Best albums of 2016: 30 to 21

In the first third of my top 30, we have the return of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, two exceptional jazz albums, plus debut albums from newcomers Låpsley, Lion Babe and Christine and the Queens.

30. Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room
29. Lion Babe – Begin
28. De La Soul – And the Anonymous Nobody
27. Låpsley – Long Way Home
26. Jordan Rakei – Cloak
25. Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution
24. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
23. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
22. Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine
21. Terrace Martin – Velvet Portraits
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Lion Babe – Begin review

Lion Babe - press photo 2015, 3, by Misha Taylor (1920x1080)In the words of director and artist Simon Frederick: “Black is the new black”. And few things this year have brought delight, joy and open-mouthed awe to me than the sight of black sisters rocking natural curls with pride. Alicia Keys, Solange, Corinne Bailey Rae, Fleur East, Nao and Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo, to name but a few of the music world’s natural hair heroes.

But what has hair got to do with music – and Lion Babe specifically? More than you’d think. Hair is an express of the self. And anyone who knows what it’s like maintaining an afro, day in, day out, will tell you that – just ask Erykah Badu, India.Arie or Solange. Jillian Hervey, Lion Babe’s majestic frontwoman, wears a mane of golden curls that look as though they were a gift from the goddess Oshun herself.

Hervey’s natural hair journey – as well as the fact she is the daughter of singer and actress, Vanessa Williams – brought her face to face with taunts, teases and pressure for her to conform to her attacker’s standards of beauty. But, as she told Glamour magazine earlier this year, returning to natural hair led her to feel “very comfortable in my skin and really confident about who I was”. The Lion Babe of today could not exist without this comfortable, confident brown-skinned wonder woman. Continue reading