A new direction for the young maverick.
Last month Zainab Donli – aka Lady Donli – ended her brief hiatus, resurfacing on the internet with a series of cryptic teasers and videos. Having released a colourful debut album, Enjoy Your Life, back in 2019, she vanished from all platforms, leaving fans in constant wonder about her wellbeing and whereabouts. Early last month, she returned with the release of “Searching”, her first single in months and also the lead single from her new project W I L D. The slightly muted percussions and soulfulness of “Searching” immediately signalled a novel direction for her new project, deviating from the pan-African and retro-inspired music on Enjoy Your Life. W I L D finally arrived on the 30th of July, and here are four takeaways from the new EP.
Creatively and thematically, Lady Donli is clear
Before the release of her debut album, Lady Donli’s music was largely soulful with alt-R&B undertones. However, the release of her debut album came with a new persona (Cash Mummy) and a stylistic and sonic change. The music on Enjoy Your Life heavily draws inspiration from 90’s Nigerian music and alt-jazz, particularly groovy records like “Cash” “Corner” and “Suffer Suffer”. The release of W I L D has once again seen the Lagos-based singer reveal a new persona (Space Whore), switch styles while also melding several genres to create her brand of unique music. With every new release comes a new motif, showing just how much thought she puts into her craft.
Lady Donli unashamedly wears her heart on her sleeves
“Hello Donli, what is this I hear about you been in love again? / Abeg, you guys should free me jor / Can’t shame me for being myself / Yeah yeah yeah I’m a lova gyal.” These are the unabashed closing lines of “Set Tha Fire / Lova Gyal”, the project closer, revealing just how bold and carefree Donli is when it comes to love. Even though she unveils hints of insecurities about an erstwhile relationship on the lead single (Been thinking of all the things you said / You said that I’m selfish / I can never understand), she’s always willing to give love a try.
With each release, Donli gets bolder, more experimental and unafraid
While Donli’s earlier releases like Letters To Her were slightly lyrically puzzling, W I L D is topically and expressively clear-cut. She doesn’t mince words on songs like “M.K.K” where she sings: “You wan chop the thing, but it bite back / You wan love the girl she no like that.” Sonically, she’s also unafraid to take risks as she experiments with more sounds, sifting through several genres to produce her distinctive brand of music.
2020 was truly an equivocal year
Last year was surely unprecedented for most people. We were all relegated to the four walls of our various home, being left with an inordinate about of time to do anything and everything. While many artistes judiciously used this time, for others, taking the time to create worthwhile music was more damaging than anything else, and Lady Donli falls into the latter category. “2020 was my year, but it slowed down / Got locked in the house, who’d have thought that? / Now I’m all alone battling my demons / Asking God why me? Why evils?” she sings on the title track, revealing the reason for her absence.