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…”

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”

 

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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A couple things I learnt from #TyeInLondon

Just over a week ago, I was privileged to see one of my long-time favourite artists, Tye Tribbett perform in London. For those who are unaware, Tye Tribbett is a Grammy Award winning gospel singer-songwriter and musician hailing from the US. He, along with his full band and choir, graced the Lighthouse Theatre in south London over two nights and I (against my own rationale at the time) went to both nights. It was definitely an experience I will never forget and the same can be said for those I went with. Being the analytical person that I am, I did take some things away with me from the experience which I will share with you.

1.      Tye is a performer

If you have watched the many YouTube videos featuring him you will know as well as I that Tye Tribbett is quite the performer. If you haven’t, go and search him up. Like seriously, go do it NOW. You won’t regret it. From the running, jumping, screaming, marching; His energy is electric and very infectious and he and his choir command every inch of the stage. Evidently a veteran at the game. I was so tired after the second night from all the praising. Then he had the audacity to do like two more encores. Where the energy comes from I don’t know but obviously the feeling you get from being on stage is next to none.

2.      Tye is a worshiper

As much as the performance element is necessary to be an artist live in concert, for Gospel artists in particular, the ministry is just as or if not more important. For the moments of high impact energy praise, there were also moments of powerful, out-pouring worship. There were moments where the worship engulfed Tye to the point where he would get emotional and literally bow down and surrender to the Spirit. On the first night, he literally performed back to back worship songs and even brought out Sonnie Badu at one point for an unexpected, impromptu mic toss (I didn’t even see him around and I was standing pretty much at the front). On the second night, he literally stopped and preached to the crowd during worship about not letting your situation consume you taking your focus away from God. He poured out everything he had and we gladly received.

3.      Tye has a clear standard of excellence

I can’t talk about Tye Tribbett and not mention his amazing team. First of all, his choir are all incredible singers in their own right. On the second night, almost every single one had their own solo, some were unanticipated but all smashed it vocally. It’s not just about the runs but their effortless execution, understanding of the music and the moment and also their worship vibe which made each solo powerful. They could all have music careers and they could all be successful, that’s how talented they are. And the band. THE BAND. The band were on point from start to finish. I do expect that if you are working with Tye Tribbett but boy, it was special. From when his keyboardist Brandon Jones gets a solo and slays vocally, you know that there’s something special there. The passion, the flawless execution and the ability to carry the crowd like they did.

4.      We all need to step our game up

Having the chance to talk to Thaddeus, Tye’s brother and bassist, (Mega talented and has a voice on him) and also his drummer and seeing how happy yet chilled they were about it all after the show got me in deep reflection. Sometimes we get too overwhelmed when these artists come over and do what essentially is normal to them. It’s their job of course but even before it became their job, they put it effort and countless hours working hard on their craft so they can be more than average. And it’s their standard of excellence which is common thing in America too and that’s partly why we in the UK idolise them so much. We, as singers or artists or musicians, can be on that level; we just need to break away from the comfort of mediocrity. We can’t be content with the idea that “it’s okay as long as they are doing it for God”. Definitely sure God the almighty and exceptional does not condone ‘Average’. There were times during the concert where I would look behind me into the crowd and I could see and identify many UK musicians and artists at the back. As much as they were vibing and enjoying the show, I am sure that they were also taking notes mentally and learning from the masters. I know that we are great and are in the process of becoming greater. It’s evident from some of the supporting acts who opened for Tye (word to Naomi Parchment, Matthew Allen and Faith Child). I am positive we will get there soon though I do think occasionally we need nights like this to bring the US and UK so we can learn from each other but to also just remind and keep the fire alive.