Within the relentlessly groovy beats and melodies on First Daze of Winter, Maleek Berry sings, “Now the summer is over / Now my winters are colder”.
That line connects his last EP, First Daze of Winter, with its predecessor, the superb Last Daze of Summer from 2016; it also name-checks this project’s title. Most important, it links both EPs emotionally.
That earlier album was intended for partying, yet on two songs — ‘Lost in the World’ and ‘Let me Know’ — Berry showed he has time for contemplation, if only of the romantic kind. Last Daze of Winter continues Maleek’s dance-melancholy project.
Taken together, the Summer and Winter EPs elect Maleek Berry as a sort of prodigal son of an unlikely union between Asa and Wizkid.
Like Wizkid, his melodies and beats compels the idle listener to the dancefloor, but listen closely and save for such songs as ‘Kontrol’ and ‘Eko Miami’ and ‘Sisi Maria’ from the new project, he isn’t super-friendly with lust or liquor. And while he isn’t as delicately sober as Asa, Maleek Berry is quite adept at conveying longing and thwarted romance. Four songs of his new set of six give off vibes of less than blissful love. It is on one of these songs — the remorse-laden, trap-music influenced ‘What If’ — that he delivers the line “Now my winters are colder”.
Despite these, Winter lends itself to partying. Especially on ‘Sisi Maria’ where the Igbo highlife guitar makes an appearance and on the excellent ‘Own It’, where, surrounded by some remarkably syncopated percussion production, Mr Berry sings these lines, employing a set of sonorous semi-stammers on the chorus:
I dey mad
I dey crase
Your love gat me wasted
Girl your whine e be like wine
You got me drunk, you got me high
Because the force of those two songs, Wizkid’s patriarch overwhelms Asa’s cool mum on the project. Like everyone else, I like to dance — but I think it would be interesting to see what happens should the London-raised producer and performer allow his tendency towards melancholy dominate a project.
While not quite as consistently thrilling as Last Daze of Summer, First Daze of Winter continues the Maleek Berry hit-making streak.
First published by Music In Africa