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Karun is a musical chameleon within contemporary African culture, bridging the alternative Kenyan scene with an approachability appreciated by her increasingly global audience. First finding fame in her teenage years, as a member of Nairobi hip-hop group Camp Mulla, after the group parted ways in 2013 she embraced her capability to write songs, play instruments and produce, and enrolled in Berklee College of Music in the US as an electronic music major. She collaborated with Kenyan producer collective EA Wave on the ‘Indigo’ EP in 2016, and on returning home she co-founded the collective Cosmic Homies, becoming a key player in the burgeoning ‘Nu-Nairobi’ scene. Occasionally using the alternative moniker ‘Runka’ (created by scrambling the letters of her birth name), she self-produces a large part of her own work but often collaborates with other innovative artists, as heard here in this track ‘Under’ with Mr.Lu.
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Paris neo-pop group Isaac Delusion pay tribute to French rock legend Eddy Mitchell with a stirring version of 80s classic ‘Couleur Menthe À L’Eau’. The mysterious quintet inject a new elegant electronic ambience to the original track, which tells the tale of a shy man intimidated by the charms of a mint-eyed woman being carried away by the Hollywood dream.
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West London hip-hop artist Lava La Rue returns with another smooth banger. Blessing a timeless old-school groove with her own refreshingly distinctive style, the NiNE8 founder showcases her skill and versatility on the track, equally comfortable dishing out bars on the verse as she is handling soulful melodies on the hook. Taken from her forthcoming EP ‘LETRA’, this is one to simply lean back and enjoy.
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Combining a unique mixture of rumba, funk and hip-hop, veteran Belgian rapper Baloji’s new album ‘137 Avenue Kaniama’ infuses its irresistible groove with an introspective, soulful core. Drawing inspiration from his unique journey, juggling between Brussels and Kinshasa, between French and Lingala, between loving and leaving, he cultivates his original sound through drawing contrasts and parallels between his experiences, bringing us into his complex world of conflicting feelings.
Mx Blouse doesn’t hold back on their latest release. Embodied in the title, the Zulu word for ‘idiot’, Blouse laments people whose idiotic behaviour serves to hinder the freedom of those who are trying to live their lives and have a good time. As always, the Johannesburg artist endeavours to keep their content socially critical and relevant, while ensuring that the music is a party starter too.
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Reservoir’s Theodor Black returns with his sophomore EP. The south-east London rapper approaches themes of race, romance and the transition of growing into adulthood, weaving his trademark rich lyricism over staccato, jazz-infused production. Setting the tone from the titular opening track, the project’s distinctive hazy, dream-like atmosphere is the perfect sound for his vivid introspective bars, painting a picture of the world through his lens.
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Kenyan musician Kato Change’s distinctive sound is the product of a unique combination of influences. While his nuanced guitar licks and elaborate playing style indicate a jazz background, he often strays into rock territory and flirts with classic hip hop and R&B grooves. His signature sound is marked by his own, original hybrid guitar tuning, drawing from traditional African instruments, blues scales and elements inspired by his time touring in Brazil.
‘Mr. Music Man’ features trumpet player Owuor Arunga and singer Lisa Oduor-Noah (whom Kato cites as “his favorite Kenyan vocalist”), and gives a perfect example of Kato’s adventurous collaborations, pairing his instrumentalism with vocalists and artists who stretch across various styles. The track provides a snapshot of how musical worlds collide in the contemporary Kenyan scene, where gifted artists from different disciplines come together to produce fascinating original music.
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Stockholm’s Cherrie is back at it once again. After the viral success of last year’s anthem ‘163 För Evigt’, the Swedish-Somali singer returns to deliver another smooth dose of R&B. An empowering testament to feminine strength and a declaration of love to family and friends, Cherrie’s honeyed vocals are the track’s driving force, creating a sound reminiscent of the early 00’s golden era, yet with a slick modern sheen.
rkls – pronounced ‘reckless’ – is the brainchild of producer duo Kid Fonque and D-Malice, uniting their different cultural backgrounds (South Africa and the UK respectively) under a common love of rich neo-soul and hip-hop. Their debut album ‘Self Titled’ is a transcendent fusion of styles, effortlessly moving from classic soulful ballads to uptempo dancefloor-ready beats, and features a diverse variety of guest appearances such as LA’s broken beat visionary Marc De Clive-Lowe and hip-hop legends John Robinson and Kev Brown, as well as a host of dazzling new vocal and production talent from South Africa – Sio, Melo B Jones, Daev Martian and White Nite to name but a few.
Grammy-nominated producer Gwen Bunn takes an official step out all on her own with her debut solo project ‘Safe Travels’. Incorporating rich jazz and funk influences, ‘Yours’ is the the stand out track on the eight-track EP, a soulful affair filled with sultry vocal tenderness exploring themes of desire and commitment.
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South African artist Muzi has spent the last few years honing his unique sound. Though refreshingly forward-thinking, his hard-hitting sonic approach remains deeply inspired by his upbringing, a tale of striving through adversity in the semi-rural township of Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal.
From euphoric electronica to classic zulu sounds, he delicately balances traditional African music with contemporary western influences; his latest release, his second album ‘Afrovision’ is a bold, fluid fusion of elements of kwaito, afrobeat, RnB and pop. Woven through each track is a clear purpose to redefine how modern dance music can sound, embodied in lead single ‘Chocolate Dreams’ featuring fellow South African vocalist Una Rams and Nigerian singer Saint Seaba.
LVRN/Interscope’s newest R&B starlet, Summer Walker, dazzles with her earworm of a debut, ‘CPR’. With classic instrumentation, smooth production and her own raw approach towards songwriting, the Atlanta native is creating music that captivates listeners with her sultry vocals and alluring melodies.
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Follow a band of Parisian art thieves through this high-octane heist, as Alpha Wann dishes out a feast of sharp bars, slick flows and pure energy. The ambitious visual is lifted from the French rapper’s new EP ‘Alph Lauren 3’, giving a taster of what to expect from his highly anticipated forthcoming album, scheduled to release this coming autumn.
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Jason Kalinga’s music is a unique combination of spirituality, wisdom, and street-level realism. Though he remains on the fringes of the burgeoning Nairobi scene, his intricate lyricism makes him one of the most exciting talents in contemporary Kenyan music; his songs speak on youth, love, success and struggle in an honest, emotionally articulate style, with influences from the classic hip-hop era and contemporary RnB melodies. ‘Ego is the Enemy’ features compatriot Kahvinya, who lends her powerful vocals to the track’s outro.
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Jack Grace’s unique compositions have been making waves on the Australian underground scene for a couple of years now, and the electronic singer/producer has consolidated on this momentum with the release of his latest EP ‘IF I TREMBLE’. Fusing classic piano soul with elements of UK bass and footwork production, the distinctive sound of brooding, melancholy tracks like ‘us’ and ‘waiting’ showcases Grace’s ability to create forward-thinking, multi-layered music with a chilling emotional touch.
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Sudanese artist AKA Keyz comes roaring into the game with his debut project, ‘The Seed’. At just 21 years old, the eight songs demonstrate a level of skilled lyricism that belies his youth, touching on a range of mature subject matter from mental health and introspection to childhood reminiscence. Lead single ‘No Options Left’ is a track that carefully balances a smooth, timeless hip-hop groove with serious comment on the socio-economic and political state of his country, all tied together around an infectious hook.
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Oakland’s own multi-talented artist Elujay comes with brand new energy on his fresh soulful single ‘Starchild’. Though more commonly known for his approach to melody through the rap lens, Elujay is no stranger to classic crooning, and his husky vocals take the lead on this love letter written with sensuality and vivid imagery.
This poetic song from Dinos sees the Parisian rapper transcribe an heartbreaking message left by an ex-girlfriend on his voicemail, with each verse channelling the development from love to hate. The melancholic effort, lifted from his debut album ‘Imany’, features mesmerising vocals on the hook courtesy of Yseult.
In 2013, Dreamville rapper Bas released Pinball, a song that hinted at his hunger for success; five years on, its sequel is a testament to how far the Queens artist has come. With his last album ‘Too High to Riot’ debuting in Billboard’s Top 50, Bas has steadily climbed up from his humble beginnings – and he isn’t stopping. Pinball II boasts punchy bars delivered with a racing flow and features the heavy vocals of LA artist Correy C.
The burgeoning Sudanese hip-hop scene is producing some of the most exciting talent right now: rappers like TooDope and MaMan’s ability to merge the influences of Western hip-hop with local cultural references is demonstrated on ‘Alright’, as Omar Majid’s bouncing production is blessed with an infectious hook and humorous lyricism.