The fifth mainline record from a charity supergroup reckons with Africa’s most populous nation, and its ongoing battle against state-sponsored persecution.
We Like Chops make hard-hitting music. The group – more a global organisation than a collective – is composed of people who really know their way around a sampler, who know how to get a kick drum knocking. It’s therefore ominous that the team’s fifth charity album is less reliant on force than any that came before. Many of “V5”s first beats lack power but the drums carry on with quiet pride, they’re a shadow of evaporated energy. The record is downtrodden, pre-worn, but remarkably persistent. It’s an ode to a nation that refuses to crack under its suffering, suffering that grows conveniently beyond the western cone of vision.
“V5” lands amidst renewed #EndSARS protests, which continue to face violent retaliation from the Nigerian government. The Special Anti-Robbery Squad, though officially disbanded, has persisted via the reallocation of its officers, and as protests continue, more people get arrested, and hurt, and killed. It’s in relief of these horrors that We Like Chops are raising funds. Multiple forms of protest inform the music on offer. “Nigeria Gone Survive” rephrases “Nigeria Go Survive” by Veno to highlight the country’s history of turmoil and perseverance. In the 1985 original song, released the same year as a major military coup, Veno Marioghue pleads with her compatriots to “stay and build your country”; thirty-five years later the demand is no less pressing.
lo-tek’s flip of “Go Survive” on “V5” crawls along with the struggle of old tape, basking in the nostalgia of synthetic brass. When vocals enter they’re low and flakey under the bitcrusher. The looped verse is cut off abruptly, Veno’s “I say” runs into the Lijadu Sisters’ “Get out, fight!”. As this next track, “Trouble In The Streets”, continues, BigDaddyChop mobilises staccato drum patterns to portray the start of action. This evolves further on “ireke” by g.rola, the first song on the tape with any true intensity and resultantly the first that stirs hope. Anchors to the past persist throughout, however – interludes like moye.’s “adrift” and later a haunted house’s “waiting room”, serve as reminders of past fights. Most of these vignettes keep a neutral tone and avoid changing too much, conscious to not glorify or darken a complicated history.
The seventh song, interpolating’s “SUPEREAGLES”, shifts the tone to one of colour and celebration. A mesh of hazy tape loops and Skepta’s eternally fantastic “Konnichiwa” verse brings joy, but can’t escape the present conflict; Skepta’s mourning of Lukey Maxwell brings to mind death in protester ranks. In response Achille provides longing piano samples on “Promises”, perhaps the only instance of unmarked optimism in the set. Reality returns on “inmyjreams”, with bk crafting a storm of confusion. Trill Walton’s ode to Sade, “Folusade Adu”, caps the tape off but “inmyjreams” feels a more fitting finisher. It’s understandably uncertain but in constant motion, not content to stop until the chaos has settled.
It’s a common mistake to categorise struggles like #EndSARS as different, even unimportant, due to distance. But as in Nigeria, western nations cannot wash their hands of the blood of thousands of nonconformers and rebels. Protest and violence are on the doorstep of Lagos, and they are on the doorstep of London, and both need the same recognition. The incessant call to arms of “V5” holds up two panes of glass – one is a lens that magnifies Nigeria, the other is a mirror.
We Like Chops have pledged the earnings from “V5” to #EndSARS relief. The album is purchasable on Bandcamp. We’d also like to highlight this article by gal-dem, who have listed a number of ways to support #EndSARS.
Listen to “We Like Chops V5: Nigeria” here.
Follow We Like Chops on Bandcamp.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)