It’s not Mr 2kay’s fault that the most compelling portion of his live show comes when he stops singing. He’s having something of a moment: Fresh off the his second major-label album Elevated and high from the two top-15 hits it spawned, the singer performed Sunday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Aztec Arcum, Port Harcourt. But for all his contemporary currency, Mr 2kay is a product of an old-school aesthetic. The title Elevated, is a page off the story of this artist’s physical presentation and personal progression—When he sings, he does just that: Unlike many rising young artists, his verses are dripped with melody and he gives room for a rotating cast of guest vocalists to be part of his tunes. But with the sound systems of most venues making it difficult to get one’s point across audibly, the emotional moments at Aztec Arcum came in the quieter interludes, when we could finally hear what he had to say.
It was mostly about hard work, and hard work paying off. One doesn’t sell out Aztec Arcum easily, after all. Born Abinye David Jumbo, the child of an ordinary teacher and trader, he earned his reputation in the Nigerian music scene without the benefit of any shortcuts. Like Olamide, another indigenous artist loved by his people, Mr 2kay had to prove his worth bar by bar to locals skeptical of Port Harcourt based camp followers. And like Phyno, the time eventually came when his hard-won craft dovetailed with his geographical location and sent him flying to the stars. Since the rise of “Bubugaga,” a multiplatinum hit from 2012, Mr 2kay’s become a regular presence on international Afro-pop radio. Among the many acts who prevail within the medium, he might be the most gifted and least objectionable. He’s become famous enough to take fame as a primary subject. A slightly generic, vaguely louche, but nonetheless palpable magnetism hangs about his figure.
The loudest cheers of the night came at the encore, when 2Kay emerged onstage to perform fans favorite “Who No Like Better Thing”. Dressed in a white native-like outfit, surrounded by dancers with white bowler hats who had dancing skills that exuded the inevitable admiration of the crowd.
It’s important not to underestimate his strengths. Mr 2kay’s beat selection is superb, a considerable advantage in an era where lyrics come second to beats. His command of the streets is also assured; it’s often impossible on Elevated to tell his voice apart from that of legends. Like 2Baba, he has a natural feel for relatable content, for conceits smart enough to be taken seriously but not so clever as to feel beyond the reach of the average listener.
There are things, of course, that Mr 2kay can’t quite access. A ceiling exists to the level of charisma and distinction that any Nigerian artist can achieve, and it’s to Grafton Record’s credit that he strives to rise to that maximum without overreaching. Though his biggest song to date, definitely is “Waterside Boy,” which was a major spring to his career. There are some limits Mr 2kay can’t surpass and we suspect that song to be one. And he knew not to risk being outclassed at the end of the show by bringing that song’s live onstage in his home city to perform. But the fact that he recognizes such limits is the main reason why he’s doing as well as he is, and why his upward trajectory isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. This concert was an incredible display of love and respect between audience and performer, and Mr.2kay seems moved. The PH crowd screamed and stomped for more, and he rewarded them for their fanaticism.
See More Photos Lifted of Gaff Whyte‘s Camera from The Elevated Concert, below..