5 for Friday: Pa Salieu, Rasharn Powell, Fousheé & More

New month, new vibes. The sun finally hit the UK and boy was it needed. June is the month of our long-overdue escape from lockdown – the weather has turned up at the perfect time. This Friday, we have an unexpected B2B from two of provincial Britain’s finest exports – the firebrand Slowthai hailing from Northampton and the rising star Pa Salieu representing Coventry. As expected, neither leave a stone unturned on ‘Glidin’. London-based crooner Rasharn Powell relives a past love with the wistful ‘Burning the Sky’. Foushee’s latest EP ‘Time Machine’ has hit the airwaves today – the spacey ‘2 L8’ makes the list. Greentea Peng’s stream-of-consciousness writing style is on full display with standout album cut ‘Suffer’. Finally, Tion Wayne builds on his recent number 1 record with ‘WOW’.

Pa Salieu feat slowthai – Glidin

You knew whatever came from these two was going to be fire. Both are high-energy, rebellious and fastidious in their approaches to creating. They both also represent this current moment in British music – a variety of sound and geographical breadth of talent emerging in the UK from outside of the traditional musical creative hubs of London and Manchester etc. Their sounds are adjacent to the common BPM’s of the major cities, clearly inspired by them too. But the space they have from the dominant cultures of the bigger cities have enabled them to make something truer to who they are as artists.

On what sounds like a sample from the Stranger Things soundtrack, there are African drum patterns and calypso elements that round off the rousing production. The video matches the vibe, taking place in what can be guessed as both Pa and thai’s collective consciousness: a mental institution. They bounce around in straitjackets, punch up pinatas, watch giant Amazonian women dance (a theme in Pa’s recent videos). These two glided on this, for real.

Rasharn Powell – Burning The Sky

Rasharn Powell continues to build on the wave he’s built up in the last 12 months. Singles ‘Blunder’, ‘Smithereens’ and ‘Freedom’ are all proof of his considerable talents. He’s recently begun taking his storytelling into visual form, with ‘Burning The Sky’ opening the aperture on his vision.

On an amber-hued backdrop, Powell runs in slow-mo, to something. Or away from it. Or just running for clarity and understanding of the situation he speaks of. The lo-fi gently synthy production and then Powell’s tuned up, occasionally mechanised voice, it’s reminiscent of Strawberry Swing-era Frank Ocean. In the best way possible. It’s got that long drive feel to it. The kind of thing you play in the background, to set the mood. It could easily become a track that acts as a light to the candle, but when you listen closely, Powell’s songwriting skill – “street lights burning the sky / in the dark of the night…’’ Using streetlights as a metaphor for matches is skilful. Powell is said to be an avid poetry reader, which gives his lyrics an added layer of ingenuity. Keep your ears open.

Foushee – 2 L8

New York-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Foushee always looks to push boundaries with her sound. Recent collabs with Lil Wayne and Lil Yachty haven’t derailed her from her usual path of musical exploration. Her latest EP ‘Time Machine’ has the 90’s all over it. The album artwork, the compositions, reminiscent of Hole and Soundgarden with grungy, alternative rock everywhere. Foushee recently remixed the Depeche Mode classic ‘Enjoy The Silence’ – if the 90’s reference wasn’t clear enough. But, she doesn’t allow her sound to become derivative.

No more clear on ‘2 L8’. It’s a gentle, sombre kind of ballad, with hits of Kate Bush in how her vocals are layered, laced with ethereal strings. She leaves space on this track, gaps of air, maybe reflecting the fragmented feeling she speaks of. But in-between all this, Foushee finds a moment to start rapping – “How gon’ hide depression? / Doing nothin’ tells somethin’ / Can you not fuck up one thing? / You know I’m callin”. She does this throughout the EP, a welcomed flow switch from her usual deliveries. It’s clear Foushee is a student of the game. Whether that’s 90’s alt-rock or mid-10’s skippity-rap flows.

Greentea Peng – Suffer

Greentea Peng has been on a roll since her breakout single ‘Downers’ which has amassed more than 10m plays on Spotify. A constant string of strong singles and zany videos have made Greentea one of the more interesting musicians to rise up in the last 18 months – and that’s saying something. All of that has laddered up to the release of her debut album ‘Man Made’ which hit the airwaves today.

From there ‘Suffer’ is an early standout. With a smooth latin-inspired guitar loop, the song has a breezy, rhythmic production to offset the heavy lyrical subject matter. Greentea leads with “You suffer, I suffer you suffer, I suffer too…’’ then “I’m finding it hard to escape / This dread inside my head it’s grey / Try keep the demons at bay / Self saboteur what an absurd notion’’. Despite the heaviness, she finds a way to make the song carry a bounce. In the song, Greentea has said she was inspired by observing her boyfriend, after his dad died. Which then triggered her own deep-set feelings of grief when her stepdad had passed away. Weaved in between the lyrics is a message about uprooting generational trauma, banishing the ills of the past, making a better way. An apt, timely, yet unexpected message. But unexpectedness is the name of the game for Greentea Peng.

Tion Wayne – Wow

Tion Wayne and Russ became the first drill artists to go number 1 in UK history recently. A major moment for a sound that has been maligned in the media as something that inspires violence. For everybody outside of middle England, we see it for what it is. An example of black men shining and gaining legitimate success. Maybe Tion’s having a well-deserved moment with ‘Wow’. Denoting his surprise, from his own eyes, and of course from the eyes of his opps.

After being released from jail in 2018, the last few weeks must be up there with his best since coming home. Many have spoken about Tion’s ability to command a song by himself, but he manages with ease here. Emboldened by the new vindication from his number 1 track. There are tanks, green flares and even Darkoo spotted in the video. But Tion’s turn of phrase remains highly underrated “Why everybody judge / like Simon Cowell?’’. It’s catchy, it’s witty. He’s also speaking for all other beleaguered Manchester United fans with this quotable: “You can’t defend your block, Maguire’’. Followed up with “Shooting up north like Henry’’. One of the best things about drill music is how football references are used. That’s right up there with the best drop in 2021. Wizzy stays winning.