Nomadic’s The Pula Citizen album is a breath of fresh air- if one considers how long the trap sounds of the Faded Gangs, BanTs and ATIs have dominated the local hip hop scene. Nomadic is in the limited league of artists who can to produce a concept-album and write meaningful lyrics layered over thoughtfully composed beats. The last such artist I recall is Dramaboi with his Township Music sequel.
The album kicks off with a well choreographed accapella cipher (which is also the album’s title song) with a capability to make The Soil group jealous. He sets the tone that this is going to be more than passing of sick bars back and forth but a voyage through the insanely creative Nomadic mind, a journey from the streets of Bluetown to an exchange of conscious thoughts with the Kimberly native- Proverb (Up for the Shot).
The project is honest, self reflective and its candid setswana approach makes it much more relatable and forces you to root for Nomadic at whatever cost. The lyricism, the calm and incendiary word play can only be of a guy at the top of his game; this fact is none truer than in As They Walk, the project’s second track.
Not only is it the first time you will ever hear a calm rapper sounding very aggressive yet still firing on all cylinders on an afrocentric beat that sounds like something out of Django, the movie. It is an ode to the ever changing local hip hop scene, from the times of street raps and respect of the culture, to the present where he addresses contemporary problems like the drug culture in the game. It also recognises talents such as Nigel Amos, Ratsie Setlhako and pays homage to the P-Side clique.
“Where paper meets rock, and powder means stock / If mama did know, then she would say STOP” “bunch of heat seekers, in a city gone cold / dreamer now fixated on a pipe, it’s a strong hold / even sharper fold” “this I find growing, this I call home”
Nomadic says he recorded the whole album three times, and presents it as his most personal material where channels his underdog status into simple motswako raps, creative flows, and socio-economic political influences. “ I consider this the best work I’ve ever done. I had to re-record three times the whole project until I was satisfied,” he chuckled, looking like a man content with his vision. You would remember how in 2011 on BK Proctor’s Hustle remix he left us this quotable to use in moments like this – “The passion of a man o e bona mo phatleng”
A number of songs on the record shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly “Electric Relaxation” with Khwezi. The hook is infectious and Nomadic has a surprisingly pleasant voice he should use more often.
The Pula Citizen is full of complex vernac lyricism and “Electric Relaxation” takes a break from Nomadic’s machine flow; it has retro-future production with its bluesy style and bumpin’ bass basslines. This could have been a song for the ladies, but I guess Nomadic is something else, gongwe o tshaba basadi- it also should have been a single to push the album.
The Francistown native has been consistent in his career and in this album, he also liberates some of his most impressive cuts to date, still painting a radiant portrait filled with inspiration.
“ I see these Stevies as they wonder How I’m out of they sight I keep in motion. The born and bred, Across the diamond City, pouring my life/ I heard my city sounding dimmer I heard em calling my mic/ Across the border Where the order Keeps phenomenal heights/ I drank the water Saved a “quarter, made a friend Met a wife/ By now my father now retired So I had to do right/ A fallen son, who got a chance Batsadi fought for my life/ So giving back, the loving act Was like my pleasure to write/ Where now lerato, was motswedi To my Kitso my might, electric”
In 2000 when Outkast dropped Stankonia, they had an afterthought song that became a major hit- So Fresh, So Clean. Nomadic’s “Electric Relaxation” conjures up that memory and is reminiscent of Andre 3000 style.
Morwa is also an amazing song which demonstrates how much Nomadic has progressed since his last studio song. He seems to find a balance in “Morwa” that we haven’t ever heard before, a mix between what his day one fans love and his re-invented mature sound he is obviously working towards.
The genius in this project is also the selection of features, producers and the concept really. The line up of Proverb, Zeus, Apollo Diablo, Khwezi and upcoming Selibe Phikwe battle champion Luzkat is testimony that Nomadic’s vision was simple: he needed more intelligent and thought provoking writers and rhyme slayers to help him achieve his masterpiece. The fact that almost all the skits, intros and outros are accapella poetry and outright story telling makes the album an outstanding piece of soulful art to ever come out of Botswana hip hop.
With more than two decades in the art of fusing rhymes, knowledge and beats, Nomadic has easily positioned himself light years ahead of competition. This upcoming offering simply catapults the Kalanga native to being one of Botswana hip hop’s greatest of all time.
Critics posit that the last brilliantly executed rap concept albums in B-Dub includes 3rd Mind’s Fatshe la Rona, Scar-Happy Hour, Zeus-The Flipside and Apollo Diablo’s The Rise Again. The Pula Citizen should definitely slot Nomadic in this level of well-thought out classical albums.
The 20 track effort which is at its final post production stages is set to drop in mid November. One cannot help but remember that Nomadic is the originator of the motswako genre, never missing an opportunity to remind us that- like in For The Love with FPMG where he lays it bare that “ This is Nomadic, ghetto city bandit, the one who gave it breath so mafatshe can land it, are you offended or maybe can’t comprehend it?”
Since releasing Soul Aqua in 2002, Nomadic’s lyrical ability has never been in question, with hit singles like “More” in Lemonka’s Motswako Tape 2; “Stars” ft Bundu Lama in the My Journal Trails Mixtape, “Take it back” in Letters To My Country Men 2 album, “Hey” in Nomadic’s Quest: A Travelers Journal and “Call Me” ft. Crimson Blu (Currently signed to 999) from his “Remember” mixtape.
All in all, the charisma he displayed in his earlier releases cannot match the multi diverse Pula Citizen; it brings flashbacks of what rap was before singing rappers came to the scene, and gives one confidence that Nomadic will never collapse to the artificial mainstream lure.
Nomadic’s diverse collection of styles and sounds is the project’s strongest appeal, his hunger and charisma make it sound like he’s still an upcoming emcee, rapping because he loves it, not because he wants to get paid. Disappointedly, the album has an excessive machismo which only offers one sensual song dedicated to ladies and the mainstream. In his honesty he completely avoids tackling the reality of relationships, heartbreaks and love bubbles or feel good moments for Sunday chillas and party animals.
This simply pushes the album underground when it should also have been bold to balance the mainstream and the fresh conscious hop. He becomes more of a Talib Kweli when he had the opportunity to become a J.Cole with his talent.
This honesty however is also a perfect representation of the album as a whole. Every cut might not be on your own personal playlist, but shows Nomadic’s ability to change lanes like a drunken cab driver, while remaining comfortable and in his zone; this is undoubtedly his strength. His perspective and Swiss-army-knife-like talent will be a bold defense of Motswako in a world where genres like house and jazz have swallowed kwaito, rnb and traditional music, making them hybrids.
Nomadic is fearless and admirable because he writes music from his heart. The project will obviously face huge challenges of marketability especially as the mainstream culture is dominated by trap music. Unless he does live performances along jazz, poetry and folklore, the prediction is that it will remain a collector’s item because club owners generally prefer loud club bangers that attract drunken-hot-girls.
Nomadic is a movement and it would have been impertinent of me to describe his body of work in just one word. I rate this album 4.9/5 and it definitely places Nomadic as one of Botswana’s greatest of all time. PULA!