Mazbou Q’s journey to his debut album, ‘The Future Was’, is incredible. It covers several genres, countries and name changes and yet as an album it is so complete. Released July 2021, it’s rare that a local rap album sounds this focused and fighting fit. It has been helped by Mazbou Q’s high energy that has seen his live performances win over fans with ease. How he arrived at this sound has taken plenty of interesting turns and the album is all the richer for it.
Hugh Ozumba’s family left Anambra state in Nigeria for the UK where he and his sister were born. They subsequently emigrated to Aotearoa/NZ where he found himself in Tāmaki Makaurau, his head at first filling up with classical piano. He then took on the heavy metal sounds of East Of Eden, before launching as Unchained XL and finally Mazbou Q. Along the way, he has delved into West African highlife and East Coast-inspired boom-bap, the influences of both spilling into this album of conscious hip hop.
After a vocally distorted 30-second introduction, ‘The Future Was’ launches into Q’s buoyant style on Don’t Stop Regardless and funk-filled, The Get-Up. The sparkling instrumental provides a launchpad for the artist and he uses it to chirp, chime and flow with ever-changing intonations. Horns, drums and sequences of synths take his vocals with them as he leapfrogs around different vocal delivery styles.
The layering in production is one of the highlights here. Each track could easily be filled by super-group The Roots as much as Mazbou Q’s single-handed deftness.
Among many guest artists on the release, Raiza Biza shows up for the aptly named G.O.A.T Problems, and Jane Deezy adds vocals to the final track of the album. Myele Manzanza is fantastic on the Blackalicious-esque Just Let It Go, and Cee Blu takes the hyped flow and settles Best Of You into an uplifting RnB space.
The frantic The Fire of Time will cross genres too, this album clearly showing Q’s flexibility and range with each track building on the others. It just needs a lead single to have the same beautiful visual treatment of 2020 single, The Gates.