Cruel Santino – ‘Subaru Boys: FINAL HEAVEN’ review: a fresh helping of futuristic alté

After a monstrous response to his debut album, the Nigerian artist is back with a truly dystopian follow-up. It’s nothing like you’ve ever heard

Farewell to the smooth charisma of Santi and welcome to the bolshy rebel that is Cruel Santino. Despite the name change (the original was taken), the artist has done an otherworldly one-eighty, blending computerised hyperpop sounds with ethereal alternative afrobeats music (aka alté). It’s nothing like you’ve ever heard.

Santino’s debut album, 2019’s ‘Mandy And The Jungle’, opened the world to Nigeria’s rebellious children going against the status-quo of afrobeats. Now, with a loyal legion of fans for the genre, Santino rallies up an established amalgamation of features (Skepta, Gus Dapperton, Koffee) for a one-of-a-kind experience unique to his expansive imagination.

Differing from ‘Mandy…’, ‘Subaru Boys…’ is a fantastical adventure into a sci-fi, anime-like world. Santino’s has peppered this synth-y record with true alté gems such as ‘Mermaid Aqua’’s fun, juvenile chorus, which will have you mumbling “uh, ah, Kurachan, Kurachan”. And then there’s the subdued, Eurodance closer ‘Sa-Karuchan’. However, the perfect encapsulation of Santino’s new synth-pop future arrives in the form of ‘War In The Trenches’. The track has the same sing-song delivery similar to ‘Mandy…’, but with added shiny astral accents in the production, it exudes a more aloof aura than its more forthright predecessor.

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There is a sort of fatigue that comes with listening to a 21-song album. You’d be forgiven for flagging around the 14th track, but Santino experts catching our attention with trippy, sticky 808s and heroic guitar strums of  ‘Born Again’, which refreshes you from the frenzied dance battle you just had with the songs prior. It features his friend and rising alté superstar Amaarae, and the two pick up the pace (faster than their previous groovy serenades together) with a thumpy tune that represents victory with braggadocio and endless flaunting: “Foreign baby, you can’t tell me shit / then I put it on my city, that’s a hit, hit, hit”.

Cruel Santino is a world-class talent. He’s able to absorb influences from wherever he goes (on ‘Dirty Eyes, Evil Manners; with Skepta, he adopts some British inflections, having been stuck in London for some of the 2020 pandemic), his records blending American and European pop with his native traditional afrobeats bassline for catchy, uplifting tracks that can work in and outside of the partying world. ‘Subaru Boys: FINAL HEAVEN’ takes on a slightly more uptempo computerised approach to alté, while furthering what it means to be alternative in a once-regimented culture.

Details

Release date: March 4th

Record label: Monster Boy / Interscope

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