Psychodrama By Dave – Unpack the Drama

dave_psychodrama

Lauded for his political consciousness on “Question Time” yet his knack for making hits like recent chart topper “Funky Friday”, Dave is undoubtedly a gem in the crown of UK music. It’s been EPs and singles up until this point, but now he presents his debut full length effort, Psychodrama.

It’s a journey of an album – tracks succinctly interwoven by the words of a therapist who guides Dave, and the listener through the drama in a series of parts.  We enter into Dave’s world with “Psycho”.

A hesitant and tense Dave is divulging everything that is on his mind. Pressures and pleasures – like verbal diarrhoea before reaching breaking point. Production-wise, it follows the rollercoaster of his thoughts and emotions – hard-hitting snares and bass ring through the haunted atmosphere, right before the piano breakdown as he admits he might be battling depression.

DaveThe first chapter to the story we have Dave offloading. “Psycho” is a general unpacking of trauma while the following three tracks are a more thorough examination of his pains. “Streatham” shines a light on the inner city. Named after his hometown, the tales of drugs, violence and deceit are not alien topics, whether immersed in that world or not. It shares links with “Purple Heart”, with both addressing his experiences with women.

Black”, however, stands separate as an honest account of his socio-ethnic disposition. While discussing themes of racial and social inequality and also triumph, Fraser T Smith’s harrowing piano-led production provides the perfect canvas to really drive home a message. It’s cognitive dissonance – as much as being ‘black’ can sometimes be painful, you wouldn’t desire to be anything different. That relatable truth makes “Black” so powerful.

And thus the second chapter begins. In some ways, it’s Dave on the defensive. Having become incredibly vulnerable to a near stranger not too long ago, he attempts to gloss over his seemingly bleak reality. For example, with “Location”. It takes a different approach to the themes of “Purple Heart”, with Dave glamorising the lifestyle that he has acquired, in particular in regards to women. He has become elevated from the hardships spoken about in the former songs. “Disaster”, sinister through its use of intricate melody and in its content, almost glamorises the very same things Dave was weary about in “Streatham”.

But as much as “Environment” could be viewed as an expose on the industry, it should Dave-683x1024actually serve to highlight that very little separates artists and fans. Entertainers can also be vulnerable, and it’s important to pay attention to their wellbeing irrespective of their lifestyle. It’s an easy segue to the final chapter.

The final chapter is a real turning point in the tale. At this point, with much time dedicated to therapy, Dave is processing his emotions better and has become better equipped to deal with his drama, displayed eloquently through “Lesley”. Prompted by the therapist, he recounts the vivid story of a woman he knew and her painful affair with domestic abuse and dishonesty. He puts himself in her shoes, and now both Dave and the listener develop a deep sense of empathy. Pianos serve as the canvas of the saga, layered by a moving orchestral ensemble right until her point of her passing – suggestive by the sudden end of the orchestra to then the haunting voice of Ruelle.

With “Voices”, the narrative seems to conclude – a positive acknowledgement of progress and mental maturity. Dave conceptualises and personifies the realness of his emotions as if they are versions of him, or even real people. Visualising negative emotions departing from his life, cast upon the upbeat instrumentation of the track, is in essence the “happily ever after” that we seek.

dave-hp-gq-26nov18_bBut “Drama” is a powerful addition…for a few reasons. In many ways, “Drama” is the second half of “Psycho” – with all the growth that he has undergone, he comes around full circle. We have a mature Dave being able to really process his thoughts and his ‘drama’. He does so while in conversation with his older brother, a figure missing in his life due to incarceration and possibly a cause of his ‘drama’.

We see how his experiences have formed him into the man he is today. “Drama” is his retrospective look over the ten tracks that come before it. As it concludes with his brother speaking to him on the phone and reciting the Biblical story of King David, the message seems to be that just like David in the Bible, Dave was chosen.

If we, for a second, examine the definition of psychodrama…

“a form of psychotherapy in which patients act out events from their past.”

Then this album is exactly that. But its beauty in particular is that it’s very personal, yet there is a universality in his story. Dave was chosen to tell his story. To tell his brother’s story. And all those that came before him.

With Psychodrama, in many ways, Dave is allowing himself to be vulnerable in place of black men who don’t feel able to, in the hope that we can learn to get to that place. Addressing the issues of mental health, we get to understand the complexities of men in his position, in the hope that they can gain the humanity that was harshly stripped away back again.

Favourite Albums of 2018 Part 2

Last year,  I managed to compile together (against constraints) what I felt was a solid list of some of the best projects to grace my ears over the course of the year. A difficult task seeing the amount of music I got through and despite the hard decisions, some had to be delegated to just ‘honorable mentions’.

This year, I’ve been absolutely swamped with music and for the most part it’s been pretty good stuff. So, just like last year, rather that just writing a review on every single project, why not see the year off in style and do a top album compilation.

Here are my “Favourite Albums of 2018” – Part 2. Enjoy.

Janelle MonáeDirty Computer1200x630bb

Janelle Monáe’s third studio album, Dirty Computer, was a rather pleasant surprise,  packaged as an excellent concept album. Accompanied by a short film of the same name, the album showcases Monáe’s unique style of blending genres, a hint of pop, a sprinkle of funk, a dash of hip-hop and all organic

Monáe managed to successfully insert inclusivity into her music, especially with the short film – set in a futuristic world, the singer, songwriter and producer attempts to portray a reality without prejudice, where being true to oneself comes before anything else.

Standout “Django Jane” – by far one of my favourite songs to come out in 2018 – she raps on the power of womanhood, especially black womanhood, fuelled by her own empowerment and beautifully dancing the duality of poetry lyricism and potent wordplay. And it’s over dope production might I add.

Honoring women and the spectrum of sexual identities, Dirty Computer sees Janelle coming into her authentic self with a more personal offering, as she herself explores her own sexual identity with themes of self-worth, blackness and female power. It comes together in a package that oozes purely creative genius.

 

Geography – Tom Misch

tom misch geographyAfter working with some amazing talent in front and behind the scenes, we have the culmination of efforts of 21-year-old singer/songwriter and DJ Tom Misch’s several self-released mixtapes and EPs – Geography.

Geography takes on many of Misch’s different influences. Main elements of Funk and Jazz are staple to his brand but also Soul in smaller parts cover the breadth of this album for a smooth, glossy finish. Fans of his, especially long term, will appreciate even the most minute of details.

There are some really beautiful songs on the album, like the introductory bright and upbeat “Lost in Paris” or the electric “Disco Yes” with Poppy Ajudha. You can also not to forget the anthem stand out “Water Baby” with Loyle Carner, sandwiched between dreamy ballads, covers and a cheeky guest feature from Hip-Hop legend Posdnuos of De La Soul. There’s no commotion in the ocean with this one. It’s an album suited for relaxed listening.

 

East Atlanta Love Letter – 6LACK6lack east atlanta

If you were enticed by his chilly vocals, minimalist beats, and conditions of the heart on Atlanta artist 6LACK’s first album then you may be thoroughly impressed at what he brings to the table on his newest project. If we take a look under the robust set of melancholy pianos, rasping drum machines and ambient synths, we have an open and transparent 6LACK; his complications, flaws and complexities projected in a gloomy but alluring monotony.

While the album as a whole follows a style could fit well as background music, there are definitely some standouts which you shouldn’t miss out on. The title track features the star power of rapper Future who assists in making a street record with pop overtones.  As piano melodies encompass the album feel, it’s done brilliantly on “Disconnect” which makes a horrible break-up sound so soothing. And the rattling, hard-hitting lead single “Switch”, sandwiched between all the melancholy proves that 6LACK is able to create sensational music which can be played outside of personal listening and still hits hard.

 

Saturn – NAO

nao saturnOn her second outing, alt-R&B singer-songwriter Nao relives all the intricacies of a quarter-life crisis through an astrological lens. Saturn draws from R&B, pop, and funk influences at lengths and breaths to cover personal growth, the complicated art of love and heartbreak and the treacherous journey of young adulthood with keen soulful attention.

Make It Out Alive” typifies the entire mood of the album in trying to make sense of what’s complicated and it’s not surprise that it was the lead single. It’s silky, straight-talking R&B cut and is one of the two duets on the album as it features SiR; the other being the beautifully solemn title track with Kwabs.

Highlights “If You Ever” and “Yellow of the Sun” are light and fluttery daydreams to romance, beautified by Nao’s sublime vocals while the electric funk of “Gabriel” leans on sultry tendencies. “Drive and Disconnect” is surely Nao at her most expansive – an unexpected Afrobeats-inspired jam that’s worth the listen. Between Nao’s lush voice and the album’s glossy production, it’s easy to get lost in Saturn.

 

Oxnard – Anderson .Paakanderson-paak-oxnard

The multi-faceted music maestro Anderson .Paak released one of the most long-awaited albums in Hip-Hop this year. Named in homage to Anderson’s California hometown, it paints a clear sonic picture of its cultural landscape, influenced by funk and soul, the very genre the area boasts. Paak is clearly made from these quintessential sounds and his own persona is a central crux.

Hip-Hop Legend Dr Dre helped Anderson .Paak produce an album bursting to the brim with funk without losing rap flair or soulful edge. From the bitter price of fame on the breezy summer jam “Tints” to the joys of opulence on the rebellious “Mansa Musa”. A woozy tale of love in “Trippy” or a hard-line Casanova’s tale in “Sweet Chick”. You get a showcase his versatility as a vocalist and a rapper with just a thin veil of innuendo form. There’s a lot to take in but if you’re into that then it’s pure eargasms.

 

Outside – Burna Boy

Burna-Boy outside

The soundscape of modern African Music is quite diverse. Somehow, Burna Boy as an artist attempts to straddle these multiple worlds with Outside. As a whole, you can place songs into three categories: Dancehall, Afrobeats, ‘Experimental’ and he tackles them all with flair and showmanship in a way that not many can do.

If the upbeat melody and infections drums on “PH City Vibration” or the traditional Fuji vibes and Yoruba flavour of “Koni Baje” are not shaking your spirit, then maybe the J-Hus-assisted “Sekkle Down” or the reggae inspired “Giddem” will get you moving your hips in the mood for seduction. Burna is in no way or form predictable as he manages to throw curveballs into the mix, “Heaven’s Gate” with its unrivalled sound and “Devil in California” shows that Burna Boy can be R&B-ish and be vulnerable.

With the Afrobeats anthem “Ye” hallmarking an incredible 2018 for the man and becoming a viral sensation in the process, Outside will long live in the memory of many fans of African music as the gift that kept on giving.

 

But of course, I can’t have them all. In good spirit, honourable mentions must go to:

  • Purple – A2
  • Ghetto Gospel II – Ghetts
  • Seasons – Mahalia
  • November – SiR
  • Godfather II – Wiley
  • Milky Way – Bas

As we conclude part 2 and come to the end of the list, be sure to check out part 1 here.

Favourite Albums of 2018 Part 1

Last year,  I managed to compile together (against constraints) what I felt was a solid list of some of the best projects to grace my ears over the course of the year. A difficult task seeing the amount of music I got through and despite the hard decisions, some had to be delegated to just ‘honorable mentions’.

This year, I’ve been absolutely swamped with music and for the most part it’s been pretty good stuff. So, just like last year, rather that just writing a review on every single project, why not see the year off in style and do a top album compilation.

Here are my “Favourite Albums of 2018” – Part 1. Enjoy.

Room 25 – Noname

a1836574169_10

Noname is unconventional of sorts. And while she captivated listeners with her innocent cadence and playful production on her debut effort Telefone, her follow up is a more mature approach. Room 25 is more experimental sonically; it’s jazz at the core but in ways which may surprise you from the young Chicago artist. She really hones in on her poetic form but with rawer subject matter.

It’s fair to say that the last two years between albums have been used to mature as these collection of songs capture the duality between the things that have now become prominent in her life.

Blaxplotation”, a portmanteau of ‘Black’ and ‘Exploitation’, explores Black stereotypes and the anxieties they cause. The sunny “Montego Bae” is Evidence of Noname’s sexual awakening, fantasized as a Caribbean fling. As deep as the album can get, “Ace” serves as a playful tag-team brag with frequent collaborators Smino and Saba – a breather just to flex some bravado. Noname is an artist of quite some depth and for a woman seemingly going through a quarter life crisis, she is handling it as best she can.

 

Care For Me – Saba

Saba20Care20For20Me

Saba’s marvellously produced, reflective sophomore album, CARE FOR ME serves two interlinking purposes. Firstly, it is him truly processing his grief and the sense of loneliness he feels with the loss of his beloved cousin Walter, an integral part of his life even in music. The depression and self-doubt that occurs is laid out bare on this project.

Secondly, it offers the listener an insight to the harsh reality of living in inner city Chicago in the hopes of better.

A mood of beautiful melancholy enwraps the entire project. The 23-year-old’s fleet, singsongy raps manoeuvre through piano-centric arrangements, which build sets for the scenarios he’s reliving. There is a sense of journey to be had. Opener “BUSY/SIRENS” provides us with initial anxious thoughts, relatable in every sense. He bravely relives the trauma through “LIFE” and he retells Walter’s horrific account in “PROM/KING” but by the final act “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME”, he makes peace with his demons and rests assured that Walter is in a better place, looking down over Saba and so he is truly not alone.

 

Lady Lady – Masego

cabb46eb21043d32430bdecc5420dc40.1000x1000x1

The Virginia R&B musician’s debut album is the mark of a turning point of his career. His previous efforts have gone above and beyond to prove his ability purely as a talented musician, but Lady Lady makes the case for Masego as a masterful writer and song creator. Masego is mature and so is his content as he dedicates this project to the women – those loved and lost, those who’ve taught him hard lessons along the way, those who haven’t entered his life yet.

His music is sophisticated. 80s R&B with hints of smooth jazz along the fringes, building on his famed “trap house jazz” sound. Masego reveres women highly, his ode to black women on “Queen Tings” doesn’t go amiss and he’s definitely not one to discriminate as “Old Age” proves. Culminating at the end with “Black Love”, a lush ballad which he dedicates to his potential bride at the altar, Lady Lady essentially offers a wide-ranging glimpse into the different facets of woman, presented in a soulful vocal package by a Masego who’s come of age.

 

Glory Sound Prep – Jon Bellion

DqyWdN_XQAA8SO0After disappearing into deafening silence for two whole years once the fanfare of his debut album The Human Condition eventually died down, Jon Bellion was able to provide us the greatest follow-up to such a big album.

Full to the brim with Bellion’s signature adlibs and production ticks, the album is host to a smooth blend of hip hop, rap, pop and even a New Orleans jazz band, while managing to sound not only cohesive but also larger than life.

One of the few people I’d consider able to sing just as good as he can rap, the album spans several different themes. We find Jon reminiscing on his come-up in “JT”, speaking on the harsh realities of social media on “The Internet” and just having beautifully crafted but honest dialogue about his own insecurities in life and love. There’s also a beautiful orchestrated medley dedicated to all the mothers out there featuring Quincy Jones himself. At only 10 tracks long, Glory Sound Prep is an enjoyable listen.

 

DOU3LE 3AK – WSTRNwstrn

It felt like the West London trio-turned-duo had a lot to prove. With the unfortunate loss of bandmate Akelle, the odds were stacked against them. A few hot singles but could they put together a body of work that could stand strong? And the answer is yes. DOU3LE 3AK encapsulates the myriad of sounds within the UK very well. Whether its Trap, Rap, Dancehall, Afro swing or R&B, WSTRN’s versatility is something of marvel.

Hailee makes a strong case for himself with his knack for creating punchy and catchy melodies and choruses and Louis Rei, with his distinctive tone and flow, demonstrates his ability to conceptualise and shows that he can bar with the best of them. They didn’t leave Akelle out, with “Soon Home” a gentle reminder of the talent that we have been missing and an honest account from the man clearly set to reunite with his brothers one day soon. It’s rare that an artist can put together a project that s sonically diverse and still works but WSTRN have done that.

 

But of course, I can’t have them all. In good spirit, honourable mentions must go to:

  • Purple – A2
  • Ghetto Gospel II – Ghetts
  • Seasons – Mahalia
  • November – SiR
  • Godfather II – Wiley
  • Milky Way – Bas

As we conclude part 1, be sure to check out part 2 here

 

Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1 by Cherri V – Classic yet Contemporary

Cherri-V-Brown-Eyed-Soul-Vol-1-1

There are not many who have quite the rep that Cherri V has. A notable mainstay in Black British music, she has spent time honing her craft, recording alongside the likes of Jessie J, Dawn Richard, Wiley and Lethal Bizzle in the process. Having also been one half of the renowned underground R&B duo Dora Martin, she recently settled down to work on her debut solo full length.

A true artist, the London performer’s sense of soul is evident and her vocal ability is not only undeniable but unrivalled by many however it has taken her a fair amount of time to put together an individual body of work that we can enjoy. And now, after years of hard work in the industry, we finally have Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1.

The name is a spin on the classic phrase ‘Blued Eyed Soul’ – the idea of the classic genre performed by white artists, from your Justin Timberlake to your Joss Stone. While there’s no shade on her end – she made this apparently clear in an interview – she emphasises through the title and throughout the project the importance of highlighting great soul from ‘brown eyed’ folk, telling the stories as we do best.

The first EP in the supposed beginning trilogy is an eight track wonder made up of a few previous single releases as well as a couple new cuts with a select number of features added to the mix. Classic R&B signatures with a contemporary flavour seems to be theme concurrently running through Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1.

So the EP starts strong with opener “Leave Me Be”. Delivering velvety smooth vocalsCherri V sings Cherri V fuses this with an instrumental dipped in a jazz influenced sound. The enchanting synths that lay low in the back add to the atmosphere and the rhythmic production give it an ultimately contemporary R&B feel. The intro, as it seems, is a song born from a personal place.

Da Beatfreaks-produced “Runaway” has a synonymous bounce that you associate with the production duo. In life and love, it’s human to be torn in, it’s human to be sometimes indecisive. And sometimes as humans we just want to get away from it all to find some sort clarity. This is Cherri’s anthem speaking her truth and I, for one, can definitely relate.

What is love without a little pain? Cheating has definitely gotten less sophisticated these days and the age of tech means the millennial struggle has another battlefield to try and manoeuvre. “Snapchat Mistress” is the age of story of infidelity but from a social media perspective. Emojis, explicit images and finding their location is only some of the topics on the agenda as Cherri presents relatable woes in crude from a male and female perspective over a trap-esque audio canvas.

And what could be worse than cheating? Feeling undervalued and worthless…while actually in a relationship. “Lockdown/Prisoner” is just that story. And with something as deep as this, you need the right production to match it. You definitely can’t have Soul without some soulful sounding keys, right? But throw in some of that extra urban UK production sensibilities and the result is another track that will have your head nodding.

Things You Do” possesses a carefree sensibility, allowing the joys of love and attraction to spark up the track while the light-hearted instrumentals are great fun and make you want to shuffle. The very infectious piano and drums-led offering, with its R&B/Pop sensibilities, showcases Cherri V’s amazing vocal talent, and her carefree and relatable song-writing.

Cherri-V-Leave-Me-BeI am personally a sucker for a piano ballad and “Situationship” definitely ticks all the boxes for me. A beautifully orchestrated piano melody at the core, poignant lyrics and the sweet vocals of Cherri and Sincerely Wilson. Quite the millennial phrase, they detail that inconvenient position of not being officially being someone’s significant other despite desperately desiring to be.

It was a nice touch calling on the vocals of R&B veteran Terri Walker for the penultimate offering “Brown Eyed Soul (Interlude)”. Think of it as a passing of the baton, from the scholar to the student. But more so than that, it’s a brief but special vocal masterclass from such a revered talent.

And then we are left to “Swimming”, our grand finale, which sees Cherri sticking to the overarching ‘classic yet contemporary’ feel pushing the envelope musically with this experimental R&B musical backdrop, backed by synth piano arrangements and underpinned by Cherri’s amazing vocal performance and delivery, with RoxXxan providing the perfect guest rap verse to complement the record. The strength of this record propels the project as a whole and is a strong way to end it all.

In eight short tracks (excluding Situationship) Brown Eyed Soul Vol. 1 manages to explore the breadths of R&B in its own sort of sophistication, not only in terms of sounds but also with content. Cherri’s pen explores love, lust and relationships in a relatable and palatable manner which is commendable. As if there are enough superlatives to describe the vocal display by Cherri V. This EP is well produced and above all there are no ‘fillers’ which is satisfying for personally. It is a great position to springboard off – no how many volumes of Brown Eyed Soul we will be ultimately treated to.

The Coldest Winter Ever by Ms Banks – Strength in Versatility

screen20shot202018-04-2720at2010-29-17

Women in Hip-Hop has always been seen to be such a taboo topic and one has never really understood why, it’s not as if they don’t exist. Not only has rap been made to be a competitive sport but also a male sport. Within the UK sphere, the more successful female artists create songs that at most merely graze the ‘urban’ surface.

But now we’re experiencing a resurgence and one of the front runners leading the movement is none other than Ms Banks. From humble beginnings and near obscurity, Ms Banks has propelled herself into the Rap spotlight. Not keeping us waiting for too long, she finally releases a full length project to sink our teeth into The Coldest Winter Ever.

Taking the name from the famous 1999 novel by the American rapper and author Sister Souljah, both projects share similarities. Like the book, Banks’ latest release centres on the trials and tribulations of the female protagonist. A nuanced body of work, it’s a story of love, friendships, career highs and lows and ultimately making it on top.

So it all kicks off with the “Intro” which is more like a riveting monologue backed to the sounds of hushed lullaby pianos and orchestral violins. In true poetic fashion, she gives us a foretaste of what is to come.

Judging from the singles that came before it, The Coldest Winter Ever was always going to be about showing off her versatility. We start proceedings by having two of the finest 5691ab6db1fc657a3592dffee21a6c9fupcoming artists from South London join forces for a heater. Ms Banks enlists the help of Drill ‘Cool Kid’ Loski from the Harlem Spartans for “R.I.P“, stepping into his world as she embodies the drill sound. As Loski comes through, both artists lay down their bars as they address all of the talk from the haters. She definitely doesn’t disappoint on the Drill vibe, as she also goes straight dark hood mode with the slow creeper that is third track “Bangs”.

One of my standouts has to be “Over (Your Shit)” for the very fact that it’s a side of Ms Banks we’re generally less accustomed to. It’s a smooth R&B cut which sees her trade bars and flow for vocals and intonation and changes the vibe completely. Ms Banks evokes a softer side as she looks back over a past relationship and professes it all as a form of release to get over the heartbreak.

We know she can be tough and gritty, we see that she can be soft and vulnerable. But with the Toddla T-produced riddim “Chat 2 Mi Gyal”, Ms Banks gets the space to be incredibly playful and free with her bars, upon bars. Another one of my standouts, it has the bounce of dancehall but the freestyle nature of real Hip-Hop with such an infectious rhythm that you just can’t help but bounce with.

The mixtape doesn’t harbour many features, which gives a listening experience that is quintessentially Ms Banks. For the most part, the lack of features doesn’t fare a big issue as she provides enough style diversity to suffice. Besides Loski, there are some other notable mentions.

Mulla” is about ‘exactly what it says on the tin’ in layman’s terms and is a hustler’s anthem for all the go-getters listening. Somewhere between singing and rapping Ms Banks finds the pockets within the Trap-esque beat where she seamlessly rides and she is contrasted by the raw grit of UK’s under-the-radar rappers Dutch. Two different vibes but the context is still the same captured sweetly by the catchy chorus.

Made It” is another retrospective cut featuring singer Montana who plays a bit part role on the hook and it’s straight up alternative R&B. While she reflects on the anguish that a past relationship caused from feeling undervalued, she shares her story in poetic form not for you to show sympathy but empathy as she lets go and overcomes.

msbanksfeaturedThe mixtape wouldn’t be complete without two of her biggest singles to date. “Come Thru” is simply another banger that should be on your UK Rap list, male or female. It holds a hard Hip-Hop sound encapsulated by the heavy bassline as oozes Black Girl Magic in such a boastful way. Now if you compare that with the upbeat urban pop sounds of “Day Ones” where she dedicates the track to the ones who have been supporting her from early yet she still manages to keep her authentic street self; it just goes to show that Ms Banks has a lot in her repertoire.

Ms Banks signs out paying homage with “Pen Game 2”.  After the viral success of Margs’ #PenGameChallenge on Twitter, it only made sense to have him feature on the track. It’s bold, boastful from the pair as they freestyle over one of the most hype beats you’ll hear in a while. It’s a real South London to East London connection.

As stated much earlier, The Coldest Winter Ever is a clear demonstration of the scope of artist that Ms Banks. While there were no major pleasant surprises to shout about, she did what many know and expect from her, just better. Her mixtape summarises the period of life she is in now; A young woman who acknowledges and appreciates the lessons of her past but is over it all and is ready to take off career-wise. Her proven ability to make a plethora of radio-ready cuts is just the first step on the road to being considered one of the best that the UK has.

Geography by Tom Misch – A whole lotta Soul

tom-misch-geography

What were you doing at 21? While some are graduating from university or starting their own career, seasoned producer, singer/songwriter and DJ Tom Misch was gearing up to release his debut studio album. A seasoned multi-instrumentalist, it took only one year at a conservatoire of music to realise that bedroom producing would be the avenue he would take in order to achieve his dreams. Now, after working with some amazing talent in front and behind the scenes, we have the culmination of efforts of his several self-released mixtapes and EPs – Geography.

Geography is an album that takes on many of Misch’s different influences. Main elements of Funk and Jazz are staple to his brand but also Soul and Disco in smaller parts cover the breadth of this album. Fans of his, especially long term, will appreciate even the most Tom Mischminute of details.

The intro “Before Paris” is a spoken-word like opener, with an unnamed man speaking on the importance of the art form – a relevant sentiment for an artist like Tom – and serves as of a prelude to set the tone for what essentially is the first track, “Lost in Paris” with a slick contribution from talented Grammy nominated US rapper GoldLink.

Bringing a clever fusion of two differing musical instincts and results in something pretty tasteful. It’s bright and upbeat, driven by eccentric electric guitar chords and groove bass finished with a jazzy brass section that is too die for. For a song that was inspired by losing a hard drive full of music, its surprisingly cheerful.

South of the River” ‘brings out the boogie’ with a real disco feel, packed with deep lying basslines and accentuated with violins that serve as the icing on the cake – something that in theory shouldn’t work but in reality it does. While there’s nothing disco about South London, Misch does a great job of saluting his hometown.

For how upbeat the album is from the offset and seems to be holistically, it isn’t without it’s slower jams. Take “Movie” for example. It’s eased into from the previous track with a little love story monologue and it then captivates with those trademark guitar inflections set against the soulful vocals from Misch. It also happens to be a family affair with Tom’s own sister, Polly Misch, adding to the blissful atmosphere it creates. Of all the downtempo tracks, probably one of the most powerful.

Another slow song that is worth notable mention is “You’re On My Mind” which for me evokes a warm fuzzy feeling in my core. Acoustic guitars are the perfect accompaniment for Misch’s take on a sweet serenade this time and gives off the perfect summer evenings kind of vibe.

As talented as Tom is and as eccentric the sounds laden on the album may be, it is the features on Geography that really elevate it and make it worth the listen. One being an unlikely pairing of Tom and legendary US Hip-Hop super group De La Soul on “It Runs Through Me”.

A heavily jazz inspired cut, driven by the electric and bass guitars and topped off with bright piano chords. Simple yet soulful and uplifting, the mood transports you to the late night jazz lounges. Props also to De La Soul who definitely make the song extra special, riding the beat bar for bar, making for a poised rap verse.TomMisch2

A couple tracks later, we are treated to hip-thruster that is “Disco Yes” with Poppy Ajuda. It’s undeniable by now that Tom loves his guitars & basslines. With some funky riffs and increased tempo from the previous tracks added to the mix, Poppy Ajudha’s guest vocals merged with Tom’s, it makes for one of the most impressive on the entire record.

For what it’s worth, “Water Baby” I believe is the best track on the album. Tom Misch enlists his fellow South Londoner Loyle Carner in this melting pot of groovy jazz, soul and hip-hop mixture. It’s signature Tom Misch’s style, blending hip-hop beats and soulful melodies, producing an eargasm that finds its place somewhere between passionate head-nodding and casual, easy listening.

Cos I Love You” serves as the penultimate track and rounds off the Disco bug that Tom evidently caught when making this album as he merges old styles with the new. It’s a mashup, of sorts, with samples and a borrowed chorus tightly wound together to form the most beautifully orchestrated dancing track I’ve heard in a while.

For an album that expertly executes a plethora of different vibes, it does suffer from what I deem as occasional ‘fillers’. While I can acknowledge that “Isn’t She Lovely” – Misch’s take on the Stevie Wonder classic – & “Tick Tock” serve more in the capacity of interlude, they don’t really add much to the flavour and texture of the album.

Having said that,” We’ve Come So Far” is a reasonable way to conclude proceedings as the experimental sounds of Tom’s repertoire progressively build on the track, each layer contributing to the eventual crescendo before fizzling out.
Despite critique, fans can be happy that we now have a full length project from the young singer/beat-maker that they can really stick their teeth into. It covers multiple bases; spanning different vibes and genres means there is something in there for most people. While there isn’t a flowing storyline or explicit theme per say, this can double up also as a portfolio, showing off Tom’s capabilities and emphasising his credibility as a top producer. He can only go from strength to strength from here.

On The Come Up – SiR (aka inglewood SiR)

sir-6-1_wide-06d777f7d52a3dd3fd674369ba5f00639f8f5bd1-s900-c85

Unfamiliar to some but rated by many, SiR is the perfect artist to add to the On The Come Up and it would be my pleasure to introduce you to him.

The west coast native, as the name suggests, has been making a quiet storm prior to and post signing to TDE and with collaborations with the likes of Little Simz, Big K.R.I.T. and Anderson. Paak, there is a certain level of credibility in his atmosphere. His brand of new school R&B comes matched with his sensual vocals, a whole lot of groove and sprinkles of Hip-Hop.

Sir Darryl Farris (that’s actually his real name) is an established Singer-songwriter. Before actually pursuing artistry, he was penning songs for the likes of Anita Baker, Ginuwine and Jill Scott.

SiR

The son of a well seasoned backing vocalist, the nephew of Prince bassist Andrew Gouche and the brother of hit songwriters Daniel and Davion Farris. His childhood was a blur of church choir rehearsals and studio sessions. And that’s why he almost ended up not taking a hand to music at all. After a crazy ride in Hollywood, the prodigal son returned back.

Seeing the success of his brothers’ songwriting team, The WoodWorks, changed SiR’s perspective.

He landed a job engineering for Tyrese in 2012 while quietly developing his craft as a songwriter and putting out two mixtapes in the process; Wooden Voodoo and Long Live Dilla. But what caught everyone’s attention, including my own was his first full length album Seven Sundays.

Seven Sundays displays simple craftsmanship. What captivated me was in ways much similar to the likes of H.E.R., and the vast works of Musiq Soulchild, the artistry was at the centre. A unique contrast to the thuggish singing-trap rap hybrid that has engulfed a lot of contemporary R&B. It is one of the very few albums which I can sit and listen to it in its entirety . “In The Sky“, “Falling” “Jay Z” are some of the standouts.

It seems a rather timely affair that I write this with the release of his debut album a few short months ago under the TDE imprint November, which sadly did not come out in November. It plays to Farris’ strengths. It takes on his musical mainstays, a rich mix of Neo-Soul silkiness, Hip-Hop attitude and R&B songwriting, encapsulated in a thematic audible experience of dystopian space odyssey…about love. Something he, being married for years, would know quite a bit about.

As he longs for his mystery woman’s affections on “War”, dismisses her perceived clinginess on “Never Home” and wants her back on “Better”, SiR easily captures what it’s like being in an intense relationship. November sum up the emotional confusion that sometimes swallows up an intimate connection.

SiR-827x620

Signing to one of the most well known rosters in music would, for some, be daunting. Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q to name but a few. It’s a bit of a shame he wasn’t on the Black Panther soundtrack BUT that doesn’t rule out a collab with ‘Kung Fu Kenny’ or the likes sometime soon; especially knowing how excellent “Something Foreign” with Schoolboy Q was. Having cultivated his own fanbase prior, this is only the next step on the ladder for this super talented cat.

“I think the one thing that pushes me the hardest is that I know I have the opportunity to change lives…and really make a difference” – SiR.