Just like that, it’s the end of April already. Spring is in full swing and though still a bit staccato, normality is resuming. Breathe. This week’s 5 offers up a classic mesh of sounds and places. The ethereal, mysterious Ethiopian-American Mereba makes her long awaited with a lilting, folksy cut on ‘Rider’. Baby Keem has teased this collaboration with Travis Scott for a minute, neither disappointing in ‘durag activity’. Wesley Joseph shows off another piece of his puzzle on ‘Ultramarine’. Rochelle Jordan uses 90’s jungle samples to express her feelings with ‘Love You Good’. Finally, bouncing off their collaborative album ‘GOLD’ in 2019, Le Mav and Tay Iwar connect with a noted synergy on ‘Supersonic’.
Mereba – Rider
In her first solo release in almost two years, the kaleidoscopic talent Mereba returns to aid the season’s change. With a very simple calypso-sounding steel pan aiding her proclamations, Mereba is speaking about a person she relies on. Her ‘Rider’. In past efforts, the narrative was driven by mystique and maintained by the beauty of her voice. In this case, though, she’s speaking more openly, and the vocals remain as alluring as they always were. Her style has always felt like a fusion. She takes cues from Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and Aaliyah in equal measure. These folk-like deliveries, breathy, storied and considered remain but she’s more declarative with her writing: “I don’t usually do this / oh but you light my fire / I wanna be your rider…’’. Mereba is the kind of artist who will only tell you what she wants to. And from this, it seems like she’s ready to tell us more than ever before. Which can only be a good thing.
Baby Keem feat. Travis Scott – durag activity
The pgLang flagbearer Baby Keem returns with another salvo that makes him far more than Kendrick Lamar’s cousin. That tag, of adjacency to greatness, is disrespectful to the potential for greatness that Keem himself possesses. Keem’s flow is playful, it’s bouncy, but it also carries a sliver of nihilism and mischief that makes him one of the more interesting characters in hip-hop right now. He has an eye for wordplay that suggests a wisdom beyond his years. Even the direction of the video, mob-inspired storytelling, littered with macabre wit, suggests the ‘Baby’ in Keem’s name is only there ironically. Travis Scott jumps in smoothly, in a scene reminiscent of Skyfall, where Bond is being taunted by a chilling Javier Bardem. Baby Keem would’ve been 12 years old when Kendrick released his debut (and my favourite of his LPs) good kid, m.A.A.d city. This may explain Keem’s dark wit and interesting morality: “give me top and braid my hair / not while I’m praying though”. While his older cousin cinematically deconstructed life growing up in Compton, Keem is putting the pieces back together. In a very interesting manner.
Wesley Joseph – Ultramarine
The colourful world of Wesley Joseph continues to reveal itself. Seemingly inspired by fairy tales and movies in equal measure, Joseph uses the music video in the classic way artists always have – to elevate the story told in the music. Running through an iridescent forest, Joseph speaks of “voices getting closer, they’re picking at the keyhole”. He strafes into a party, switching scenes, with the picture constantly shifting its meanings. Funk-inspired music with dark basslines, Joseph world is a place of transformation, of movement, of constant double-takes. Watch this. Take this in.
Rochelle Jordan – Love You Good
Rochelle Jordan makes a mesmerising return to the limelight with her new LP Play With The Changes. And this sultry, dark, cut ‘Love You Good’ is a standout. With hits of 90’s Jungle and deep basslines, her voice floats in between the murky accents. The song immediately reminded me of Kelela’s seminal Cut 4 Me mixtape – ‘Bank Head’ is the exact song I have in mind. The sentiments are the same. Lyrically the song speaks to a single person,“I know what you feel / so misunderstood / I know what you feel” but the production is wide-ranging, it’s mazy, it sounds like the sun setting on a festival, with only the strobe lights left to guide you. The song sounds both personal and impersonal at once. Which, in its essence, are the feelings that dance music (and its sub-forms) evokes. It’s something you can enjoy with people and something you can enjoy alone. It’s open to interpretation.
Le Mav feat. Tay Iwar – Supersonic
Le Mav and Tay Iwar’s collaborative EP GOLD dropped in 2019 and it was a sleeper hit. Le Mav’s ear for composition, mixed with Tay’s ability to deliver from different vocal pockets, mesh perfectly for a project that has something for every mood. This is straight energy though. With chip-tune highlights, sounds of Sonic collecting his bounty and singing rainforests, Le Mav combines all these references into a high-energy tapestry – this is before the drums kick in. Tay Iwar carries the song cooly, never intruding, always keeping a healthy distance while “knocking on your door / knocking on your door / girl I’ve been knocking…”. Le Mav manages to squeeze all kinds of sounds into the track, filling the spaces with purpose, this is a producer who isn’t afraid to experiment with his art. True to its name, it sounds space-age, but it also traditionally inspired. It’s like neo-African electronic music. In some ways, it sounds like the kind of thing you might expect to hear on Shuri’s OP-1.