(Words: Danie Rayn)
Rapper, songwriter, and record producer Alpha Ojini’s latest project Chvmeleon one that lives up to its name. Set to confessional beats, inquisitive and probing melodies, Ojini streaks across the various tracks deftly switching up his sound like a chameleon changes colors. The project is littered with interludes bearing lessons about the reptile serving as inconspicuous hints at what the listener is to expect; an artist smoothly switching between different personas each complete with their own lyrics and distinct sound.
The album really gets going with “Xo” but it by no means sets the tone. Finding one song that accurately describes what listening to album titled after a reptile known for changing its colors seems at first glance like a futile exercise. What “Xo” does is to get one in the habit of gently nodding along, first in agreement with the lyrics and then obviously, because the song is most likely a bop. A near constant throughout the 14-track project.
Chvmeleon exemplifies Ojini’s various artistic attributes. Among those are his lyrical dexterity, stinging melodies and effortless delivery that betray just how long he’s spent in the industry. Several EP’s, mixtapes and singles later, this album isn’t that of a fledgling rapper but a testament to versatility.
On “PDA” Ojini, a proven lyricist, declines to go bar-for-bar with M.I Abaga—as he did with Blaqbonez on “BagX2”—instead opting to infuse the entire song with a stream of rabid confessional melodies. In doing so, he does the unthinkable by relegating Mr Incredible to a supportive role albeit one that complements the magic Ojini himself brings. His feature is able to reinforce the track with five-star bars without stealing all the attention. The choice to craft a track that plays to both their strengths should be highlighted as it is the major ingredient for a great collaboration.
“PDA” is immediately followed by a feature with another powerhouse artist in Ycee. On “OneKnee”, the chameleon completes the transformation started on “HalfMoon” to a more tender version of itself, just so it could explore the subject of love. Some of the most memorable songs on Chvmeleon are those dedicated to the pursuit of love and the inevitable complications that can sometimes arise.
“SeeHeaven” has our chameleon appear to meet its match. Ojini and his features (SDC’s Ghost, and Oxlade) take turns lamenting the time and effort wasted in the fraught pursuit of love and a connection with another human. While sometimes ruthless in their assessment of the past (“I had to burn the bridge, but you struck the match”, the chorus has the effect of leaving the listener incredibly confused about the subject of the track. But that is possibly the point.
All that serves to keep the listener wholly unprepared for the next track “CalmDown”, a jarring transition bolstered by a muffled trumpet and GoodGirl LA’s stinging vocals propelling the chorus forward before resting them somewhere between an order and a plea. On the verses Ojini flows effortlessly, like he’s just reciting words to an instrumental. “CalmDown” really has everything Ojini possibly has to deliver. It samples lyrics and moods from across the album and the result is Ojini distilled into his purest element.
“Chvmeleon” is proof Ojini indisputably has his industry by the neck. A proof of concept for the harmonious lethality of clever lyrics in the hands of a truly versatile artist. But he’s not an artist satisfied with mere compliments. He wants his checks and accolades and if “Chvmeleon” is any indication, sooner or later, he’s going to get them.