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Rising from the underbelly of Virginia’s dystopian suburbia, Ms Proper experiments with a unique synthesis of sweet talking R&B and filthy mouthed Trap, all at once spouting melodic insults and adlibs of forgiveness in her signature, tender vengeance. Reflected in the blend of fierce low end production and smooth chords from collaborator LA Chase, her song ‘Wicked’ is a slow wind of whispered secrets. This month she drops her latest project ‘The Aquarius Tape’ that addresses everything from old lovers across the spectrum of the zodiac to her moving to Los Angeles with nothing but $5 in her pocket and a ruthless dedication to her pursue her dreams.
Based in Minneapolis, Lizzo is a playfully fierce wordsmith and dynamically diverse artist. Practising powerful versatility, she bangs out unconventional bars and in the next breath, breaks to belt out a classic bridge. Lizzo is responsible for lyrical revolutions in the modern rap world that most might first recognise from groups like Grrrl Party, but she’s since set a steadily burning fire under her own “Big Grrrl Small World” solo career. She spans genres, styles and aesthetic personas from funk infused battle raps to pop inspired ballads and soulful glam slams like her latest single, ‘Juice’.
Intentionally acclaimed duo The Reminders offer an eclectic blend of beats born from hip-hop’s classic era with soulful vocals and funk filled bass lines, founded upon a lyrical focus toward fiercely positive, empowering poetry. Their high energy shows weave wild dance breaks with anthemic choruses and reggae drops in a unique collage of shamelessly openhearted, self expression and a diverse style that is entirely their own. Married in life as well as partners in music, The Reminders, who’re comprised of Brussels-born Big Samir and Queens-born Aja Black, purposefully share their personal stories to inspire people to transcend any separation that might exist between the artists and their audiences, reminding their listeners that we are one family. This is wonderfully embodied in their brilliant track ‘I Remember’ which is lifted from their ‘Born Champions’ album.
LOSTINSAVANNA (aka Bow James) is a rapper, producer, graphic designer and self proclaimed “art enthusiast and creative extraordinaire” from Nairobi, Kenya. A member of the O.D.D. Society, the rapper is highly involved in the East African creative sector through his audio/visual collaborations with the new wave of indie artists on a mission to shape the future of contemporary African culture. Experimenting with a fusion of psychedelic trap, LOSTINSAVANNA just dropped his debut project ‘Frequency ’95’ which he describes as “an exploration into the sonic world of chaos and euphoria” and features the fiery ‘Red Coupe’. The track’s pounding instrumentation, courtesy of Bow James and Adam Dire, serves as the perfect backdrop for the rapper’s spirited delivery and fiery flow.
There’s a slang word Kenyans use for what French/Kenyan artist Stephane Stalon and producer KiliHippie have achieved with their collab track “IMMM.” The word ‘tamu’ (directly translating to “sweet” in Swahili) is hummed and howled by Nairobi audiences when they hear a silky smooth, jazz-infused track, led by laid back melodies and spaced out drums with brave lyrics and vocal vulnerability delivering subtly powerful truths. Stephane Stalon is a member of young music collective called “Bahati Bookings” on a mission to transform the Kenyan scene with their heartfelt energy, fearless fusion music and skilled lyricism, bridging the space between rap and jazz culture.
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Don Ngatia’s voice exudes an angelic melancholy spirit that belies his youth. Graceful melodies weave around a soulful plucked guitar, echoed by delicately layered harmonies to build a eerily beautiful atmosphere. Born in Kenya, Ngatia relocated to Boston after attending Berklee College of Music. His songs speak of mortal pain and resilient spirituality, painted by poetic lyrics revealing his deep-rooted romanticism. His 2014 breakout hit “Solitude” seamlessly ebbs and flows from sadness to joy, channeling raw acoustic energy to create a truly poignant piece of music.
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“Oh Wah” is a powerhouse collaboration between Kenyan artist Blinky Bill and Nigerian singer-songwriter Nneka. Featured on Bill’s new album “Everyone’s Just Winging It And Other Tales”, the song showcases his rich production skills, as a heart-wrenching blend of echoing guitars, tribal chanting and driving percussion interweave beneath lyrics crying out for peace. The chemistry between Blinky Bill’s thick, low voice and cryptic wordplay and Nneka’s husky voiced howls creates a distinct energy, making for an infectious anthem with an important message from an African perspective.
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Claire Mortifee’s debut album “Medicines” possesses several gems and her collaborative track “No Rollies” with David Morin is one of the smoothest. The combination of Mortifee’s songwriting and Morin’s sweet vocals make for a timeless cut, with all the softness of old school R&B melodies, as harmony stacks and the suspense of a standout bridge bump against a warm fat bassline and shamelessly sassy snare hits. Active in her hometown community of Toronto, Mortifee pops up often in California for her uniquely dynamic live shows, displaying her depth of lyrical delivery and showcasing the physicality of her music as she snakes across the stage in metallic spandex with an endless smile and powerfully natural magnetism.
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Nairobi based artist Loa Myst drops her debut single “In The Waters”, a soulful blend of synths and live instrumentation side chained to the pulsing heartbeat of minimalist drums and a surprising bassline that slides across an intricately layered sonic collage. Myst’s voice is strong, smoky, soothing and sweet all at once, switching effortlessly from rich RnB melodies to percussive rap breakdown as the track’s production morphs fluidly as the track progresses; the song is produced by Kenyan artist Nu Fvnk, a co-founder of the fast growing Producer/DJ collective, EA Wave, producing an eclectic cross section of some of the most alluring alternative pan-African artists. The pair’s full length collaborative EP “WADE” is set for release in November 2018.
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Dead Wicks is a self proclaimed “psycho-delic grunge-hop” group of New York-grown artists wielding a unique talent for re-working motown songs. Their recently released debut EP ‘Curses’ gifts its listeners a pandora’s box of irreverent genre-bending anthems filled with unusual chord progressions and twisted guitars through alt-pop craftsmanship and poetically chaotic lyricism. The first track on the EP, entitled “Glyph Trip”, kicks things off with a hard electro funk bass line and breathy staccato vocals, before flipping into sitar sounds echoing in a void of synth breakdowns and soulful wails.
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Sage’s songwriting prowess wields the power of her skilful instrumentalism. Whether leading jazz-driven ballads or adding an artfully minimalistic touch to electronically-infused tracks, her music bridges the gap between the indie and mainstream cultures of Kenya’s diverse scene. Produced by her longterm partner Dillie, “Watching You” is a soulful blend of timeless melodic RnB and down-tempo trap that emphases the strength of her harmonised vocals, ahead of a delightfully unexpected twist.
Kemunto’s delicately smooth vocals belie her raw, emotional vulnerability. Born and raised in Nairobi, the artist describes her sound as “afro-urban soul driven music”, penning a range of RnB inspired slow jams infused with reggae grooves. Accompanied on guitar by Edwin Majanta, her new acoustic version of the track “Maybe” is angelically haunting, consoling and beautifully heart wrenching all at once.
Ninth Child’s ethereal voice is etched delicately into the soulful edges of her heavy drops with a psychedelic style that provides a sonic refuge for listeners. With a fiercely feminine energy that is welcome in the growing festival scene, her audiences bathe in the reverberated echoes of her emotional lyrics and adventurous electronic soundscapes, which she writes, produces and visually embodies herself through her own creative and artistic direction. Her “LOVERS” EP dropped early in 2018 to a positive reception, alongside her intense high-energy shows, featuring projections, free-form dance and unique costume design.
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Vallerie Muthoni raps with the conviction of legends like Foxy Brown and “Left Eye” Lisa Lopes. Delivering subversive content and controversial quips with a smile, laughs and cracks jokes in a collection of dialects, setting up stories in English before the punchlines come in Swahili, drawing listeners into her youthful world and then hitting them with a wisdom that belies her years. Collaborating on the playful energetic, track “Brown Suga”, producer Kahealbeats brings out the best in Muthoni, demonstrating his ability to enhance and evolve his artists’ vocal delivery as Muthoni finds melodic pockets in his hard-hitting beat. “Brown Suga” is the first release off of Muthoni’s upcoming EP “the Wavey Soul.”
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Kenyan born, multi-cultural DJ/producer Suraj, globetrotting German turntablist/producer Max Doblhoff and Kenyan afro-fusion artist Alai K team up to create a contagiously funky track. ‘Bana Bana’ embodies the eclectic energy of East Africa’s finest musical collaborations, effortlessly spanning afrobeat, reggae and house influences.The uptempo beat is carried by raw, soulful vocals and reverberating crooning melodies, echoing a sound Alai K refers to as “Disco Vumbi” – a homegrown form of street dance music. Individually, each artist brandishes a strong personal style, with Suraj known for infamously percussive afrobeat and melodic house, Doblhoff (fka MDgroove) known for roots-inspired techno, and Alai K known for everything from hip-hop to traditional kamba, but together their collaboration paints a fuller, truer picture of East Africa’s contemporary creative sector, innovating both electronic and acoustic genres in unique fusion.
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While Baraka’s energy on stage is wildly contagious, his vocal control on record is skillfully composed. He sails across heavyweight beats with a light tongue, perpetually crafting a free-flowing stream of consciousness. Touching every consonant with clear articulation in an effortless delivery akin to unique wordsmiths like Smino, Baraka carves the wave of his signature “future bounce” beats produced mostly by Bahati Bookings – a collective he founded with fellow Nairobi artists Ekumbo & Stephane. Gathering a fast-growing following with their consistently evolving content online and passionate live performances, Baraka and Bahati Bookings are being paid close attention by established acts in the Kenyan alternative scene, excitedly supporting their unstoppable rise.
Ondi is a Kenyan artist who considers her poetry as important as her music. Her voice is reminiscent of the soft, husky haze we attribute to classic blues legends like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and although Ondi looks young enough to be a high school student she performs with a soberly mannered, delicate movements of someone twice her age. While she is considered a cultural outlier, moving indiscreetly through the shadows of the alternative scene since parting creative paths Nairobi based funk/soul band Yellow Light Machine some years back, she has continued to influence the city’s collective growth in independent artistry through self-released music, pop-up art installations and impactful community-focused events that challenge traditional societal norms through musical gatherings. Her forthcoming crowd-sourced album is composed mostly on the ukulele, featuring stripped down compositions of bare instruments and vocals, much like the spacious atmosphere of her beloved song ‘Empty Pages’.
Pounding palms against African drums while simultaneously performing live beatbox patterns with seasoned vocal versatility, poet & hip-hop artist Checkmate Mido splits his verses between slang Swahili-English and an intricately crafted, multi-cultural rap language all of his own. Channeling a fearless MC’s cadence akin to the legends of the London underground, Mido is a Kenyan artist who, whilst known in the old school hip-hop circles of Nairobi, has made a conscious effort to collaborate with the city’s nu wave of artists and producers such as Ukweli and Nu Fvnk of EA Wave, who worked with Mido to create the haunting blend of electronic and organic sounds and styles featured in “Maria Salaam.” Renowned for his intensely energetic shows, he released a studio EP “Box Of Beats” in 2016 that expressed the artistry beyond his stirring live performances.
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Sounds drenched in reverb and reversed synth textures echo together to create a dreamy musical backdrop, painted with Jim Chuchu’s intimate lyrics. With vocals seemingly inspired by 70s psychedelic crooners like Robert Plant, Chuchu is part of a new wave of artists transcending the traditional pigeonholes of creative media. Known today as one of Kenya’s bravest contemporary filmmakers – he grabbed attention at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival for his locally-banned, internationally-acclaimed indie film based on true stories of homosexuality in Africa – Chuchu rarely mentions his core musical role in Nairobi’s legendary group, Just A Band. While co-producing the band’s first three studio albums alongside Dan Muli and the renowned “Blinky Bill”, Chuchu also largely drove the group’s visuals, including the beloved music video “Ha-He” – which CNN, Wall Street Journal deemed Kenya’s first viral internet meme. After breaking away from the group to pursue his solo career and co-founding film platform “The Nest Collective”, Chuchu continues to produce and release his own music.
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Wanja Wohoro and Jinku’s DUST EP is a Nu-Nairobi gem. With melancholic yet inspirational songwriting, the soulful combination of Wohoro’s sultry vocals against the canvas of Jinku’s delicate production is shifting the perspective of contemporary Kenyan audiences. Where the acoustic and electronic scenes once remained intensely separated, such collaborations are a testament to the scope for these two styles to fuse seamlessly. Underground singer/songwriters and bedroom producers have been experimenting with genre-bending ideas for some time, and the results are beginning to pierce the veil of the mainstream. Following in the footsteps of pioneering Kenyan artists who have stepped out before into the global spotlight such as Karun Mungai and Blinky Bill, Wohoro is on a mission to overcome these barriers, taking the stage beside Jinku, who is perhaps best-known beyond the African continent for his collaborations with globetrotting artists like Jojo Abot.