Brian Jeck ‘Unicorn’ Album Review: Revelling in the Triumph of his Zim Drill King Status

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza & Takudzwa Kadzura 

With his stock exponentially surging within the spheres of Zim Hip Hop, Brian Jeck has fortified his Zim Drill King status with a new album called Unicorn. Having forged his niche in the then underrepresented drill sub-genre, Brian Jeck continues to convincingly expand his discography.

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With the success of Leo Magozz’s smash hit Fire Emoji – on which Brian Jeck features alongside Bling4 – the overall growth of Zero53 Music has been remarkably impressive. Brian Jeck, who hails from Chegutu, has successfully managed to lead a refreshing movement that has brought limelight on fellow artists including Leo Magozz, Bling4, 9ine 1ne, Macho, Kumbie, Tikayci Panda, Tha Bees, Washa T Beatz and others.

Brian Jeck has risen from the obscurities of Zimbabwe’s fiercely competitive music industry by relentlessly defending his self-proclaimed Zim Drill King status.

It would be safe to assert that with the new Unicorn album release, it is now an unwritten consensus that indeed Brian Jeck has transcended such a self-proclaimed status – he is now the certified  Zim Drill King, although this remains arguable.

Building on the gradual successes of his two previous projects – ZimDrillKing and ZimDrillKing Extended (EPs) – Unicorn brings to the fore a Brian Jeck who is now effortlessly comfortable with his unique sound.

The new LP is an expansive sound that does not diverge significantly from the previous ZimDrillKing projects, even though Jeck’s commendable production skills furnished listeners with ample room for experimental sounds and new voices.

Other listeners may dissent with the “unique sound” assertion, but it is pretty much clear that Brian Jeck presents a captivating sound pattern nonetheless.

In Unicorn, he creates plentiful time in addressing the themes that he briefly touched on in previous works such as Depression, Dyirwa Time, MaGeez, and the ZimDrillKing EPs.

What is clear however is that when it comes to a comparative analysis of LPs and singles, Brian Jeck commands authoritative quality on LPs. He is on his best on albums. His execution is thorough and convincing.

The most exciting listening element of Brian Jeck’s latest 2022 album Unicorn is that it is laden with a wide range of sounds – he stridently maintains his signature sound from the ZimDrillKing projects but is never hesitant to infuse other sonic ranges in the album’s songs.

In this, he accommodates both his long-time listeners and new ones on equal footing. And Brian Jeck effectively employs the power of teamwork through the collaborations scattered throughout the album, giving fellow [underrepresented] rappers a limelight.

Brian Jeck’s insistence on being the leader of the drill movement in Zimbabwe is consistently palpable throughout the album. 19 tracks for a debut album are nothing short of a complementary work ethic to such a bold stance. He is adamantly intentional about capitalizing the drill wave.

The ability to extensively address a variety of subject matters — although the themes are not as cogent and aesthetically orderly as desired —  may provide a bulwark against intense criticism that will unsurprisingly come.

The success of this album can be fairly measured by the impact he made in his hometown of Chegutu where it was launched.

Brian Jeck carries the story of a multitude of talented artists who, without the Harare streets, continue stumbling. His success this year overturns that fate.

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He lampoons the city shenanigans of city ‘hustlers trading toes’ for the greens in the song Life Ma1. Notwithstanding the idiosyncrasy of that outrageous rumour. Maths, which features Kumbie and R.Peels, gave the album a solid introductory strength.

The hustling motif running throughout the album reflects a lethargic national consciousness in which individualistic material success is the sole determinant of progress in [urban] life — and rappers are not immune from that. Money Changer is one of the songs in the album with an unapologetic and hardcore feel of what raw grind in the streets of an ailing economy is like. Brian Jeck conveys a message to the youth that empowers them not to let the system strangulate their potential. The failures of capitalism; even though drill rap does not possess the capacity for such ideological expositions, and Jeck is vindicated.

His competence in providing meaningful lyrics manifests more in songs like Munamato, in which he passionately hammers on street gospel. The gospel of hard work to reap only what you have sowed — and here we see Brian Jeck speaking optimism to the scattered hopes of a generation through spirited religiosity. Probably, showing contrition for the sins associated with the drill life.

The album exudes an improved scope regarding Brian Jeck’s song-writing capabilities. In What You Want and Memories, the self-proclaimed drill king caters for love-seeking music listeners, resultantly making Unicorn a wholesome project.

These songs, though being romantic refreshers for the album, leave much to be desired as far as showing a poetic yearning for love and vulnerability is concerned; the drill expression of complex emotions is not adequately proffered.

What we like nonetheless is Brian Jeck’s gift in providing mellow sounds with a soft timbre of melodic vocals pointing towards self-introspection. This provides a balance — the album has loose themes but such a balance ultimately makes it a good listening experience.

However, the potential in the album remains a discussion among ardent followers of hip hop in Zimbabwe.

The album is of course Brian Jeck’s earnest attempt to create a formidable celebrity aura that in turn compels listeners to sanctify the self-proclaimed drill king title, thus making it an official thing. And furthermore, it provides a satisfactory outlook in relation to youthful moral exhortations towards maintaining resolute fortitude in the adversities of the grind/hustling. As exemplified by the track Chigevha.

Because another factor to consider is how some quarters of the game maintain the narrative [more of a truism] that Brian Jeck’s sound is a second-hand Pop Smoke sound. In this, they wrest artistic originality from the rapper, asserting that he needs to settle for a more original sound. But it remains all arguable. What Brian Jeck has managed to do is prove his grit and determination to make everyone shine — the number of collaborations, including one with established rapper R.Peels, is a clear attestation to his inimitable solidarity with other rappers.

He knew his album would be a good platform for others to showcase their skills; and he flaunts his ability to blend well on different sounds with different artists. The last track, King of Drill, shows a confident Brian Jeck who is here to stay in the game.

It is often the fate for many artists to struggle with promoting their products especially when it comes to the digital spaces, but one can hazard to say that the new album is doing fairly well. Unicorn was however starved visual representation as there are no videos for tracks that would have actually reached wider audiences. Hopefully, Brian Jeck will do justice to the album by providing videos for some of its notable songs.

In full circle, 2022 is for Brian Jeck to celebrate his long-overdue breakthrough, as well as consolidating his claims in being the front-runner for the popular drill movement. The year has been good to him.

Unicorn can safely be mentioned in lists of albums that define new school hip hop successes in Zimbabwe.

With the supportive entourage of artists from Chegutu, Kadoma, Kwekwe, and Harare, Brian Jeck’s contention for kingship in Zim Drill is not to be taken for granted; and, like a true unicorn, the growth is soon to be boundless.

You can listen to the Unicorn album by Brian Jeck using the following links and leave a comment in dialogue box:

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