Skepta – Konnichiwa review

It’s been hard to miss Skepta’s latest album this year, even if hip hop isn’t your thing. The independent rapper has lead the long-overdue acceptance of grime as one of UK music’s most influential movements, and was also the surprise winner of the 2016 Mercury Prize.

Skepta’s Konnichiwa is a stonker that puts you in the mood to skank and flex like there’s no tomorrow. Continue reading

Various Artists – Hidden Figures: The Album review

Soul meets space travel on the soundtrack for forthcoming film, Hidden Figures. It comes courtesy of Pharrell Williams – who also worked on the film’s score with Hans Zimmer – and features guest spots by Lalah Hathaway, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe and Kim Burrell. Continue reading

In Praise of Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean - 2012 press photo 01 (1448x815)It’s incredible how little I have written about Frank Ocean considering how many times I have played his music over the last four years, and how deeply it has touched me. Following the release of his second album, Blonde, in August, it’s high time I remedied this fact with a piece in praise of this singular artist. Continue reading

Frank Ocean – Blonde review

Frank Ocean - Blonde promo art 1 (1200x675)The curse of the difficult-second-album hangs over Frank Ocean’s Blonde like an unforgiving spectre. As if following up his critically acclaimed debut, Channel Orange, wasn’t hard enough already: there was the endless rumours, the delays and the never-ending storm of desire and derision on social media. No wonder Ocean prefers to keep himself to himself these days.

For better and worse, Ocean’s second album is the product of personal struggle under the weight of intense expectation. It doesn’t reach the dizzying perfection of his 2012 debut, but it is a profound listen nonetheless. Continue reading

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

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