Happy 40th birthday and welcome to old age, that point in your life when you will soon have grey hairs crawling all over you like excited ants fleeing a hot oven.
Ahh, we all want to get old but old age is a bitch. Don’t be scared now for it’s not all that bad, Audu. Old age provides perspective, introspection and clarity that which people like to call experience and experience, as they say, is the best teacher.
Remember when we first met? At our first meeting, you gave me MI’s single, Talk About It. I was also a young man then and head of something that sounded important back at Bank PHB and we had collaborated with the British Council on the International Young Creative Entrepreneur award. You won the inaugural edition.
Chocolate City was a dream and more then. MI was not even a light bulb not talk of a star and Brymo whom I write this on his behalf must have been scuttling around the backwaters of Okokomaiko or Ajangbadi, high on dope and hope.
But you built that dream into an Empire and turned your label into a factory that continues to mint stars – MI, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, all Jos boys. And then Brymo, Nosa, Kimani. You turned a dream into an empire long before Taraji even knew she would own one.
You did and all before 40 so, Great Josite, you must be something amazing and in doing all that you kept your head, always respectful, sending xmas gifts, remembering those you met on your way up.
A few days after I read about your 40th birthday celebrations, I learnt that your former artiste, Brymo, has signed an international deal. And I thought that I could seize this opportunity of joy and celebration to ask a favour of you.
Take back Brymo into the fold!
That is all this old man asks. Do me a favour and take back Brymo because as he sings on his amazingly beautiful, well produced and arranged song, ‘Purple Jar’, he “almost had it all” with you and Chocolate City.
I am writing this in my study on a cool Saturday morning. All around me swirls Brymo’s voice and I have goose bumps as I listen to ‘Purple Jar’ on repeat. His voice is magic, full, lilting, teasing, amazing. If Fela and Majek Fashek had a love child, that child would be Brymo.
My kids have come out wondering why I am playing loud music so early in the morning and in my study. I never play music when I work but today, I want to soak in the song, to hear every word he doesn’t speak, to not miss all that is inferred, to be sure that I am absolutely right.
Dear Audu this song is not a love song to a girl Brymo “sexed and she liked it.” This song is an apology, a prodigal son reaching out to his father and saying, ‘Dad, take me back.’
You are a Christian, so you must be familiar with the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He was young, headstrong, impulsive. If he had instagram, he would have posted a picture of himself smoking weed, downing cognac and carousing with prostitutes.
We all know the story of Brymo and Chocolate City; we know about that photo, we know about the court case, we know about the defiance and we know about the albums that were released to almost deafening silence.
His absolutely brilliant and deeply reflective Merchants, Dealers & Slaves is already a cult classic but cult classics are for stars who did not fulfil their potentials, talents stymied by lack of direction, like Common before Kanye, Plantashion Boiz before Nelson Brown. Who needs a cult classic when he can go platinum and fill up arenas?
Dear Audu, humour this old man and find that CD. Pop it in your player and cue song number 8. Listen to the wailing guitar and harmonica, soak in the elegiac tone, take in the funereal pacing, this is not a love song, Audu, it is a dirge, an elegy for something lost, almost irretrievably.
But that song is, above all, an apology, Audu, a plea from a sad, regretful friend to another. It is couched as a love song because Brymo is a man with pride, with ego but he is also a man with talent, a songwriter at home with metaphors and double entendres. This is a man saying sorry without opening his mouth wide to scream it.
You don’t believe me?
I will break it down, line for line, unfurl the whorls and bare the core and you will see that the prodigal desires a return, because as Nosa sang on MI’s Chairman, Brymo is simply saying – “I no fit climb this mountain on my own…/This life no be Nollywood/I need you Brother.”
Brymo opens with a line that tells you he knew he was wrong, headstrong, impulsive and a prodigal
‘I like to eat my cake and have it’
He declares and you can just pause to compare those words to what the prodigal said to his father
‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’
Brymo pours his heart and all into this song, each line, every single beat pulsing with pain and regret as he admits he did something wrong.
‘I sexed my girl she liked it
I thought I was a psychic
Until she caught me with my side-chick’
Head strong impulsive people are full of boasts and bravado. Brymo was no different and soon, after he is caught, the prodigal is on the run.
‘Now I am running home without my shoes on
I dey ja like say i steal condom
She no go gree, o variga,
I love and care for you, o tu’le ka
Someday, when this is over
When you will look back
You go remember, we almost had it all
We almost had it all, We almost had it all
We almost had it all’
Dear Audu, listen, he repeats that ‘we almost had it all’ line four times and it is not for the rhyme, those are words soaked in the gasoline of regret. Strike an errant match and tears will burn.
But like every prodigal, Brymo doesn’t accept blame just yet even though the full extent of his loss is becoming obvious. He instead pluralises the blame. That corporate ‘we’ ought to have been a huge ‘I’, but there is time, the prodigal’s moral compass always points home.
So, what does he do? Singing over the wailing guitar Brymo makes his mea culpa.
‘I will take the memories, the car and the purple jar
Tell everyone, that I am gone I burnt the bridges down’
Finally the young man accepts his part in the saga, he finally says I was wrong and I acted wrong. But by leaving, did he have to burn bridges? No, but he did and in the next line his arrogance returns but it is arrogance tempered by his altered circumstances.
‘I keep my shoes on, I keep my shoes on’
Dear Audu, this motherfucker is bloodied but not bowed. It shows heart, my brother and it takes courage to write a public apology.
And as I conclude, Dear Audu, if you are still not convinced this song is an apology, just pause and think. Why is the song called Purple Jar?
I can bet my bottom dollar that when this song was first conceived, it was called Chocolate Jar. I have no proof but I am fully convinced and if there is an award for song of the decade Purple Jar it is.
Unfortunately it is not on Chocolate City.
Have a great life, Audu Maikori, Esq.