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21-year-old Egyptian artist Pharaohgamo creates music with a maturity that even veteran artists struggle to achieve. On his debut mixtape Survivor Series, released in December 2017, the Virginia-based wordsmith pens lyrics with an engaging balance of intellectual social commentary alongside clever punch lines and humour. With imposing, gravelly vocals that have iconic potential, Pharaohgamo’s dark tone and contemporary twists on old-school flows is symbolic of the struggle of artists who must rebel against the restrictions of their culture in order to push the envelope for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Berlin-based, Argentinian producer and feline fanatic Catnapp combines rap, breakbeat, drum and bass and more to create an intense, nostalgic atmosphere. Fat beats are driven by lyrics confessing the deepest childhood memories over huge, compressed pads and synths, resulting in a unique, original sound. ‘No Cover’, her most recent release, is an aggressive two-track EP engendered by feelings of deceit, disappointment and anger. Heavy breaks and broken glasses give ‘No Cover’ an air of invincibility, belligerence and empowerment.
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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Former jazz student Jvcki Wai has morphed into a venomous trap artist and one of the most exciting female musicians in Korea’s hip-hop scene. Her music is weaved with piercing auto-tuned vocals and bleak melodies, spitting bars without reserve as she aggressively delivers frank introspection as well as wider social messages, speaking on her experiences as a woman and showing solidarity with others. ‘Enchanted Propaganda’, the title of her debut studio album and also the fifth track of the album, represents her unique style channeling her internal anxiety in a modern, cyberpunk way.
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Producer OKZharp and vocalist, artist and dancer Manthe Ribane work closely with photographer and film maker Chris Saunders to create a unique collaborative audio-visual project. Though all three originally hail from South Africa, OKZharp cut his teeth in London as a member of LV, one of the first acts to sign to pioneering label Hyperdub. When OKZharp left LV, he spoke to Saunders about an idea for a film, and was introduced to Manthe, who was then a dancer and choreographer for Die Antwoord. They hit it off, and upon hearing Manthe singing to herself, they started collaborating musically, releasing two well received EP’s on Hyperdub, recorded in Johannesburg and London respectively. The recording of ‘Closer Apart’ reflects the song’s title – started on tour, with most of the music borne out of “headphone moments” in hotel rooms, planes and airports in the brief periods of time that the trio spent together in Paris and later Vienna. Okzharp describes Manthe as a co-producer; “she selected instrumental sketches and we developed them together, sometimes just keeping the bare bones or a melody or rhythm, or trying different elements or sounds.” In tandem Pearson worked with Manthe to develop an umbilical visual identity, feeding back into the music, for the live show but also for the audio-visual elements of their work. Even thought the album was built long distance, the short periods they spent together were the basis for creativity; Okzharp recalls one particular moment in Milan last year; “we had a whole free day before our flight so we visited the Salone di Mobile design show. We were so inspired by an installation there just walking around, listening to the amazing soundtrack. That evening our flight was delayed, so we sat on the floor of the airport terminal putting musical ideas down for ‘Time Machine’ on the laptop speakers and writing the lyrics: ‘Tic Toc time, we’ll be fine / Airport queues, cerulean blues / Viper trails cross the skies / Lights reflect in your eyes…'” The album has a softness and openness that contrasts the tougher sound of the preceding EPs; Manthe explains that “the new music is a 360 turn. It an expression of my ‘Lady’ side – I grew up listening to jazz, classic and gospel, I am a very soft spoken person, and it resonates with being confident with that. It’s been crazy finding balance and finding a smart way to strengthen my weaknesses, I had to trust the process. I hope everyone feels motivated and inspired to be more after listening to the album.”
Artigeardit is one of the most exciting young hip-hop acts in Denmark right now, blending old-school hip-hop elements with fresh flows and contemporary narratives to build a distinctly 2018 flavour. He released his debut album ‘VILDEDAGE’ (which translates as ‘WILD DAYS’) in May this year. The project expresses both the melancholy and joy of youth; the heartbreaks, the parties and the hangovers. ‘Værformig’ is a standout track from the project, capturing the essence of the album, incorporating lyrical, poetic elements to a introspective mood.
Atlanta native Father makes a powerful return with his first drop of 2018. The alternative trap artist and founder of independent label Awful Records has been off screen for minute now, but revives the energy that catapulted him to notoriety with two brand new tracks that will only build anticipation for his forthcoming album. Alongside ‘Lotto’, a collaborative effort with ABRA, ‘We Had A Deal’ is a stripped-back, direct trap anthem with an undeniable slap to it, as Father showcases his distinctive left-field delivery over fat, bass-driven production.
While some musicians are born with an instrument in hand, Prateek Kuhad was a relatively late bloomer. Growing up in the small city of Jaipur, he went to the USA to pursue a university degree at New York University, where musical discoveries such as Elliott Smith, Bob Dylan & Woody Guthrie inspired him to get serious about the guitar and write his own songs. A pair of early EPs – one in English, one in Hindi – put him on the map with a sound that blurred the lines between organic folk intimacy and lush pop appeal, and his full-length debut was an instant hit. ‘did you/fall apart’ showcases Kuhad’s poignant and introspective approach through his rich, vivid lyricism, transcending genres and borders in order to speak to the deeper truths of shared human experience in all it’s messy splendour. His mesmerising vocals tap into deep wells of emotion, floating over gently fingerpicked guitars and ethereal synthesizers. Having garnered a slew of international accolades and honors through a recent publishing deal with LA-based Cutcraft Music (alongside the likes of Chet Faker, Izzy Bizu, and CP Dubb) Kuhad has cemented his status as a breakout star not just in his native India, but across the world.
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Mexican producers YOGUI and Dan Solo, members of the band Technicolor Fabrics, collaborated to give rise to a more dramatic sound in ’16: 20′. Released back in 2014, the single is characterised by a marching rhythm, imposing guitars and grooving synths, accompanied by lyrics describing breathless vertigo.
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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.
Jojo Maronttinni scored a huge hit last summer with ‘Que tiro foi esse?’, a song with such an infectious chorus that it became a meme, spawning countless parodies and even appearing in some adverts. After this viral success, expectations were high for the singer’s follow up. And Jojo just released ‘Arrasou, Viado’, another pop-funk effort with a memorable hook, with the song’s title referring to LGBTQ congratulatory slang. Since it’s release, the track became an automatic hit and has divided opinions all over the internet. Some have said the artist was exploiting ‘pink money’ to boost her career, while others have praised Maronttinni’s courage to make a mainstream song with a visuals full of celebrities and personalities related to both pop culture and the LGBTQ community. In spite of the controversy, this song is another sure hit from a singer who’s fast becoming one of the biggest names in Brazil’s mainstream pop-funk scene.
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Nights of Rizal (also known as Migi de Belen) is a singer-songwriter dedicated to his chilled out electronic sound. The solo artist has released one full-length album to date, entitled ‘summer/salt’, a project reminiscent of days in the beach and life in eternal vacation. Migi explains the album as having “moody lyrics contemplating on the nature of forgetting & remembering.” The album name refers to an 2012 incident where an injury from a failed somersault forced the artist to re-learn how to walk and eventually, run.
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Adding the perfect feature to a song is a delicate art-form, and SHAUN knows how to caramelize artists as an ingredient to enhance his up-tempo songs. ‘생각나’ (Thinking Of) is the third track of his newly released EP ‘Take’, as the Seoul based DJ/producer serves up a springy and fast-paced beat for his guest vocalists to paint the picture of a hollow and empty relationship. Rising singer-songwriter SUMIN contributes a sweet, angelic voice to deliver the lover’s frank confession without weighing in sorrow, while freshman rapper Ovan strikes back his feelings for her with heavy bars as he admits that he can’t help but think of her.
The daughter of a renowned exponent of Argentinian tango, Juana Rosario Molina was raised with classic record collections and guitar lessons. In the mid-70’s, due to military disputes, the Molina family fled the country to go into exile in Paris, where teenage Juana’s musical scope expanded vastly. Nonetheless, when Juana was able to return to her native Argentina, she followed her actor mothers steps by beginning a television career. Her popularity rose exponentially and within three years she already had had her own successful comedy show, airing across Latin America and making her one of the most popular comedians in Argentina. Suddenly, at the peak of her fame, Juana took the hard decision to leave her successful work as an actor in order to pursue a career in music. After multiple releases, in 2017 she delivered her seventh and most solid LP ‘Halo’, which derives its name from one of the most famous folklore myths of Argentina and Uruguay; a halo of “evil light” that floats above the ground where bones were buried. The record evokes the occult in its music as much as in its lyrics. As in previous deliveries, her sound oscillates harmoniously between nature, folklore, humanism and fearless electronic experimentation.
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The UK’s resurgent contemporary jazz scene is smouldering with incredible talent. After making waves as a member of celebrated duo Yussef Kamaal with their hugely successful 2016 record ‘Black Focus’, the highly-respected drummer Yussef Dayes set off to pursue a different direction as a solo artist. Here he returns to link up with pianist Alfa Mist for ‘Love is the Message’, a hazy, ethereal tune filled with warm keys and infectious percussive grooves as well as a scene-stealing guitar solo from Mansur Brown.
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The producer Stephen Of Kent has linked up with rapper 2Lee Stark to create some of South Africa’s most cutting edge contemporary hip-hop. Kent’s first commercially released body of work, ‘There May Be Wolves’ is a joint EP project between the two that draws inspiration from the popular TV series Game Of Thrones; 2lee’s name references the House Stark, whose symbol is a wolf, with the tape’s concept revolving around the fable of “the boy who cried wolf”, framing this project as the genuine breakthrough they’ve prophesied so often before.The pair worked on this album in the OFF BOYZ Recording Label “Winter” campaign, which will also include two upcoming individual singles from each from the artists.
“Rosa” is a stunning single from Danish duo WIINSTON. It unfolds with all the moody atmosphere of a classic movie, with a blurry, strangely nostalgic feel and a gorgeously sleepy groove. Made up of a pair of longtime friends, producer Alfred Thomas and singer/songwriter Daniel Richards, most of WIINSTON’s music is recorded in Thomas’s tiny apartment. “Rosa” embodies their sound perfectly; a cinematic and nostalgic take on electronic R&B that stirs up intense emotion and captivates the listener with its memorable melody.
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’.
Aditi Ramesh quit her job as a corporate lawyer and set forth on pursuing a career as a full-time musician. An exemplary vocalist with a herculean voice complemented by a range of techniques and tonal modulations; her inspiration stems from blues, jazz and traditional Carnatic music in which she trained in her childhood. A remarkable rise in her career was instigated with the launch of this year’s EP ‘Autocorrect’, demonstrating her true calibre as a composer, showcasing her classical training and strong musical sensibilities. The EP’s strongest track ‘Efflux of Time’ is a masterful exercise in building looping melodies, and contains one of the most deliciously unexpected vocal transitions; conveying a message of time being the healer of all wounds.
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Botswana born singer-songwriter Mpho Sebina incorporates hip-hop, soul, jazz, traditional Setswana music and folklore into her sound. Authentic and experimental, the self-taught musician has built a loyal audience through her signature a cappella mash-ups including Brenda Fassie with the The Fugees and Boom Shaka with Erykah Badu. She’s performed in venues across Botswana and South Africa, as well as hosting a monthly live music co-operative ‘NakedSoul Sessions’, curating a performance line-up of yet to be discovered local music and merchandisers.
Sebina released her debut EP titled Neo in October 2017 with the first single ‘Black Butterfly’ a soulful hip-hop track with sonic facets of the new generation of melancholic trap-soul. “My music is autobiographical; the stuff I’ve written is self-reflection time for me,” she says. “As a 28-year-old African woman my music is about the journey to discovering one’s self through this world. I would like to stir up that quest for self, to bring about a healing type of vibe. It’s a lot about overcoming and focusing on the personal stuff. Sometimes we get wrapped in anxiety, myself included. My music is about providing an outlet for listeners to forget.”