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.

noname_charbage

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,

noname-telefone

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…”

Flower Boy by Tyler, The Creator – Open and honest

“This is the best album he’s ever produced!” I hear some say.

I’ll be honest and say I was a little sceptical about listening to this album. Tyler is not my go-to Hip-Hop artist but I can appreciate what he does for the culture. However, there was something with this album; the low key hype as well as the buzz Tyler is getting in general, I had to sit myself down and really listen to the album and decipher it for what it was.

There are different themes that run through the album, encompassed in this overarching nature/garden motif. As mature as the content is, we still exploring the breadth and tyler-the-creator-unreleased-track-00depth of Tyler’s mind. He presents his human condition to us in all its forms. Tyler is an eclectic soul which fits the narrative as well as the album title and artwork in itself.

One of my favourites “See You Again” is Tyler showing the emotional  side to him. An ode to a fantasy lover which only exists in his dreams and the emotional agony that such a longing is having on him. He really puts across his innermost thoughts, running alongside the daydream, orchestral chorus and the contrasting beat flip in the verses. It really brings his emotional turmoil to life. Combine “See You Again” with songs like “Garden Shed” and “Glitter” and you see a level of vulnerability now more than ever as he opens up, alluding to the possible idea of him being gay.

Both “Pothole” and “November” reminds us that Tyler is still human…
“Pothole” he speaks on him dealing with the fame, its after-effects and all the ups and downs that has come with it all in reference to the idea of driving. All these obstacles in 5_a4gw5u-1_yca13bhis life are the potholes which are in the way, stopping him from having an easy cruise. while the beat itself is nice and easy to cruise to.
“November” – filled with low-key anxiety. It’s as if he running through this thoughts so frantically and airing out his insecurities as he is longing for the better days; his “November”.

“911/Mr. Lonely” is like one of those classic singles from back in the day; Side A with the subtle old school hip-hop and R&B nuances while side B is new school Rap. The content has heart-rending undertones transcending both sides alluding to how his old issues of depression may actually not be ‘old’

The album presents deep issues but its not all doom and gloom. The closing track “Enjoy Right Now, Today”  tops off everything with a very positive and bright sound in a way showing all through the ups and downs, it’s important to be positive. If Tyler can do it, so can you.
The album title serves as a metaphor for Tyler himself. A ‘Flower Boy’, a guy who don’t fit the typical ideals of a manly-looking man. An internal struggle between soft romanticism and rugged aggression and depression laid out in fine musical form.

 

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”

 

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.