Sounds From The Other Side by Wizkid – Rhythm personification

A highly anticipated release from when the high profile collaborations started rolling in and his stock started to rise, now we have finally been treated. Wizkid brings us ‘Sounds From The Other Side’, his latest release since 2014’s ‘Ayọ’. The ‘King of Hooks’ has a way of making the songs he touches hits and with this album it’s an eager attempt at such.
Now let us be honest, this EP is a far cry from the afropop/highlife sounds of Ayọ and you definitely shouldn’t listen to it with that expectancy…but that’s clear from the singles he churned out. You can see that he is paving a new path with his sound.
img_1760Honestly, this is more Dancehall project with Afrobeats/R&B stylings, more so than his previous material. Certain songs definitely have its Africa feels – My favourites are ‘Sexy‘ with the Fela Kuti vibes and ‘All For Love‘  which is flavoursome from top to bottom with the Afrohouse sauce straight from South Africa. For both, the percussion is very important in bringing out the feels.

While African producers did work on the “EP”  OVERWHELMINGLY it is not an African project.

This is me in no way saying it’s bad. I can definitely see most of the songs, like Ayọ, being played on radio and in the club; a parameter for a successful album. It shows growth for Wizkid as an artist. But there is remission of more soul-filled anthems, which I hoped for. What this project lacks in soul it makes up in Rhythm. It is IMPOSSIBLE not to vibe to it, the likes of ‘Sweet Love‘, ‘Naughty Ride‘ & ‘One For MeWizkid-performs
More so than not, this album may be an actual reflection of the modern day blueprint for an artist from the African continent to make it big time. Sure there are African artists who are quite famous (Fally Ipup, Sarkodie, AKA to name a few) but not all break through the glass ceiling. Whether the move it is good or bad is subjective.

 

I was hoping for this to be a full length album. Only having 12 songs with almost half of them already being familiar with left me wanting more. SFTOS is roughly less than 40 minutes long. Almost all songs are under 4 minutes and more than half have features and while almost songs all are radio-ready, all of this combined left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

Nonetheless, Sounds From The Other Side is to me a metaphor. For those already aware of Wizkid and his status as one of the kings of the Afrobeats, he shows a other side to him; the “mainstream appeal” side to him. For those immersed in the mainstream who he is trying to target, he is showing the ‘other side’; the afropop, rhythmic, dancehall wave that is the new trend.

 

On The Come Up – Anik Khan

The start of a new segment. Highlighting the up and coming that are about to do major things in the industry. Keep your ear to the ground. These guys are bubbling up in a major way

Kicking things off, we got Anik Khan. A rapper and singer/ songwriter, he is the son of Bangladeshi migrants but was raised in the home of Music, New York. He takes inspiration from his Queens home town which he hails all the time. His main drive for music comes from his father, a poet and prolific speaker in his time but found himself hustling in New York as a cab driver upon moving to The States.

His culture was never lost on him –   coming home to an immigrant family made him real Anik Khan micappreciative of his Bengali side, but being on the block surrounded by the sounds of Jay Z, Eminem, Nas, and Biggie gave him almost a dual upbringing.

While I find Anik’s smooth, silky vocals go along way with his penchant for harmonies, what is more captivating is how he manages to blend his influences together; his New York, urban vibe and his Bengali folk heritage. His joint ‘Cleopatra’ for example. The Bengali folk vibe preludes to a hip-hop-like syth-bass and the same sort of fusion is present in the chorus. As opposite as such styles can be, they work.

One of my personal favourites has to be ‘Too Late Now‘. With almost 1 million streams on Spotify, it is probably one of his most famous and it is a incredible mix of jazz, dance/electronic vibes, vocals and rap finesse. Definitely a crowd pleaser. Word to Jarreau Vandal on the production.

 

His EP ‘I Don’t Know Yet’ is a journey both the listener and artist take as Anik paves his way to find himself and develop equilibrium in two worlds, to achieve harmony betweenAnik Khan Flag his American and Bengali personas. Anik speaks for those like him who left their homeland to grind for that ‘American Dream’.

While his EP is very lyrical and flow, his 2017 debut album ‘Kites’ takes a more vocal direction which came as a surprise for me. Not that it was a bad body of work but I hoped for a mix of styles to really show off the artist that he is; more commercial I would argue. The full extent of his talent and artistry is his USP and he should hold on to it.

“When you hear an Anik Khan song, there’s always gonna be some flavour. You’ll get the salt and pepper but there’s also Cumin and Turmeric in there…every time”

 

Gang Signs & Prayers by Stormzy – Impressions, Thoughts, Appreciation

It is an album that had an incredible amount of hype well before the idea of the album was probably even conceptualised. From when ‘Know Me From’ dropped, it was only a matter of time. What is purely evident is the love that has been shown to Stormzy from then till now, industry and fans alike. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayers is finally here.

If there’s anything I appreciate it is that it doesn’t have a ‘filler’ type of feel, even though it has a few interludes, each song is deserving. c5xhreiw8aqnuttI am definitely a fan of ‘Big for Your Boots’ which I’d recommend for anyone’s gym playlist. ‘Velvet’ is ultra-smooth and
reminds me of that 2000’s British R&B vibes. There’s just something about ‘Cigarettes and Cush’, combining the smooth piano and sax sounds, Lily Allen and Kehlani’s amazing vocals and heartfelt content that makes it a soulful ‘love ballad’ on the album. ‘Blinded By Your Grace pt.2’ is the definition of uplifting and inspirational. The choir and guitar shredding is pure euphoria. His faith in God comes through emphatically. Can’t hate it.

It is an album that low-key pays its homage. Anyone who is clued up enough to catch the “Where’s Carlos” reference on ‘Bad Boys’ and know the origin, kudos to you. The Crazy Titch interlude. Salutes to the legendary “Lady of Soul”, Ms. Jenny Francis. Having Wretch 32 himself on an interlude is paying homage to one of the greatest from this scene.

In a sense, it is a very British album. It doesn’t try to be what it isn’t sonically. You can tell it is not a Grime album by definition but definitely a Grime influenced album, from the use of instruments & fast tempo on certain tracks as well as the use of ‘samples’. The roster of English talent, the likes of Ghetts, MNEK, J Hus, Nao and Raleigh Ritchie is beautiful to see.

What this album has is clear themes that run throughout its entirety. Gang Signs & Prayers is an exploration… a presentation of his urban upbringing and the rugged exterior that it has produced (‘Return of the Rucksack’, ‘Mr Skeng’ etc.) and at the same time delving in-depth into his vulnerability and his inner most thoughts and emotions (‘Lay Me Bare’, ‘100 Bags’ etc.). It is a metaphor for the life he has lived.c5wkyukwyaagihs

I feel the album has GREATLY lived up to its expectations. It’s not an album on lyrical wizardry; that’s evidently not his style. Nonetheless his storytelling ability is definitive enough for listeners to hear and feel the emotion he lays in every song, whether it be pain, rage, pleasure, love or gratitude. A balance of the brash and the pensive.  Not eloquence but rather potency with his vocals and flow and beautiful sonics. This may possibly go down as a classic.
24th of February was officially National Stormzy Day and I definitely know why.

Why isn’t Politics compulsory in schools?

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screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-20-25-03This is the truest tweet I’ve seen in a very very long time. Social sciences tend to be looked down upon by other academic disciplines but it seems as though the consequences of the lack of its teaching is globally evident. I tutor part time and on particular days of the week my company will tutor 11+ kids. This will involve extra curricular sessions on things outside of the national curriculum. One particular session was on money. Most of the kids had heard about the recession but didn’t know what it was. And in an activity where they had to rank objects from most to least expensive, they put a Mini Cooper car over a two bedroom house in London. It honestly made me think “What’s the point in raising kids who know how many wives Henry III had but don’t know how to manage their finances?”

In schools we…

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Grammys 2017 – Surprises, Remissions and Music firsts. My thoughts

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards has now come and gone and it had some memorable moments with James Corden at the helm as the host. 2016 was a notable year for music so l was already anxiously waiting to see who would make it onto the shortlist let alone win. Some names were a given, some were a bit of a shock to me. Good and bad. But I am allowed to be subjective as long as it makes sense, no?

Chance the Rapper himself was one highlight of the entire night for me. One of the biggest shake-ups this year was streaming-only works being considered for nominations. The Head of the Awards said that ‘Colouring Book’ had nothing to do with it but numerous nominations say otherwise. On his debut to the awards, he gave the performance of his life, doing a mashup of some of Colouring Book’s favourable songs accompanied with Francis & The Lights, gospel choir, Tamela Mann’s raw vocals and Kirk Franklin as the coolest hype-man ever.
He praised God numerous times and mentioned his team aiding his artist independence in his acceptance speech for Best New Artist and also managed to take away the award for Best Rap Performance AND Best Rap Album. Many congratulations to him.


Beyoncé graced the stage with what looked like one of the most visually captivating performances of the night with the best use of what looked like holograms and special effects I’ve seen. Singing “Love Drought” & “Sandcastles”, her regal/goddess-like styling and concept was not a far cry from the recent baby photos that have hit the web and all the while she effortlessly sang and did not hide her beautiful, pregnant body. She also had a successful night, claiming two Grammys for Best Music Video and Best Urban Contemporary Album. I personally wanted KING to win the latter but Lemonade was a soniclly excellent album so it’s very well deserved for her.

Another one of my highlights was seeing Hip-Hop came out in full force on the night. It was only right that after legendary crew
A Tribe Called Quest dropping an album late last year, it was only fair that they perform on the Grammy stage. 
Alongside Busta Rhymes and Anderson .Paak they gave one hell of a socially and politically ril
ed up artistic presentation with references to Donald Trump and the Muslim ban. Milit
arized perfection. Paak himself unfortunately missed out on Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Boy, did Adele have an interesting Sunday night. First of all, she initiated the show onstage under a spotlight with a moving performance of her hit song “Hello”. Brilliant. On the night itself, she had a Grammy clean sweep, picking up 5 awards for (clears throat) … Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance AND Best Pop Vocal Album. That I wasn’t expecting. I would have liked to see Beyoncé pick up Album of the Year and apparently Adele thought so too; as she dedicated the win to Beyoncé and made both of them shed tears. To make her night more interesting, after a shaky start to her George Michael tribute, she accidently cursed and insisted to start again. I don’t know about you but I don’t call that ‘not being professional’, I call it ‘keeping it real’.

The night itself also saw tributes galore as to Prince expertly honoured by Bruno Mars and The Time; a tribute to The Bee Gees respectfully done by the likes of Demi Lovato and Tori Kelly  and was topped off with John Legend and Cynthia Erivo combining to honour those who recently passed. It wasn’t a completely smooth show but that plus Corden and his quirky self definitely made a feast for the eyes.

A night with Christon Gray and J Givens – Concert review

I had the pleasure of being in attendance and witnessing one of my favourite artists Christon Gray take to the London stage for the first time and, along with J Givens, he gave the audience at St Mary’s Church a night to remember. After seeing the flyer for this early in December, there was almost no way at all I was going to miss this. I took the trip down to West London, awaiting the legends that were. Now let me tell you all about it.

Jay Ess was first up, with a new and improved vibe, accompanied with his fresh choir.

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 JayEss and his band

He gave us some new material from his up-coming project and along with the major throwback ‘Intoxicated’, he reminded us why he was once considered one of UK Gospel’s golden boys. Kat Deal was up next. A relatively new face to the scene, known by very few. The crowd warmed to her with her Alternative Pop look and Jazz vocal stylings. Singing original songs and a soulful cover of Kirk Franklin’s “Smile”, she definitely made some new fans by the end of her set.

Now to the main event. J Givens took to the stage and the crowd flocked to the stage.

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J Givens in his element

If there is anything I have admired about him it is his lyricism, quick flow and to match that with his active performance style, it made for a feast for the senses. He engaged with the crowd while taking us on a journey through his album “Fly Exam”, the hype tracks and the mellow joints. The essence of Hip-Hop is alive and well. You felt a part of the family as he shared his testimony about his drug addiction and by the end, the crowd were shouting Hallelujah in agreement. For the die-hard fans reciting the bars alongside, he did not fail to deliver.

The man of the hour, Christon Gray came and fans flocked even more quicker than before. Gray started off his set with some of his older material. The whole crowd singing along to “The Last Time” set the tone for what was an amazing night. He is definitely a showman, displaying his full versatility as an artist flowing from R&B to Soul to Gospel to Rap. Contrasting moments of electricity with him rapping, bringing out J Givens to do “Stop Me Remix” leaving you unable to formulate words because you’re so excited THEN moments of hush and awe with his slow ballads accompanied with his keyboard; literally him playing the keys and singing “Black Male” you are literally without words. It felt as if I was going down memory lane as he performed songs from his whole catalogue. Trust me I was singing at the top of my lungs when I heard “Long Way Down” and “Isle of You”. Crowd engagement didn’t go amiss as he spontaneously put together an ‘airband’ to help him perform the funk groove that is “SuperDave”. Then he brings half the crowd on stage during ‘Open Door’ AND THEN jumps into the crowd. Totally unexpected.

The night was filled with love, laughs and pure vibes. Both Gray and Givens were both incredibly down to earth and both artists’ presence complimented the night perfectly. Shout out to Zion Promotions for bringing down one of the 4 artists I HAD to see before I died; and they were gracious enough to chat to the ‘FANmily’ afterwards. All I ask is for more dope shows like this in the future.

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The evolution of the Black British Sound

The MOBOs awards have come and gone, meaning one thing…Award season has finally kicked off. I feel this is the perfect time to reflect on what I call the ‘Black Sound’. Considering how interesting it is a time for music, we should go back to understand where we’re headed. We have come a long way from our roots.

I’m a 90’s baby, and although I’m knowledgeable more on the 2000’s, I still look back in the archives and appreciate the music that made my era iconic. In order to fully appreciate what was then and how it is now, we should go back a little more.

Black music, I feel, in the UK really came alive in the 80’s. Soul was all the talk. We heralded the artistry of Sade as she carried out her dominance. Her 1984 debut album went to #2 in the UK, won her a BRIT award for Best Album and her subsequent tour was the beginning of her international acclaim. Tim Westwood had cracked mainstream radio and was determined to broadcast the best in ‘urban music’ to the masses. Soul II Soul had massive breakthrough R&B hits “Keep on Movin'” and “Back to Life” in 1989. Considered to have opened the door to the mainstream for black British R&B and Soul artists. They got nominated for Soul Train awards, BRIT awards and even won a couple Grammys.

The 90’s were a strong continuation on the foundation of the 80’s. Omar, Sade and Soul II Soul’s careers really took off. Not only that but Black music within the UK is finally getting mainstream appeal. R&B took centre stage. We could see an array of Black artists being awarded BRIT awards for their quality art including Seal and Gabrielle doing the double in ’94 and ’97. Kanya King had launched the MOBO Awards in 1996 which grew to be the premier music award show which celebrated those who created Black. It shone a light on the up-coming like Shola Ama and recognised the hard work of big names like Beverly Knight.

The turn of the century I feel is where Rap rose in prominence. Hail Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Lethal Bizzle in being some of the frontrunners in the inception of Grime music. The tenacity of the art form attracted the youth, the forgotten and the whole underground. Mainstream media attention followed and the 2002 and 2003 Mercury Prizes for Ms Dynamite and Dizzee Rascal meant people were now standing up. Let’s not forget R&B now. Lemar? Craig David? Estelle? Our artists were cracking the mainstream and making waves in the States. If 22 Brit award and 6 Grammy award nominations are nothing to go by on how greatly R&B had developed, then I don’t know what will.

So here we are, at the end of the sixth year into the decade. British music has taken a move completely against the status quo. The rise of the independents has shown the mass that you don’t need a major label to ‘make noise’. Skepta followed in Dizzee’s footsteps 13 years later in winning a Mercury Prize. Krept & Konan cracked the top 20 charts with the mixtape ‘Young Kingz’ and Stormzy peaked at #8 with his single ‘Shut Up’. All of this was done with no major label backing. Couple this with Grime once again returning to the forefront and subsequently the new style of ‘Trap’ evolving from the underground. The likes of Section Boyz, 67 and Harlem Spartans have truly captured the minds of the youth in an N.W.A-esque fashion. Rap has truly stolen the show.

Now this, this is the sound of Black Britain.