Album in Focus: Risky Life by Holy Ten

Over the past year I've often wondered if Holy Ten was under pressure to release music. I mean from the moment his hit song "Ndaremerwa" dropped he's been on an insane run of releases. From August to 2020 to January 2021, he dropped almost 10 songs with an album coming a few months later and the numbers are showing the rewards of this hard work. And honestly I can't remember the last time a Zimbabwean HipHop album arrived with as much hype and anticipation as Risky Life. 

It was touted as a 13 track album but when it arrived, one of the collaborations I was excited about was missing. Holy Ten ft Poptain failed to feature on the album due to poor recordings which didn't meet the desired quality and while we're very much still feasting on Risky Life we hope Holy Ten and Poptain re-record it. When the album dropped it was in the wake of two singles, Appetite ft Anita Jaxson which received a luke warm reception and Ma Chills which was an instant hit.

When I had my first listen of Risky Life I thought it was good, although the beats, the lyrical composition and the melodies felt a little safe initially. As I listened on the depth and the artistry began to truly hit me. Bars I thought of as cliché hit me with new meaning and by the third listen it was amazing what Holy Ten had done in just 31 minutes. It felt like a life time worth of lessons and vibes had somehow been compressed into half an hour. It's not an album I'll listen to without skipping a track but it's almost there. Not since Few Kings (Jnr Brown, Take Fizzo, Tehn Diamond) released The Feeling Ain't Fair have I felt this way about a Zimhiphop project though.

Risky Life Tracklist:

  1. Musazvituma
  2. Sahwira
  3. Time ft Dhadza D
  4. Miss Please
  5. Taura Zvinokunetsa
  6. Hanging Nevaskana
  7. Pandichamuka
  8. Ma Chills
  9. Youngest Achiever
  10. Combi Inonanga Mfombi
  11. Wakatuka Amai
  12. Appetite ft Anita Jaxson

Musazvituma opens the album with easy vibes and Holy smoothly keeping pace with the instrumental in his typical hoarse tones. In it's 2 minutes and 36 seconds there's quite a bit to digest to the song which is the usual. Holy addresses fake love, his dreams for the future, values and his possible crush on Tamy Moyo. In a moment that sounds like him shooting his shot he goes, "Changu chishuwo ndechekufonera Tami, pakati peusiku totaura zveusiku..." It's a laid back song with great wordplay and melody which makes perfect for any mood.

Sahwira takes us to a place that's extremely deep and profound. It's an ode to a close friend and feels like Holy Ten is monologing rather than singing.

Everything is never as it seems

You see these people smiling out in public

But it's plots, plans and calculated schemes 

Time ft Dhadza D is one of my favourite tracks on this album, the fusion of Zimdancehall and Zimhiphop has always given us hits. It has all the vibes that make it not just a great tune to listen to but one for the club. One of the lines that strikes me is when Holy goes, "Wangu ndema bars kunge paden pane ZOL, wangu ndema gunners nema jezzman on hold, vanonditi samanyanga kunge paden pane nzou." Dhadza D drops a feature that almost outshines Holy on his own song and the two excel on a beat that sounds made for them.

Miss Please has Holy rapping in English more than vernac and it's another vibey tune. It's not the usual lyrical depth we're used from the artist but it's playful and it offsets his usually serious subject matters in a beautifully sounding way. Taura Zvinokunetsa again takes deep in thought. "Tell me what troubles you," as the song title says is the exact subject matter of the lyrics. It's a song that talks about sharing problems and it has many themes woven into it's fabric like mental health among others.

Hanging Nevasikana brings out the playful side of Holy Ten again. It's a song with a temperate tempo and the lyrics sound like a mix of anecdotes from Holy Ten's interactions with the fairer sex. It adds to the blend of sound Holy tried to create on this album. From the long awaited song longer than 3 minutes in Wakatuka Amai to the alternative tempos from his usually mellow sound.

Pandichamuka is storytelling excellence, Youngest Achiever gives us quotables after quotables and Combi Inonanga Mfombi is captivating and intricate wordplay. Wakatuka Amai however is the star of the show. By far and above my favourite song on the album and the most touching. Holy touches on the hardships of life while relating it to our relationship with our mothers. He explores his plans for the future and things like escapism through alcohol use.

The production work on Risky Life is credit to a collection of producers. Raspo Beats, MashBeatz, Samplr, BeastInsideBeats, Versa and Holy Ten himself all come together to help create this impressive body of work. The sounds blender together on the instrumentals are a big part of what brings Risky Level the quality it has. The project is mixed and mastered by RTMixedIT out of Cape Audio College and the sound quality is a testament of his good in bringing this project.

Following the dropping of Risky Life they has been GOAT talk. And partly I agree, Holy Ten has elevated hiphop to levels never seen before in Zimbabwe and his star keeps on rising. Where would I place Risky Life on the greatest Zimhiphop albums of all time? I would say it's solidly there in the top 10. Of course after Few Kings' The Feeling Ain't Fair, MMT's MMTLP, Simba Tagz's Black and a few others.

Greedysouth rating: 7.6/10

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