Coal show off their dexterous, free-flowing ability to effortlessly glide and chant over Lush’s infectious beat while also delivering crisp ad-libs. “Feeling Good” and “Change Your Style” aren’t exactly memorable as they lack any form of imagination and are both sonically uninspiring. Peruzzi simply adds his quota to the ever-increasing list of redundant amapiano records churned out by afropop acts by the day.

While there’s a lot of emphasis on Peruzzi’s pen game and melodies, his vocal strength tends to mostly get overlooked. In truth, while Peruzzi may not be the best vocalist out there, he however has a palatable smoothness and huskiness to his voice and “Call” features one of his most measured and tightly controlled vocal performances to date. On the highlife-influenced “Baddest”, Peruzzi enlists heavyweights, Don Jazzy and Phyno to deliver one of the more sonically distinct songs on the album.

Rum & Boogie’s métier is that it excels where Peruzzi’s previous releases fall short. Even though Peruzzi does not necessarily expand the scope of his music, he stretches his sonic palette, experimenting with ideas that are new to him but not necessarily to the afropop landscape. Luckily, the album manages to stay consistent from start to finish, harbouring just a few duds even with a hefty tracklist and a run time of about one hour and two minutes. Unlike his previous projects which were marred with songs with commendable ideas and ambitious concepts but flawed execution, Rum & Boogie contains some of his sharpest and most enjoyable songs to date.

While Peruzzi is currently working on a rebrand, trying to lose the peevish aura that surrounds him, this album provides the perfect avenue to redirect the attention to his unquestionable talent and less of the drama that has plagued his career.

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