On The Come Up – Noname

Next up, we have Noname. Anyone who is familiar with that Alternative R&B/Hip-Hop realm might be familiar with the name Noname (brilliant pun, see what I did there?). As well as having features on a few songs with Chance The Rapper she’s befriended and worked with new school names like Mick Jenkins, Xavier Omar and Smino.

Here you have quirky, young black Chicago native doing what one would say is the equivalent to Slam Poetry…and it is dope! Excuse my colloquial English. While her artistry roots are found in poetry circles, Ms. Fatimah Warner has always had a love for music as wide reaching as it comes. She cites her inspirations being blues musicians Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf from an early age as well as Tina Turner, Jay Electronica and Tony Morrison. Her love for music, passion for poetry and being around other Chicago creatives helped evolve a pursuit into rap.

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After the delays and a shift in musical  direction, she released her debut project ‘Telefone’ to become one of the most critcally acclaimed albums of 2016; one of the reasons being that it bent the rules of what we define as Hip-Hop. Sure you have gender benders all around but Noname is different and Telefone was a breath of fresh air. Centered around important telephone conversations that Noname has had over the years, Telefone speaks of black women’s strife and also highlights the struggles of growing up in her Chicago hometown with a unique blend of melodies, rap/poetry and out-of-the-box production. Definitely long awaited as well, three years in the making. But being able to endure life experiences and put it into your music makes for true art. For her , it was the introduction officially and finally to who Noname is as an artist.

Despite controversially not appearing on the XXL Freshmen Class of 2017,

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she still has managed to develop a name for herself and her mixtape featured on The Skinny’s ‘Top 50 Albums of 2016’ and Noisey’s ‘The 100 Best Albums of 2016’ as well as a coveted appearance on NPR Music’s notable ‘Tiny Desk Series’. Now fans in America and beyond sit and wait for her next project to drop ‘Room 25’. The hope is that she doesn’t delay for three years AGAIN but releases in timely fashion and carries on the momentum that she has. Will she remain an independent is not known but the path she treads is most definitely working for her.

 

“I don’t typically think about myself when I’m thinking about making music like [I’m a female rapper and this is my role in Hip-Hop], I’m more so just making art…”

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”

 

#ShakkaTakesKOKO – A night for British music

Thursday 15th September was the date and KOKO was the place to be as the talented Shakka graced the stage and gave a headline show worth remembering. The MOBO award winner held nothing back giving fans – The Tribe – new music, surprises upon surprises and above all else an experience. I myself was in attendance with my own ‘tribe’ and our 13 strong group positioned ourselves right at the front so we could fully enjoy the show; and cli4whivaaeyhxhenjoy we most definitely did.

Shout outs are in order. First, to the DJ for the night Chuckie Online who kept the crowd alive inside while the countdown was on till the main event. Great mix of old school (some songs I hadn’t heard in a long time) and the new school had us vibing so you couldn’t help dance. Even treated to a cheeky dance cameo from the House of Alt guys. You guys rock!

Jay Prince was the sole opening act of the night. An upcoming London rapper is versatile, multi-talented and a producer in his own right. His brand of chilled Hip-Hop is 90’s style beats is matched with his modern flow. Reminds me of Hawk House or Little Simz. I’ll definitely check out his music.

On to the main event. The moment he opened with the intro to the Lost Boys, the crowd were all singing in unison but the moment he touched the stage, the Tribe ERUPTED. The energy was there from the get go and all the songs were just taken to a whole new level thanks to the band. Did I mention, there was a full live band. Yeah, he did that.
Shakka took us on a musical journey. His impressive catalogue is full of hits and so the nostalgia was in full force. We went back to Shakka Crown Affair and when he dropped Take Our Time, that was special. That was the first Shakka song I ever heard and had me hooked ever since. The Shakkapella POPPED OFF too. He sang the Somebody I Used To Know / Climax mash up and First surprise of the night was bringing out Vula Malinga – who sang it with him – and boy did it get hot. Her vocals and runs were giving us all life.

Keeping with the creative vibe, his second surprise was a very intimate cover of Coldplay’s Magic which then flowed into Controlla, which then flowed into Ojuelegba. It was just so cool how he brought the songs to life and make it work with an acoustic touch.
And in light of the recent police injustice, the sentiment in singing A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke did not go unnoticed. Heart-warming to say the least.

For the record, Just Want To See You is my favourite Shakka song. I would have fainted when it came on but I had to keep composure. Shout out to Mafro who killed the guitar solo and pretty much the entire show. Now it wouldn’t be a Shakka show without his biggest hits and if bringing out Frisco for Walking With Elephants wasn’t enough, he brought out JME to shut down Say Nada. Third surprise. I think at that point my eardrums were close to bursting and I stepped on 3 people in the moshpit. It was that intense.

 

At the end of it all, Junior the Drummer took his shirt off, I lost my voice, there’s a lot of new music to look forward to and Shakka is one of the best to do what he does.  I won’t lie, if you weren’t there you truly missed out. Nonetheless, onwards and upwards for Mr. 2K’s in 2017.

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Album haul? Losing My Religion, You’re a Man Now Boy and more.

Recently I went on a shopping spree. For music. I decided that I was able to spend a little and treat myself for managing my finances well and don’t regret it because they were quality purchases. I don’t buy music unless I have previewed the release so I know and believe in the quality of music. Here’s a break-down of some of what I decided to buy and I’ll try convince you that it’s worth buying too.

LED EP – Kierra Sheard

The “Princess of Gospel’s” follow-up project to her successful Graceland album is exactly that. A continuation of the new musical direction she’s following, a pop/rock concept with modern R&B nuances. With the right mix and appeal, it is keepi46170-ledng her artistry on-point and adding to her versatility as an artist. In my opinion, there are a few quality songs that I imagine in my head have the right flavour to have commercial success, ‘LED’ and ‘Real Friend’ are some of my personal favourites. I would go right ahead and blast those songs while cruising in my car (once I get one) or play while enjoying a workout. Up-tempo, Up-beat and Uplifting to the soul. Definitely a refreshing sound to the majestic, instrument-laden, powerhouse sound of contemporary Gospel right now but at the same time, she hasn’t abandoned her foundation. A worthwhile, inexpensive buy.

You’re a Man Now, Boy – Raleigh Ritchie

With acting credits in Adulthood and Game of Thrones, Ritchie’s first full length offering to the world You’re a Man Now, Boy is a significant contribution to repertoire of the new age, quality British music that has the identity to compete with the very best. A British man, who sings/raps British with songs that are contextually British, what more can you ask for? His unique vocals go hand in hand with the experimental, alternative R&B sound the album has, with a good mix of radio hits, club tracks, commercial singles, festival favourites and ballads. My stand-out track has to ‘Keep It Simple’ with Grime heavyweight Stormzy and is the only song with a feature on the entire 18-track album. I compare Raleigh Ritchie’s artistry as being the lovechild of early Kanye and Coldplay. With a real eclectic group working on the production, I believe there is something for everyone on this album in the sense that if people genuinely give this album a chance, they would be vibing along to it at the end.

Losing My Religion – Kirk Franklin

The figurehead for modern Gospel, Kirk Franklin’s latest, Losing My Religion is his first project in four years. Fans were greatly anticipating, especially with the almost spontaneous release of the soul-stirring lead single ‘Wanna Be Happy?’ and they were not disappointed. I only had to listen to it through once to be convinced that it is Grammy worthy. The album sonically and content-wise takes you on a journey. It addresses themes of facing and overcoming adversity, redemption & honesty while encapsulating the authentic realities of many people in America and the whole world. My favourite song has to be ‘When’ which features two of arguably the best living vocalists in existence, Kim Burrell and Lalah Hathaway. Anyone who appreciates vocals, will love this one. Production-wise, the album embodies a whole manner of instruments and sounds which work together pleasantly for the listeners enjoyment. Relevant yet an ode to Kirk Franklin as a musician and his legacy.

Charlene – Tweet

It has been more than 10 years since Tweet last released an album but it’s been worth the wait. “Gorgeous” were my first impressions of her new album Charlene (which is her first name) as a true homage to real R&B flows throughout its entirety. Famed for her international hit ‘Oops (Oh My)’ featuring good friend Missy Elliot back in 2002, Tweet’s https://i0.wp.com/static.spin.com/files/2016/02/tweet-charlene-new-album-missy-elliott-somebody-else-will-compressed.jpegartistry has come a long way since then. Themes of Love, Intimacy and overcoming adversity is passionately paired with the sounds of guitars and pianos, the foundation of good R&B and Soul. Missy Elliot happens to feature on what is my favourite song on the album ‘Somebody Else Will’ produced by none other than Timbaland himself; R&B arrangements with a Hip-Hop beat equaling another Timbaland classic. Any appreciator of R&B, Soul, vocals or real instruments will appreciate the realness and emotions in every song she wrote and fall in love with this album like I did. Grammy worthy.

 

Wrong or Right by Kwabs

First post. Thought i’d start it off with a review I wrote a year ago…Enjoy.

‘Wrong or Right EP’ is the debut release from London based singer Kwabs. It is a 4 track EP with no featuring artists and includes a remix of the title track. I had only heard the name Kwabs here and there on places like MTV and so came under the assumption that he was an upcoming rapper like Nick Brewer and Isaac Danquah. So I was stunned when pressed play and listened to the title track and heard vocals that I could only compare to a ‘Marvin Gaye/Jacob Banks fusion’. It was a pleasant surprise nonetheless.

‘Wrong or Right’ is the first track of the EP. The electro/pop feel is significant but it’s really the powerful R&B vocals that will really pull you into the song like it did with me. There is a certain groove that builds up which should have you vibing along towards the end. It stands very well as a possible promotional single. I wouldn’t necessarily call it upbeat but it is definitely more upbeat than the song that follows in track-list order.

‘Last Stand’ is the second track. From the immediate onset I was able to feel the gloom that song carried to it, from the vocals, lyrics and production. There is more of a yearning in the vocals which is portrayed in the song and emphasised by the lyrics. The slow beat adds to this gloom. I can go as far to picture a video concept. Dark room, minimalistic, colourless.

‘Spirit Fade’ is the third track. I find this one harder for me to describe. It is a real experiment of sounds which I feel gives the track a unique flavour. It’s like an alternative, electro, folk mash, lovely to listen to if you just want to relax. I don’t feel though that the track tells a story as strongly as the previous ones do.

The remix to Wrong or Right puts a heavy club/trance feel to the song, a song I would  be vibing to only if I was in that sort of club environment

Let’s not take away from the artist that is Kwabs. He has a special sound that is carried throughout the EP. From this release, I sense a strong artistic identity that should do the industry a world of good.

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