Since breaking through with 2020’s “Zoom”, Cheque has stood out among Afropop’s newest generation of stars for the sonic choices that propelled his breakout project, Razor. Working with a distinct sonic palette that couches his traditionalist rap flows into sure-footed doses of saccharine earworms and heart-wrenching melodies, the sing-rapping hybrid (born Akanbi Bamidele Brett) is adept at bending influences from cloud-rap, emo-pop and Afrobeats into something wholly transformative and incisive all at once. The release of his debut LP, 2022’s Bravo, expanded on his public narrative while adding more exciting twists to his fusionist sound.
On his latest project, Chequemate, the Penthauze rapper continues to deftly sidestep categorisation while fine-tuning the formula that has made him one of Nigeria’s most highly regarded musicians. Recorded in an exciting blend of Yoruba, English and pidgin, this six-tracker sees Cheque contemplate destiny, romantic affiliations and his place in the game over midtempo instrumentals mostly crafted by talented beatsmith Ozedikus. “Shine” is a call to stay the course, while close friend Fireboy DML joins for another installation of their collaborative efforts on “Hustler”. There is a prominent hip-hop bounce on “Way Too Young”, where Cheque explains that he’s too young to be stressed, while “LPD” is a dedication to his fans and supporters. At its best and most engaging, Chequemate is a charming reminder of Cheque’s knack for crafting genre-fluid bops that live long in the memory, as he does on “Sunflawa” in tandem with Mavin singer Crayon.