In ‘Pan African Rockstar’, Lady Donli deploys the brand of music that sets her apart while taking on topics that border on personal and societal.
Taking Fela-styled Afrobeat and combining it with psychedelic Rock, Jazz, Highlife, Folk, and multiple genres, Lady Donli is an avant-garde artist who likes saying it as it’s.
She kicks off the album with defiance with ‘Number 1 Motherf*cker’ where she combines folk and 90s style Hip Hop which lays the framework for her Pan Africanist efforts.
“If I vex, I fit be Popstar,” she says in ‘Pan African Rockstar’. With over a decade in the industry, Lady Donli has had enough of the talks about her ability and success. She reminds listeners that she could make mainstream Pop hits should she wish but she would rather tow a different albeit less appreciated path. She deploys poetry and folk in a record on which she flaunts her distinction while acknowledging that such distinction can be lost on listeners.
Psychedelic Rock opens ‘Your Fantasy’ where she restates her desire to live life on her terms. A Nigerian woman who’s fully aware of the societal expectations and prejudices women suffer, Lady Donli refuses to be subject to these expectations which she labels a fantasy.
Like other Pan Africans before her, Lady Donli rebels against social norms while promoting social justice. In ‘Nothing2Something,’ she echoes the issue of police brutality and the highhandedness of uniformed men which is a common denominator in African nations. She calls her President a naughty boy and flaunts her 8 tattoos as she shows the defiance of cultural norms that unites African youths both at home and abroad as is captured by Obong Jayer‘s contribution.
A Pan Africanist, Lady Donli champions the cause of women whose worthiness have been questioned and needlessly brought under the microscope. She combines 90s-styled rap flows with the technique of African music foremost rebel Fela Kuti in ‘My Ability’ where she reminds detractors not to question her abilities while also flaunting her achievement that cuts across academia and art.
In her Pan Africanist efforts, Lady Donli explores Highlife, a type of music with strong roots in Nigeria and Ghana in ‘Comme ci comme ca’ where she speaks French and combines it with Dance and Rock elements that shaped early African Pop music. The collaboration with The Lagos Panic showcases her depth, range, and ability to make music that captures the depth of African contemporary music.
The decision to double the “Plenty” in the title is perhaps the only Alte thing about ‘Plenty Plenty Things’ which is the most mainstream-leaning single on the album. Lady Donli delivers R&B as she demands to be free of societal expectations in a Pan Africanist stand that represents the plea of oppressed women across the continent.
Lady Donli embraces people who refuse to be defined by societal norms in ‘The Bad Ones’. “Bad Boys who are not afraid to cry,” she says on the track as she cheers for those who keep it real in friendship, spirit, and art. The electric guitar adds Psychedelia to the percussion and Hip Hop bounce to achieve a distinct avant-garde sound that defines her artistic sensibilities.
In ‘Said’ she gets personal as she expresses her desire to find “The One” and a “Confidant” that would take her for who she’s even as she restates her decision to tow a different path. Pierre Kwenders Swahili verse takes the record to East Africa.
She delivers Tungba-styled music in ‘Jazz Up’ where she combines street familiar lingo and percussions that take her activism to the dancehall.
Lady Donli’s activism wouldn’t be complete without a word for her colleagues and the music industry. In ‘Industreets’, she lashes out (with visible disdain) at the prevalent hypocrisy in the industry while maintaining that she wants no part in it. Although a fussy observer might find her dig at the “Mr. Critique” to be a curious one, especially as she was at loggerheads in 2022 with a popular music critique and media personality (Motolani Alake) who slated the project of a colleague (Cruel Santino) whom she took sides with. Wouldn’t it then follow that she also partake in the industry clique and politics she criticizes?
To be honest, the talk about her style of music not being suitable for mainstream commercial success is not a dismissal of her talent which is abundantly clear. It’s just reality. One she has decided to live with.
But what do I know? It’s a good song and the industry can surely take the sub on the chin.
‘Pan African Rockstar’ is an impressive album that presents Lady Donli in her distinctive elements. Her penmanship, stylism, and avant-garde approach come together to deliver a cohesive body of work that excels in its Pan-Africanist explorations.
The manner the tracks flow into each other, the combination of African and Western elements, and the choice of production combine for an achieved execution.
She opened the album with a chest-thumping “I don’t give a damn” track and closed it with a middle finger to the industry. Let’s face it, that’s f**cking Rockstar and you have to respect it if at all you don’t love it.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
Album Sequencing: 1.7/2
Songwriting, Themes, and Delivery: 1.6/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.6/2
Total: 8.2 – Champion