Mahalia – Diary of Me review

For a girl who hasn’t yet entered her twenties, Jamaican-Irish singer Mahalia Burkmar has achieved an awful lot already. She’s performed with Emeli Sandé, opened shows for Ed Sheeran and Tom Odeel, and appeared on the big screen in Noel Clarke’s Brotherhood.

Raised in Leicester, and now living in Birmingham, the 18-year-old’s first full-length mixtape, Diary of Me, is a mellow amalgamation of acoustic guitar melodies and chilled pop, which form the beds for her autobiography songs. Continue reading

Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered review

Kendrick Lamar was the man of the moment in 2015. To Pimp a Butterfly was a masterclass of conscious rap addressing the extreme racial discrimination that continues to play out in the US, and beyond. Untitled Unmastered isn’t a follow-up: it’s a collection of polished demos and experiments that are powerful and additive in their own right. Continue reading

Oshun – Asase Yaa mixtape impressions

Oshun, press photo 2015, 01 (1778x1000)If you have a problem with the struggle for equality and self-respect, Oshun’s debut mixtape, Asase Yaa, is not for you. The goal of this neo-soul and hip hop duo is to “empower women, and all people,” through music. Care to disagree? Because let’s not kid ourselves: Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé may be having the time of their lives “feeling” themselves, but history shows us that women, and women of colour especially, get the shortest straw of all in the white man’s world. But what makes Asase Yaa all the better is the sleight of hand and the alluring lyrical flow with which Oshun share their stories. Continue reading

Mixtape: let’s get political – change begins with you

Tibet protest, Chinese embassy, London, Mar 07, 2015, by Chris Beckett (1350x759)If you live in the UK, you can’t fail to have noticed that we’re approaching another riveting general election. The three major parties – Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – are all hoping their rhetoric will win you, and I, over. We’ve even got the Eurosceptic, borderline-racist party, UKIP, filling our screens this time.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have at least some view on politics, and the decision makers who, like it or not, hold much of the power in our society. Continue reading

Tunage: Pearls Negras – Nossa Gang

Pearls Negras, press photo, 2014 (724x408)Brazilian hip hop doesn’t get much of an airing outside of its Latin American homeland and diasporas. A real shame, because the rappers and beat-makers of the Rainbow Nation have plenty to offer.

Pearls Negras, originally from Rio’s Vidigal favella, are a proud example. This female trio, now based in London, is serving up attitude-filled, baile-funk (the dance music borne of Rio’s nightlife) for the party goers who arrive fashionably late and aren’t afraid to tell the host to “bow down”. Still in their teens, Alice Coelho, Jennifer ‘Jeni’ Loiola and Mariana ‘Mari’ Alves rap with a fiery confidence that comes from growing up fast in the often unforgiving slums of their hometown. The beats are punchy, bearing similar elements to soco or bashment (Rihanna comes to mind; though the trio’s own non-Brazilian influences include Beyoncé, Ciara and Nicki Minaj). Continue reading

Best albums of 2014: 40 to 31

Clockwise from top left) Temples, Azealia Banks, Pharrell Williams, SZAIn day two of my 2014 round-up, we have albums about nothing but fun times, getting faded and discombobulated, and ripping the heads off childhood toys. Go with it.

40. Pharrell Williams – G I R L
39. Dan Croll – Sweet Disarray
38. Thumpers – Galore
37. Alt-J – This is All Yours
36. FKA Twigs – LP1
35. Gil Scott-Heron – Nothing New
34. SZA – Z EP
33. Temples – Sun Structures
32. Azealia Banks – Broke with Expensive Taste
31. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo Continue reading