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South London trio 2U4U comprise of rappers Cal and My Rugema along with producer Ranbir, who together, create jazz-inflected Hip-Hop tracks that boast clever storytelling with sophisticated instrumentation. Last summer saw the release of their incredible debut full length project ‘Butter’, an eight track exploration of past romances, experiences, family, religion, identity and everything else in between. From the bombastic production on debut single ‘Kings of Africa (Tell Me)’ to the sparkling atmospherics of openers ‘Gurl’ and ‘Home’, ‘Butter’ marries an amalgam of influences that intertwine classic Hip Hop beats with jazz and neo-soul inflections to soundtrack their insightful narratives.
Sri Lankan-born, Toronto-based rapper Shan Vincent de Paul teams up with fellow native Navz-47 on his smooth and mellow new single ‘Heaven’. Having released two spectacular albums in the form of ‘Saviors’ and ‘Trigger Happy Heartbreak’ in 2016 and 2017 respectively, the sideways member’s music touches on a range of topics from politics and family to identity and love through his powerful lyricism and thought provoking music videos. With the LA+CH produced ‘Heaven’, Navz-47 takes centre stage as she sings/raps in Tamil over the lush soundscape whilst Shan Vincent de Paul offers up his own smooth vocals for the chorus.
India-born, California-raised singer-songwriter, Zoya is carving a home for herself in the Indie pop world. Graduating from the world renowned Berklee College of Music with a music business degree, one can notice the sincerity and truthfulness in her work as she unmasks her conscience in her confessional songwriting and orchestral arrangements. Her music encompasses a diverse variation inspired by her country of birth, connecting North Indian traditional music through her captivating vocal style merged with deep stirring harmonies, emphasising her wanderlust nature. With three albums to her name, she’s gained recognition from heavyweights such as A.R. Rahman, as well as touring worldwide alongside various international acts. ‘Closer to Closure’ hails from her Afterglow Single Series where she released a new track every ten days – the song encapsulates the idea of finding a sense of closure in life with the unspoken issues and unfinished relationships she formed whilst living a dual life between India and America.
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.
Ethiopian-American musician and songwriter Mereba yields a voice that heals, warms and soothes on gorgeously textured songs that evoke the deepest of emotions. Her latest offering, the unequivocally beautiful and relaxing ‘Bet’ which dropped towards the end of last year, sees the L.A. based artist capture a love that’s worth fighting for against all odds. Mereba’s golden tones flutter across the gentle guitar-laden soundscape, before lifting off in an unexpected but poetic spoken word piece that adds another layer to the track. With her debut project set to be released later this year, allow the tranquillity of ‘Bet’ to soothe your soul.
Ros (‘rose’ in Swedish) is a rising singer from the south of Sweden who’s voice and new wave music has brought her on tour across the country the past months. She started 2018 with the release of her debut EP ‘Woke Up’ which was followed up by her exceptional 10 track album ‘Peaches n Cream’. The album is a collection of super smooth and laid back tracks, brimming with deep and downbeat trap instrumentation with Ros’ smooth voice at the core. Ros has worked with three of Sweden’s hottest producers around: Von Haartman, (who’s produced the most talked about tracks this year with rapper Fricky) By Any Means, and Academics. Ros’ career has rapidly gone from online buzz to a critical acclaim in no time at all – it’s safe to say that you definitely need to remember the name.
Paraphoniks was formed when Shatrunjai Dewan and Sid Shirodkar began to explore their shared love for modular synthesizers. In 2016, the duo promoted their second release, ‘Yarns’, with a string of audacious surround-sound shows that featured their music in an 8.1-channel incarnation. Since then they’ve continued to evolve into an increasingly genre-agnostic project, embracing various forms of electronic music with a unique sense of sonic experimentation.
Their latest offering, ‘Silhouettes’, was conceived during a two-week writing stint in the Himalayan hills. It retains the synth-heavy sound the duo are known for, while elevating the production levels, treading more expansive musical territory and conceptual ground. Featuring collaborations with singer-songwriter Azamaan Hoyvoy and drummer Sahil Shah, the album’s non-linear narrative takes inspiration from various modern-day cults and quasi-religious movements.
South London artist Yxng Jynn steps up to the plate with his debut solo single. After attracting attention this year for production credits and features with NOTAROLEMODEL and Reservoir & 237 affiliates Kish! & Virgil Hawkins, the gifted rapper & producer takes the limelight for himself on “Ghostride”. A tripped-out, g-funk infused trap effort with irresistible energy, the track will no doubt soon live up to its self-proclaimed billing as a ‘certified hood classic’.
Dani Terreur invites you travel through his very own heart on ‘Etoile du Kashmir’, a dreamlike electro-pop effort that evokes beautiful summer nights pursuing hedonistic quests. Between artificial pleasures and passionate love, the Parisian artist tends towards an absolute fantasy of romance while being caught up by a very modern cynicism.
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Lillebittebock is a unique Danish artist breaking the conventions of hip-hop. With a breakthrough song about the suicide of his father when he was just 12 years old, the dark themes in the lyrics are accompanied by hyper-melodic, endorphin-filled beats. “Fortabt” (meaning “lost” in Danish), the rapper’s newest track, is a melancholy, emotive effort with a prominent guitar riff, describing the feeling of being caught in-between phases.
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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Born parallel to the 2016 US presidential election in response to xenophobic declarations and actions against Latin immigrants, Tulengua identify themselves as “a bilingual hip hop supergroup from both sides of the most crossed border in the world”. Tulengua seeks to demonstrate how Mexicans and North-Americans, Spanish and English speakers, can be combined through the universal language of music to reflect the beauty of the neighbouring countries and dissolve political, geographical, linguistic and racial boundaries.
All the profits from their latest record ‘Baja Funk’ were donated to an immigrant rights organisation. With lyrics denoting awakening and conscience, the protest tone is evident, yet they maintain a message of hope and positivity; the band’s aim is to recover the humanity that unites people instead of dividing them, using music as medicine to heal the world of hatred and excessive division.
Smokey The Ghost has been a pioneer in the Indian hip-hop scene for the past 15 years. A socially conscious artist from Bangalore, Smokey has been involved in all aspects of the culture, from participating in rap battles to rendering his voice for commercial movies and giving due importance to collaborations. His raps emerge out of his observation and tackle various social issues; ‘Her Name Is?’ is a concept mixtape to be heard in sequential order, hailing from a personal experience that led to the realisation of the dishonourable oppression faced in various subtle forms by women on a regular basis. While the tracks form a coherent theme, the production is an amalgamation of the work of different producers based on different ideas emerging from the same concept of abuse of female identity.
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Swedish sisters Jenny and Cecilia Vaz are producers and singer/songwriters with a playful attitude towards music and a fearless mindset. Over the past two years, the pair have released music as VAZ through their own label Kinship Music, which led to performances at festivals around the globe. Their 2017 two-part album ‘Necessary, Pt.I & Pt.II’ featured music inspired by their Cape Verdean background with African drum beats, electronic instrumentals and pop fusion melded together to create a distinctive, atmospheric sound.
France’s Ash is a mysterious figure. Notoriously elusive, his scarce interviews can be counted on the fingers of one hand, as he would rather express himself through his music. The Strasbourg rapper has a confident and intriguing voice and a distinctive brand of melancholy poetry. On ‘Score’, he abandons the “Kidd” he used to be as he nonchalantly delivers a smooth, detached effort.
Amongst a wave of Malaysian artists on their way to international prominence, Alex Bong is one to watch. Under the moniker Alextbh, the 22-year-old’s sound infuses R&B with a slick pop energy, especially evident in his latest single, ‘walls’; the track is a continuation of his previous single, ‘still mine’, reminiscing on love, loss, and longing. Using his platform to bring awareness to the LGBTQ community, the self-taught artist continues to capture the attention of many.
The child of a French father and a Venezuelan mother, Sophia Helena Fustec Briceño is a collage of cultures. A one-girl-band who composes, writes, sings, plays and produces everything in her home studio, her energetic creations convey common messages of faith and authenticity. Frequently known as La Chica, she affirms that her influences are widespread; when she’s not dedicated to her productions, she listens to sounds ranging from late-era Beatles and Radiohead to Caribbean artists such as Fania All Stars and Rubén Blades. Currently residing in Paris, international tours and concerts have been recurrent since the formation of her project in 2014. Her latest single “Sola” is an ethereal journey, as looped vocals and driving synthesisers build to a powerful electronic crescendo.
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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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Danish trio CHINAH’s experimental R&B sound is delivered with artistic minimalism on their debut LP. Fine Glindvad, Simon Kjær and Simon Andersson originally formed in 2014 as a folk outfit before branching out and making waves with a number of dark synth-pop hits, drawing inspiration from off-kilter duo Smerz. Throughout the creative process behind “ANYONE”, lead singer Glindvad took the unorthodox approach of both writing and recording her vocals whilst fully horizontal on a sofa, capturing the natural fluidity and reflective intimacy that provides the essence of the album.