Music: A Time-Capsule to the Soul

You move on, and just know that sometimes the past fully goes away and sometimes it just stays inside you, in a little strange heart-shaped box.

Beach House – IAmA

It’s November 2016 and I’m parked outside KFC breaking up with the person I love. We just had a meal and even though no mention was made of the coming event, the elephant in the room was in the next booth having a two-piecer. It played out like most breakups do so I won’t go into the details.

Many tears later, I’m driving away and PPP by Beach House is playing on the radio. Like a time-capsule, the song takes this moment and buries it deep in my sub-conscious – to be unearthed with each play.

 

Music is especially good at framing moments.

In a sense, this is what movie soundtracks are for. You can’t hear Hans Zimmers “Time” without tumbling into the dreamscape that is Inception or Vanessa Carlton’s “1000 miles” without picturing Terry Crews blaring his heart out (and if you don’t then there’s something terribly wrong and you should get that checked out).

 

As Africans, we preserve(d) our culture through song. Some chronicled individual experiences while others addressed the experiences of the community as a whole. Music conveyed our history from one generation to the next for centuries until the white man came and turned everything into shit. Still, the value of song to the African didn’t dissipate.

When we’re children we gain an emotional attachment to music even before we know what it actually is. Had you asked me whether I listened to Erykah Badu before 2016 my answer would be a firm no. But as soon as I hear ‘Next Lifetime’, it’s a warm Saturday morning and I’m eight again at the back of my mum’s maroon starlet with Ms. Badu on Capital FM. I can feel the sun through the tinted window, the cold belt buckle on the palm of my fidgety hands and the calm familiarity that only comes with being in the presence of a loved one.

 

The older we grow, the more ingrained this connection becomes. You are more likely to be emotionally connected to the music you listened to in your adolescence/young adulthood than the music later on in your life. That’s what the nostalgia radio stations (Classic FM ahem ahem) capitalize on.

Conversely, we all know a number of people that bash new music for the sole reason that it is new. If you’re anywhere in my age-group, listen. Cherish the music you’re listening to now. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself at forty-five backhanded by SWAT’s verse into an emotional spiral of fleeting adulthood. Find a room to cry in so as not to traumatize the children.

This is why it’s monumental to us when someone likes the same songs that we do. Listening to music is something that we do alone so when we find someone that shares their solace with the same music, we don’t feel so alone anymore. However, similar interests do not necessarily translate into compatibility as I’m sure we’ve all learned by this point in our lives. But I digress.

The songs that unearth all these buried emotions are good for you. Especially when it comes to heartbreak because remembering it is as essential as the heartbreak itself. If you forget then cycle is likely to recur. Try it. Put your phone on shuffle and dredge out all the muck from long-lost lovers. Remember the good and the bad.

After the breakup, the opening keys of Beach Houses ‘PPP’ now play like impending doom in my head. I’m standing at the shore watching the tsunami roll in and since all my bridges are burnt, there’s nowhere else to go. It’s almost beautiful, really. The guilt hits first (why do I feel this way if I’m the one that did the breaking up) and then the trauma comes next (more concerned with feeling than reasoning why). When my bones are shattered and my soul crushed, the clouds part and catharsis finally shines through.

So I brush away the sands of self-pity and play the next song.

Image: Masashi Wakui

 

Tupac and Notorious B.I.G: A Kenyan Millenial’s Perspective

“Why do you even give a fuck about two American rappers who died the year you were born? Si you write a piece on Lil Pump?”

A friend’s little brother, born after 2000, posed this question to me.

When I was a child growing up, Tupac and Notorious BIG were constantly referenced in the Friday Pulse, my older brother and his older friends had near fist fights on who was a better mc. I’d watch Poetic Justice with my sister and Channel O would bump either ‘Juicy’ or ‘Changes’ on every throwback countdown.

If this is indeed a quarter life crisis- insisting that everything from my childhood has to mean something, let’s start with my brother’s gangsta rap music.

Esketit then.

The word going round when I first heard about this East Coast/West Coast beef was that Biggie killed Tupac and then Tupac’s mom killed Biggie. I think the houseboy told me this version, and then he taught me how to bend my fingers to make the Crips gang sign.

“Bloods wanakuchinja kama mbuzi. Crips watakutafuna kama Krackles.”

-Edwin the houseboy.

As hard as I know Afeni Shakur was, I mean, she was a black panther – it doesn’t get any more consciously hardcore than that.

NY 21 Afeni shakur

But even at 6, that sounded a little far-fetched.

Turns out, no one really knows who the perpetrators in both murders were. A cold case.

Moreover, turns out their beef was primarily the result of a series of misunderstandings and colliding male egos.

‘Pac and Big met somewhere in ’93 and were boys for the most part- they smoked weed, ogled machine guns and shared meals. Who knows, maybe if they’d hugged it out over Henessy and a bowl of Green, Pac would be on his 12th Studio Album. Biggie would be getting a BET lifetime achievement award, and they’d both be accorded the same reverence as the likes of Dre, Snoop and Nas.

Instead, these raging bulls taunted each other.

After Tupac was shot 5 times at the Quad Recording Studio lobby, Biggie dropped ‘Who Shot Ya?’, poking the injured bear like a bored cackling witch. Now, I’m not gonna speak with certainty as to whether or not Biggie ordered the hit on Pac, but seeing an open window- he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to throw shots.

“East Coast, motherfucker (Who shot ya?)
West Coast, motherfuckers
West Coast, motherfuckers, hah!”

‘Pac took this track as confirmation that Bad Boy were the ones who sent the hitters his way, telling Vibe magazine in one interview that  “it came out too fast…”.

In retaliation, Pac takes a picture with Faith Evans in the club, Big’s girl at the time, and uses that as his below-the-belt ammo, claiming that they smashed.

pac and faith.jpg

That’s why I fucked your bitch you fat motherfucker

Let’s put this in context now.

I asked an African American friend who lived in New York and was attending a HBU at the time about this because by virtue of age and race, he was present in the geographical and social context of that whole drama. It didn’t shake his life, not even a jiggle.

In his words, “The East Coast and West Coast are so far away, you can say ‘Fuck the East Coast’ from L.A and then what? Who’s going to fly from New York to find you and shoot you?”

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This is an entire continent y’all

 

  1. Somewhere in Dandora. A bunch of young men are paying close attention. Kalamashaka is comprised of three members: Johnny Vigeti, Kama and Oteraw.

It started out as as imitations of American Mc’s in terms of their rugged flow and punchlinez kibao lyrical style.

The same way hip hop started as a social reflection of what’s happening in the ghetto, Kenyan hip hop became a reflection of life in the slums. English switched out for sheng. Dandora becomes Brooklyn. Police harassment stays the same.

  1. Rev. Timothy Njoya is wilding on the streets and in church, raging against the Nyayo machine. Moi is president again, going on his 19th year. Political tension sizzles like a wet fish on hot tarmac. K-shaka drops ‘Tafsiri hii’. Kenyan hip hop begins.

Tafsiri hii, maisha kule D ni mazii ninalia nikitumia M.I.C

Tafsiri hii, ingawa tuko chini bado tunatumaini. Sikiza kwa makini

KenyanGraffiti3.jpg

As Tedd Josiah said in the documentary Hip Hop Colony, “the hip hop beats met the Swahili lyrics.”

  1. Matatu culture is rising strong. Ogopa Deejays are dominating the club scene, dropping hit after party hit and setting the tone for the new millennium.

ogopa.jpg

The street prestige that came from associating with Ogopa Deejays is similar to the pride that came with rolling with either the Death Row or Bad Boy Records. The parties, the liquor, the girls- the staple of both.

A young man from South C wants to be a part of this. He finds himself in a room with Kenya’s reigning producer, Tedd Josiah, this is his chance. Tedd listens to the boy rhyme and then kicks him out of the studio. Who does this kid called E-sir think he is? The Swahili Tupac?

And just like his American predecessors before him, E-sir dies at his prime leaving behind his footprint on Kenyan hip-hop that can never be wiped; that can never fade.

Basically, if it wasn’t for Bad Boy and Death Row we wouldn’t have had Kalamashaka or E-sir, all of whom still stand in history as part of Kenya’s greatest emcees. We wouldn’t have Octopizzo, we wouldn’t have Camp Mulla or Khaligraph and his New York accent.

At least, we wouldn’t have them in the way that we have them/ have had them.

You see, it all comes full circle. Dunia ni Duara. It was all a dream.

BIG

Care For Me: Saba

Chicago rappers all have the gift of introspection. Common, Kanye, Mick Jenkins and Noname must have all looked into that giant metal bean and seen the inner depths of their souls.

Saba is taking this to new heights. Listening to this album feels like flipping through his black leather-bound journal, a live-band playing along in the background, his thoughts laid bare on the page. It’s impossible to turn away.

The albums running theme is family and loss. Like a collection of intricately done sketches, each song is something to marvel at. Saba is in mourning and this is his catharsis. For him and for us too.

In 2017, Saba’s cousin, John Walt, was stabbed to death. They and other friends formed PIVOTGang, a collective fronted by Saba. The significance of this event is visible throughout the entire album.

On the opening track “BUSY/SIRENS”, Saba marinates in his loneliness. He doesn’t complain about it but, rather, discerns it’s source. He wants it to change while accepting that it is a part of who he is. TheMind puts it succinctly when he says:

I don’t need nobody new to miss

Survivor’s remorse is the motif for the second half of “BUSY/SIRENS”. Walt is on the floor bleeding to death and there’s nothing Saba can do about it.

Sirens on the way, ayy
Now you’re lying where the angels lay 

I jumped to conclusions when I first heard the chorus to “BROKEN GIRLS”. At first, I thought Saba was romanticising mental illness. Using female pain as a stepping stone, as men have always done. It isn’t though. Saba critiques his feelings for the partners he’s had in the past. Instead of an ego trip, he gives us ego death.

This whole time, been obsessed, being sad
She was my, quick escape, made me forget
Hear her speak, see her weak, made me feel big

“LIFE” is the closest thing this album has to a banger which is a good thing really because this album isn’t supposed to bang. On it, we feel his rage. His handwriting tears through the pages as he laments all the people he’s lost in the short life that he’s lived.

They killed my cousin with a pocket knife
While my uncle on the phone, he was gone for more than half my life
He got out a year and then he died

On “CALLIGRAPHY”, Saba confronts his demons. All the running he’s done hasn’t gotten him anywhere (exercise≠exorcise). Anywhere he wants to be, that is. Instead, he’s going to write them away. Not for us or his career but for himself and, in this age of constant and perpetual oversharing, maybe that’s what we all need.

I can’t get out of bed
I’m not mad at God
But I can’t get out of bed

(I’m going to end up talking about pretty much every song on this album but hey, you’ve made it this far)

“FIGHTER” is one of my favourite cuts of the album. Like a white flag flapping in the wind, Saba surrenders. He’s tired of fighting and that’s perfectly fine. He subverts toxic masculinity without cuffing his jeans or wearing pastel like the icon that he is. There’s honour in futility but only if you admit to it first.

This is also one of the best verses of 2018 tbh. I have to put the whole thing here.

Me and my girl just fought ’cause I talked before she could talk
She was tellin’ a story, I cut her off with some shit not ’bout
The same topic so she just stopped in the middle before the plot
Hit the rest of the car ride silent like “You always do this”
Like “You don’t value my thoughts, either that or you too damn stupid
To realize that if you don’t hear me out then I’ma feel muted
You say that you care, well show it, I’m not askin’ a lot
I know you think you listenin’ but you just waitin’ to talk”

Damn.

 

The sun shines through on the next cut, “SMILE”. He channels his inner Aminé and exchanges gloom for a warm dose of nostalgia. Family is central to Saba and it shows.

Warmer outside and safe ol’ playground, grandma payroll cut, yeah

Whenever I’m trying to do anything to the best of my capabilities, I imagine someone important to me watching because their imaginary approval matters more than my own. “LOGOUT” encapsulates this by showing the weight we give to our virtual identities. Nothing we do matters if no-one is there to see it. It’s like the philosophical cliché “if a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Ain’t no beauty in the absence of broadcastin’ to your followers

I’m a total sucker for hip-hop songs that double as stories. Immortal Techniques “Dance with the Devil” or Ab-Soul’s “Book of Soul” being prime examples. When rappers strip away the metaphors and get intimate, shivers run through my body. “PROM/KING” is this and more. I won’t do it any justice by writing about it, so in the immortal words of Frank Ocean ‘here’s what I think about music and journalism: The most important thing is to just press play’.

“HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME” is the perfect close to the album. On the first track, he imagines his cousin’s lifeless body on the floor, sirens wailing in the distance. Saba paints the ensuing chaos on this song. We can hear the hospital bed as it rattles through the hospital halls, the rhythmic beep of life-support machines, flowers on his bedside, the glint of the Grim Reapers scythe as he hovers away.

It’s alright though, Saba concludes. His soul is in a better place.

There’s heaven all around me, there’s heaven all around
No, I can’t feel no pain, and I can see the stars
No, I ain’t leave in vain, but I know we with God

 

 

 

beerbongs and bentleys: Post Malone

Quote: “If you’re looking for lyrics, if you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop.”

Remember when we collectively pointed our pitchforks away from Kanye, for a second, and pointed them at Malone?

When his caucasity became the center of his career?

Does this white mumble rapper from Texas know about the true meaning of hip-hop?”

But in a way, Post Malone was right. Hear me out.

If you’re looking to cry, if you’re looking to think about life then don’t listen to hip-hop. Listen to beerbongs and bentleys. There’s a difference.

Post Malone is a circle trying to fit into the square that is hip-hop.

I’m going to dive right into this with ‘Stay’. Listen to it more than once. In fact, listen to it a couple of times.

postmalone

Just like ‘Leave’ from his debut album, Stoney. ‘Stay’ sees him brandishing his acoustic guitar and, subsequently, we watch his hear melt onto the floor. Don’t get it twisted. ‘Stay’ may sound sweet on the surface but it’s gut-wrenching. He sings 2 ad libs away from bawling like a man-baby.

You put your cigarette out on my face

‘Over Now’ is the worst way to break up with someone. It’s venomous. He’s spitting poison at her with angry circa-Kevin Rudolph guitar riffs slashing through whatever was left of that relationship. In a phrase, “fuck you”.

I’ma put that bitch pussy in a motherfucking bodybag

You kept your heart on the counter in a Prada bag

Now, have you noticed how much Black rappers complain about their money? Think about it:

  • “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” P. Diddy and Mase.
  • ‘All Falls Down’ Kanye West.
  • ‘Real Friends’ Kanye West.
  • The tragedy that is ‘Speedin Bullet to Heaven’ Kid Cudi.
  • Drake. . . All the time.

The way I see it: White musicians tend to relish in their new found fame or say nothing about it (Mike Posner being a popular exception). I don’t know. Maybe I don’t listen to enough white rappers.

Post Malone is the bridge. He’s a white rapper complaining about his new money problems like a black artist. Hence ‘Rich and Sad’.

The song is exactly what it says it’s about. Lil’ Posty is a sad Ritchie Rich, crying in his Maybach, tears as cold as the ice on his rings.

I just keep on wishin’ that the money made you stay

So on one hand, he hates his new-found fame and wealth. But at the same time, he relishes in it. Like the twins, in “Zack and Codeine” we find Malone living his best life. If the Tipton was a trap house, that is.

The fast life is a rolling hill. The highs have breathtaking views. The lows are the sunken place. MDMA, but perpetually.

zach and codeine

“Candy Paint’ has a nursery rhyme flow, but it’s rude AF. I’d totally have rapped along to this in class 3, giggling like I’m in on a naughty secret.

Beerbongs and bentleys plays like your wildest dreams over a blunt and a sunset with your stoner friends and then having all those things come true.

And a sunset has never felt the same since.

postmalone5

Cool Kids Only: DJ Mkuzi

This interview was recorded on 29th November 2017 and published on 22nd January 2018.

 

FLOABS: Where are we?

DJ Mkuzi: Hi, my name is Mkuzi. We are in Mombasa at Moonshine Beach Bar.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a dj? Like when were you first interested and when did you decide yes, I want this to be my life.

I think I’ve always been interested in music. The more I grew up, the more the burning desire grew inside me. Anything music related was just my thing. I always wanted to be a producer, I always wanted to be a dj and I’m so happy that im pursuing everything that I’m doing right now. Regardless of what I’m doing on the side, this is the one thing that drives me to wake up everyday; it excites me everyday.

 

How did your family react when you first told them about what you want to do?

I remember I was with my bro and my mum, straight out of high school. They asked “what do you want to be?”

I told them i wanted to be a producer and my bro laughed. He laughed so hard. He couldnt believe it. It got me scared kidogo, but as I kept growing up I kept on growing my confidence. They didn’t take it well. My older bro still doesn’t take it well right now as we speak despite the achievements that I’ve made but hey, one day as it comes. I guess one day they’re gonna realize how great of an achievement it is for me just to do my thing and be happy with it.

Talk about Mkuzi the DJ vs. Mkuzi the producer.

Mkuzi the producer is that sound that I really want to get out there, and it’s really inspired by my culture. I’m Mijikenda- Rabai to be specific and I think we have some really amazing music. I went up there, to the village, and just listened to those guys do their thing and I want to get it out there, make it cooler than it already is. Take it places. It deserves to be out there, enjoyed by everyone else, not just locally.

mkuzi 5

 

Mkuzi the dj is a different dynamic. He kills it on stage all the time. He plays what people like- what’s fresh. He’s a cool kid.

 

mkuzi 2

DJ Mkuzi at Diani Beach Festival 2017/2018

Real quick: Cdj’s or Controllers?

Cdj’s everyday. Yeah, controllers make things work a little bit easier but I think it’s just how I learnt. I learnt on cdjs and you have so much more control over what you do. There’s no guess work, let me just put it that way. If you see someone killing it on cdj’s, they really are. They dont need any help with anything, it’s just them expressing themselves musically.

And what’s your overall favorite piece of gear?

Favorite piece of gear, my headphones. These are my babies. Pioneer Hdj-C180. I would never appreciate music the way I do without a good pair of headphones.

mkuzi dj

DJ Mkuzi (left) at Earthdance Nairobi 2017

What do you think about the music scene in Mombasa? What does it mean to be a house dj from Mombasa culturally speaking.

It’s tough. In the beginning, it was quite a challenge. Literally playing for no one. But I’ve put in a lot of work. This year especially, I’ve had the privilege of working with like minded individuals who also DJ. We formed the 808 crew, namely: me, Himmy K, Rathod and AQce. 

808 poster

As a collective, we’ve achieved quite a number of things and we’ve got other people who also want to come aboard and I think 2018 is gonna be bigger and better – watch out for that space.

I think we inspire most people out there to get out of their comfort zone and y’know, not just listen to what their used to listenening or what’s being given to them, but go that extra mile to look for good music and appreciate it. That’s our point. It was hard in the beginning but it’s looking up, it’s looking really good.

What does the art of dj-ing mean to you?

The art of dj-ing means being able to express the music that you want to play to someone and not in the same way that it’s been given, if you can manipulate it or add something extra to it it, even if you don’t do any of those- just playing the right music at the right time, the right jams at the right vibe. That’s it.

If you can make someone just a little bit happier, make someone remember something from the music you’ve played, make someone forget all the problems they might be facing or going through – that for me is the most important thing.

Do you ever play songs you’re not feeling, just because it’s a crowd favorite? How does that make you feel?

I’ve played songs I am not feeling, many times I’d say. You just have to look at who you’re playing it for. Like I said, if it’s gonna make someone a little bit happier or someone is going to get a little bit more content just from hearing something that they enjoy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to enjoy it.

Maybe it’s in a language that I don’t understand. Maybe that’s the reason I don’t enjoy it. As long as it’s making somone happy- that’s the most important thing. Don’t always look at it from your side, look at it from the other person’s point of view. If it’s making it better for them to enjoy their night, making it a little more pleasant for them, then why not?

Who are your influences internationally and in the Kenyan music scene?

Black Coffee. I used to play with the idea of being a dj but I really didn’t do anything about it for quite a long time until I saw Black Coffee doing his thing. There he was dj-ing with one arm and you could see he was going places. Each and every day, I kept looking up to him as he kept on growing bigger and bigger. That was one thing that gave me the extra push to just get out there and do my thing because I literally had no excuse- here’s this guy doing it with one arm. I started off and I took each day as it came. I still look up to him, he’s scaling higher heights than he was back when I decided to do this. One day I hope to grace a stage he’s played in.

Black-Coffee

Black Coffee

Locally, basically just the whole 6am crew. Drazen, Kuzi, Foozak, Suraj. They’re doing great things, they’re the pioneers of electronic music in Kenya. They’re growing bigger. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to get to where they are. Maybe even surpass it.

What does the future look like for Mkuzi? What are some of the projects you have coming up?

The future is looking good, so bright. Right now, I’m just prepping for the Diani Beach festival. I’m in Diani in December from the 26th to the 1st.

By the end of the first quarter of 2018 I should have an EP out. I think there’s gonna be a lot of production on my side. A lot of gigs as well, but personally I’m just keen on the production. There’s gonna be some really cool stuff in 2018. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Peter Mkuzi is a fast rising dj/producer in the Kenyan house music scene. He is a member of the DJ/Producer collective, 808, and is based in Mombasa.

Follow DJ Mkuzi on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mkuzi

Follow DJ Mkuzi on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/djmkuzi/

Art & Its Connection to the Artist

I came across Joji when I fell down a Spotify-shaped rabbit hole some time ago. Mentally, I wasn’t at the best place so his music fit my mood perfectly. His lo-fi brand of melancholy was extremely soothing to my soul and I was going to do a feature but as always, procrastination decided otherwise.

Late last year, I meet this guy at a friend’s graduation and we get into a conversation about 88rising, an Asian label that’s been gaining a lot of traction lately. Dude asks me if I listen to Rich Chigga and of course, I do. He asks if I know Joji and again, I do. Then he asks if I listen to Pink Guy. I haven’t.

Now, for the uninformed, Pink Guy is, to put it simply, an extremely fucked up Teletubby. He does normal YouTuber things like prank videos, skits and occasionally, cooks rats.. This befouled cartoon character brought to life is a creation of George Miller who also happens to be the aforementioned artist, Joji. Turns out before Joji was Joji, he was Filthy Frank. A Youtuber I had only heard of in passing. Are you still with me? Good.

Think of the vilest, most repulsive troll you can think of and maybe then you’ll be close to imagining who Filthy Frank is. Currently, at 5.2 million YouTube subscribers, Filthy Frank embodies a brand of comedy that crosses unsettling, passes absurdist and lands right at the center of fucked up. Like a live-action family guy.

Filthy Frank and Pink Guy are both characters that George Miller plays. They exist in a universe of his own creation bound only by his rules and his moral code. They are in no way a representation of who he actually is.

This juxtaposition between Joji  (plaid-wearing mopey indie artist) and Filthy Frank (Satan incarnate) got me thinking about artists and their personas. At what point does the artist stop and the art continue?

I believe that there are roughly two ways to answer this.

You could choose to see the art that one creates as separate and distinct from the one that creates it. A parent gives life to their child but ultimately they are two separate people. The good thing about this is that it allows us to appreciate art objectively. It allows us to listen to R. Kelly without thinking of golden showers or watch House of Cards without bile seeping down our throats.

At the same time, by separating the art from the artist you’re effectively turning your back on the things that they may have done. If your favourite musician beats his girlfriend and you continue to listen to their never-ending stream of music aren’t you continuing to support them? Or alternatively, to turn this question on its head, if you boycott whatever artist that happens to be embroiled in the saga of the day are you denying the others involved in the creation of that art their due? It’s kinda like the teacher making the whole class kneel because of that one loud mouth. Is moral indifference the answer? To quote an extremely articulate friend of mine:

The art and the artist may or may not be separate, but the fact that the art feeds the artist and the artist feeds the art means that we must link them together.

This brings us to the second perspective you can choose to take in your interpretation of this relationship. Art as an expression of its creator. Whatever you create, whatever you say, is an expression of you. Everything you’ve ever said or written is semi-autobiographical whether you like it or not. The children that I will have someday will be persons separate from me but I shall continue to exist in their big eyes and lack of facial hair. Oscar Wilde puts it brilliantly in The Picture of Dorian Grey when he says, ‘Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter’.

If you take this view, everything is ruined for you. The moment we hear George R.R. Martin got a little too frisky with his secretary, you can never go back to Westeros. Filthy Frank and Pink Guy, despite being characters, would then be inseparable from George Miller.

There’s no clear course of action. At least, I don’t see one.

For you, is art like the bible? An outpouring of words from people inspired.

Is art like a Picasso?  A broken and true reflection of society. Or are we not meant to understand any of it?

At the end of last year, George brought Filthy Frank to an end. He explains that he no longer enjoyed producing that kind of content and that playing all those different characters took a toll on his physical and mental health. Here, the artist has brought his art to an end. The connection is now severed. I wish I could say the same about Woody Allen.

Featured Image: The Great Wave off Kanagawa; Hokusai

Slide: BNRD ft. Mankind, Nomad

 

I used to think that alternative R&B was a genre I made up in my head. Something that sounds like R&B but think Babyface meets Octopizzo. So for anything that doesn’t fit into this well constructed box of genre, you get assigned the prefix ‘alternative’.

I don’t mind at all. In fact, I would like to exist in this alternative universe where this music is considered mainstream. It must be a pleasant universe with no black outs and fountains of pinot noir.

BNRD, Mankind and Nomad and blazing the trail for Kenyan chill-hop. The production on this is so meticulous, each percussion hit, the way it pans like the sounds are dancing around your head. All of it is intentional.

Plus the music video is the flyer for the wavy carefree Kenyan boy experience. It makes me want to smoke trees and kick it with these guys. And I guess that’s just the point- Life makes you feel bad enough, just let your music make you feel good.

 

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Top Ten Singles of 2017

 

Let’s face it, 2017 sucked. Everything that could have gone wrong mostly did go wrong. Chester Bennington and Lil Peep died. Sheesha got banned (we’re still reeling). However, in the nasty grey rubble that was 2017, a few diamonds were found – and they came in the form of music. Music is the only thing that saved us closing the curtains and calling it quits so, in appreciation of this, we have compiled our favourite songs from this year. This list is not in any particular order because we feel the songs may be too different to compare. Enjoy and forgive us for all the gems we’ve probably missed.

 

10. Dreezy, 6lack, Kodak Black –  Spar

Political dissatisfaction has been a major theme in hip-hop this year and Trump is the punching bag that every rapper gets a round at. Rightfully so, in fact. The most precise and pin-pointed attack has been courtesy of Dreezy, 6lack, and Kodak. Inhabiting arguably different spectrums of the genre, these artists came together to channel their anger against a broken system. All on a disgusting trap beat.

 

9. Tyler, The Creator – 911/ Mr. Lonely (feat. Frank Ocean)

Loneliness in 2017 is a cliche. Everyone is sad and wants to die, you don’t really need to say it anymore. Tyler turns this on its head and reaches out. To the cops. It’s a pretty standard ‘Tyler the Creator’ way of doing things but he commits to this feeling throughout the entire song. The most melodic cry for attention this 2017, featuring a hook from Daddy Frank himself.

 

8. Jorja Smith – On my mind

Jorja Smith’s fame skyrocketed this year. After her feature on More Life, Jorja’s run of epic singles began. Capping them off would be ‘on my mind’, my favourite of them all. On a UK garage beat, a largely dormant genre this year, Jorja voices her anger towards a, particularly shitty lover. It’s catchy and her soulful voice brings the point across clearly. Hope we can finally get an album in 2018.

 

7. Tunji – Mat za Ronga

This jam made traffic especially fun for me. Trying to find all the mats from the song was like bingo for particularly sunny days on Langata road. Tunji takes this part of our culture and gives it the recognition it deserves in a song that is as grand and bright as the matatus he describes. If there was a club anthem this year, it would be this song (right after Bablas, of course).

 

6. SZA – 20 Something

This is a survival prayer. It’s stripped down to just her voice and a guitar to guide you in traversing this borderline between childhood and adulthood: the summary of being in your 20’s.

It’s okay to be scared of an unknown future. It’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be a little sad sometimes because you’re not where you feel you’re supposed to be. I think you should give yourself more credit though. Clap for yourself, you made it through another year of driving blindfolded, but can’t you feel the mask slowly slipping with each passing moment? Isn’t your vision and the direction you want getting clearer each day?

You’re not alone, we’re alone. Together.

5. Thundercat – Lava Lamp

This drunken silly man just sang what might be the feelsiest song of any album this year. Free from judgement, it’s an ode to detachment. To distancing yourself from what is not of benefit. To letting go. Only then will you realize that you don’t really need everything you imagined.

 

4. Ibeyi – Me Voy

It’s December. Let the island rhythm set you lose and loose you. Raindance in the night time under a bamboo showers. Feel the humidity with every beat of the drum. Ibeyi might be this decade’s NinaSky. Channeling their ancestors. Vibrating on a higher frequency.

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you remember NinaSky right?

 

3. Col3trane – Penelope

I’m sorry but Coltr3ane is to Frank Ocean what Desiigner is to Future.

Hello ethnically ambiguous Frank Ocean jr. Even how he gets you bumping to the saddest lyrics is Frank. The beat switch ups are Frank. The heavy reverb that makes him sound like he’s singing in a fast speeding air-conditioned car – is Frank.

I’ll take it. This is what I prayed for all the years I sat gathering dust in a corner, waiting on Frank to finally drop Blonde.

2. Omousangare – Koun koun (Jinku remix)

The way it starts is like it’s on a jungle river rowing you at a steady pace. You trust where it’s going because it’s happening at the right time at the right place, even the transitions happen at the right time at the right place. It’s always the right time. It’s always the right place.

It breathes and gently hits. Like an entire village chanting for rain or harvest. A song of the people.

Like a song mother taught you when you were young, and you don’t know what the words mean, but you understand the feeling of it. The meaning is innate even though you don’t necessarily speak the language. You know what it means.

 

  1. Jaden Smith – BLUE

‘Did you listen and did you kind of understand the fact that it’s four separate songs that is one?’

SYRE, as a whole, felt like an entirely new approach to the arrangement of an album. The intro is four songs long and the outro is in the middle of the album. BLUE, the crown jewel of the album, plays out like an orchestral arrangement. We have a crescendo at the beginning of L, avant-garde chord progressions and the most random changes in tempo. I love it.  The entire album is inspired by the major artists of our generation. Kanye, Cudi etc. This bit, however, is entirely Jaden’s. Confusing and non-sensical but, ultimately, compelling.

Featured image: Masashi Wakui

 

 

No Chances: Vallerie Muthoni (prod. FireOneSam)

Ghai. She bodied this. This is the kind of fire that  spontaneously combusts you because you-did-not-see-it-coming. Dead bodies everywhere in the streets.

Vallerie Muthoni: Kenyan songstress. Kenyan rapper. She has come to snatch the hair off our scalps. Who is a 21 Savage? Who is an A$AP Rocky? Put her on an XXL Freshman Cypher now.

Don’t you love it when a person knows what they want and goes for it no apologies? Add a hard 808 to that and the world is yours Toni Montana.

Not a rapper tho.

Still bodied your favourite rapper tho.

Try not to burst into flames on the first listen.

on any block

Listen to Vallerie Muthoni’s Soundcloud here.

Stream No Chances by Vallerie Muthoni here.

Aromanticism: Moses Sumney

My relationship with love is murky. I can swear- and I have sworn- that I’ve felt it, but I really don’t trust myself on this anymore. I know that I’ve used the word when I shouldn’t have. I also know there times I should have used it but I didn’t. Have I lived life long enough to understand what it really is? Probably not. Even then, what is it really? I have all these questions to which there can be no definite answer.

Instead, what I want is the conviction that comes with lovelessness. I want my walls dark and cold and more importantly, I want to be okay with that.

Aromanticism—the incapacity or unwillingness to reciprocate romantic feelings or love

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Moses Sumney’s debut Aromanticism is active in its embrace of despair. Love is mandatory and we are all expected to be at some stage of it. Falling into it, falling out of it, searching for it or running away from it.

On “Don’t bother calling”, Moses knows enough about love to know that he can’t do it. He sees it and he feels it but he doesn’t want it. It’s honest and necessary. Better to not be loved than to be strung along. Even when you’re the one doing the stringing.

You need a solid, but I’m made of liquid
Trust in me, I am the son of the sea
And I’ll call you when I feel finally free

Through the lenses of gloom, Moses paints a relationship. He describes a love that is grotesque and bare. Undesirable to him and him alone.

Through the walls of Jericho
Lies a heart of stone
With you, half the battle
Is proving that we’re at war

Moses’s sullen voice is the soul of every song with every instrument rising and falling on his command. It is breathy and atmospheric and the production value is underplayed. The bass section stars Thundercat and Ludwig Göransson, the producer responsible for most of Childish Gambino’s albums.

Like Moses, we should ignore all the formalities that come with love. Love doesn’t have to be a cat and mouse game. Say what you want from the outset. Make it easier for everyone.

I’m not tryna go to bed with you
I just wanna make out in my car

“Doomed” plays like a dirge. Moses believes in love but he doesn’t feel it. Will he be punished for this? He asks himself. In not feeling love, is he doomed?

If lovelessness is godlessness
Will you cast me to the wayside?

Moses isn’t doomed. To quote Buddha, no one saves us but ourselves. It could be faith or it could be self-love but there’s enough in you to keep you sane. If you don’t know what that is for you then talk to someone.

 

 

 

“And if you couldn’t be loved, the next best thing was to be let alone.”
-L.M Montgomery

Image: NY Times

Rated: 4.2/ 5

Why Jamhuri Jam Sessions is changing the Kenyan music scene

Today’s post is brought to you by the ever charismatic, ever entertaining music junkie herself, Joy Ruguru.

 

Who’s that chic? I asked my events buddy as we sat in the dark auditorium listening to the bird on stage. She’s Achieng, he whispered back. Hmm, how do you know her?
“Kwani you don’t watch Jamhuri Festival?”

As soon as I settled home that night after the Mufasa poetry event, I went straight to my laptop. Typed ‘you’ and Google did the rest. There, I finally found my answer.

Since then in mid-2016, I spent a few minutes every other day on the Jamhuri Festival YouTube channel. Waiting for me were familiar Kenyan artists like H_art The Band, and Fena Gitu who was doing her thing tho. Bensoul was even singing on his own before Masheesha happened.

So this was the famous online music series called Jamhuri Jam Sessions. With already 2 ‘volumes’ and almost 20 episodes, there was a lot to see. The deal? A talented Kenyan artist performed an African song cover followed by their original song. Not on a wide stage like Achieng though, but in a tiny room that resembled a studio. Sometimes you’d also find a Sauti Sol member deftly playing his guitar with his Fancy Fingers.

I was even convinced Jamhuri Festival was his brainchild.

 

May the real founder please stand up. It was only this year that I met Tom Olang’o, a Nairobi-based bass player – who’s only 23! As the name suggests, he started Jamhuri Festival as an event back in August 2015. That night, both old and new Kenyan artists came together to perform to the youthful crowd at Alliance Francaise Garden. They went through a Kenyan musical journey traversing the last two decades – complete with electrifying performances from Mr. Lenny to Le Band.

 

I know, where were we?

 

But let’s go back a bit further. If you still remember your Kiswahili from school, jamhuri is the African word for republic. Tom and his friends wanted to give Kenyan artists the freedom and independence to express themselves through music. A platform to create and share their talents. So far, they’ve done this through community block parties, and even free creative clinics for upcoming artists.

Oh, and you hear about Twice Upon Yesterday – an event held by Third Hand Music that featured a host of other Nu Nairobi acts? Jamhuri Festival was there too.

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Their most recent collaboration is a yummy one – with Nyama Mama restaurant at Delta Towers in Westlands, Nairobi. You may have seen a video of Steph Kapela singing with kitenge cushions lying lazily in the background. Yup, our artists have upgraded from a tiny sitting room to the open seating space of the swanky new restaurant in town. But that’s not even the best part.

Every Wednesday night, Jamhuri Festival hosts a local artist or band to perform there in what is dubbed Mama’s Jamhuri Sessions. Free event by the way. This where you meet all the cool cats you only knew of their existence from the YouTube channel, either performing or supporting a fellow artist. Basically, it’s a gathering of music lovers. For example, did you know Phy is one petite lady? Kinda like Arianna: small body, grand voice.

In the urban crowd, you will always spot the tall and dark bass player, who looks nothing like 23. He usually has this cool denim jacket on with the colorful Jamhuri Festival logo plastered on the back; you wish he could bless you with one. But since you’re humble, you sit down and enjoy a cold drink or the gourmet version of your favorite Kenyan meal. And take it down with a glass of fresh Nu Nairobi music.

Okay, enough talk from me. Since you came here to watch videos, here are 5 of the best Jamhuri Jam Sessions to satisfy your curiosity (it wasn’t easy to narrow it down by the way). These fiery voices warmed my heart, proof that Kenyan music is golden. Don’t believe me?

Let’s see.

Wendy with the catchy songs. Slay, queen:

 

Introducing your next three favorite boys in town (after H_art The Band that is):

 

It was 2017 when the Kenyan Trapper went Spanish guitar on us:

 

Get your tissues ready, guys. I mean girls:

 

And of course, Ach13ng:

 

I know what you’re asking yourself… how do I get to watch these guys perform live? Well, Kemunto already slew the Nyama Mama stage and snatched my heart at the same time. I (and someone else I know here) cannot wait for Ayrosh’s turn. Yeah, Folk Fusion wasn’t enough new school mugithi for 2017.

With this post, I now give you the power to discover your new favorite Kenyan acts every week on Jamhuri Jam Sessions. Since I know all you cool cats are on Instagram, follow Jamhuri Festival to know the next Nyama Mama star. Because who knows, it might just be Achieng.

Cover Image: 1,2

For more writing that breathes into your soul, visit The Music Junkie. You can also catch her on The Music Junkies on USIU Radio from 12-2p.m.

Trip: Jhene Aiko

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Trip is a 4 sided dice that never stops rolling and you never know which side it will land on.

Side A- grief; the loss of a loved one. Side  B- experimenting with psychedelics. Side C- falling in love. Side D- falling out of love.

It’s about losing yourself and finding yourself all over again.

This project arrived with a masterful short film in which Jhene plays a fictionalized version of herself: Penny the Poet.

And how could I review something called Trip, without sprinkling some trippy imagery here and there?

Enjoy the trip.

drugs 1

 

We open with grief and psychedelics in ‘LSD’. Jhene’s brother, Miyagi, passed away in 2011 after battling cancer. On this track, she talks to him and tells him about her experience with the drug. How that tiny piece of paper made her feel closer to him, almost like she could talk to him and he’d talk back.

Everything you said I shouldn’t do
But those things bring me closer to you,

So the other night, I
Took a tiny piece of paper and put it under my tongue
This white guy said it’d be fun, and it was, but
What I saw
Oh my God, oh my God

‘Jukai’ is a forest in Mount Fiji, also known as suicide forest, where people go to die peacefully, amongst the sea of trees. She relates this forest to escapism; her need to run away to a place where she can never be found.

In an interview on Beats 1 Radio, she broke it down like this:

One night I was in [the studio] with the Fisticuffs and we were partaking in marijuana and we were watching a documentary about Aokigahara, the suicide forest in Japan. My great-grandmother was born in Hawaii, but she’s actually Japanese. My grandfather is Japanese, too. So I’ve always wanted to go. After my brother passed — actually, my whole life — I’ve been very interested in death. Not afraid of it, but interested and intrigued. I was watching that [documentary] and it was such a beautiful forest. Maybe people go there and they just feel at peace. Of course, everyone has different reasons for making that decision.
It’s definitely a place I’ve been in my mind: ‘Hmm, if I were to decide to do that, how would I do it?’ So we started with a guitar and I wanted to write a song about that place and go there in my mind. I know that sounds morbid, but it was true. It was a fantasy of me going there. It’s not super obvious in the song, but I say how my feet keep touching the ground [and] it’s not working for me. Then I’m saved by a guy. But in real life I was on a hike in Big Sur and I was getting emotional. Then I looked up through the trees and I saw the sun. It felt like the sun saved me, which, in itself, is [symbolic]: the Son of God or the sun in our solar system. It just felt like a love story.

‘While we’re young’ and ‘Moments ft. Big Sean’ are a summer of falling in love- with someone else, with yourself, with life. All guards and inhibitions thrown to the wind. The free-est you’ve ever been. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is an upbeat pop synth number about fighting for that same love.

‘When we Love’. When falling into a love that seems too good to be true, be mindful- it just might be. It usually is.

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But seriously, who is this man who keeps giving her drugs. Big Sean, is it you?

She gives us something for the aux in ‘Sativa’ ft. Swae Lee. Staying true to the substance theme, if this song was a drug (I know, it’s called Sativa), it would be lean. It’s a drowsy eyes-closed slow-bumping banger.

‘New Balance’ is a heartfelt poem, originally posted on her tumblr, dedicated to finding that someone who will patiently help you heal all your wounds. Guitar courtesy of John Mayer.

jhené aiko efuru chilombo new balance

‘You are here’ is getting to know this person deeper and finding out who they really are. Yeah this is fun but are you sure? Are you sure you won’t hurt me? The same sentiments are echoed in ‘Newer balance freestyle’

Shit hits the fan in ‘Never Call Me’ and her eyes are wide open now. She sees it, she sees that it wasn’t really love. It was mostly just drugs. Also taking this opportunity to land a few jabs at her ex-husband, producer Dot-da-genius.

So let’s stop pretending like we were in love
We never shared anything but the drugs
We were both numb, never had anything real between us

Ironic because the next track in the album is produced by Dot da Genius. ‘Nobody’ is learning how to be alone again. However, the drugs switch from psychedelics to prescriptions, partly at fault is Dr. Chill.  (Dr. Chill’s identity will be revealed shortly). How the issues in her life are mostly resolved with a “Here. Take this. It will make you feel better.”

drugs 2

 

Okay, so far we’ve met Lsd, Sativa, and prescription pills. ‘Overstimulated’ is coke.  The highs are short and fleeting. The come downs are cruel and unforgiving. Her addiction is rising. It’s an enchanting R&B feel and we get to swirl through Jhene’s mind along with her. She talks to the drugs like they’re a bad lover.

Why you never stay for long? You always go so fast
Who’s gonna hold my hand when I’m crashing

She’s coming down in ‘Oblivion’. That feeling of emptiness after it all ends. When nothing can fill the void. This one is my personal favorite- the sounds wave in and out of each other and the reverb makes it all the more ethereal and heavy. Everything from the percussion to Dr. Chill’s verse is a hovering darkness.

I love how direct she is in ‘Psilocybin’. Incase you had any doubts, yes. She is talking about shrooms. It’s calming (the song not shrooms idk I’ve never tried it) like a mantra i’d recite to myself to remind me I’m here. This is where I am and exactly where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. It is the right place. It is the right time.

Dear Dr. Chill, how have I lived without your smooth jazz wisdom all this time? Someone please give this psychedelic man a record deal and an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. (Right. Dr. Chill is Dr. Chilombo a.k.a Baba Jhene)

dr chill

I’m from the Universe soul
We’re all from the Universe soul 

Mummy and baby sing together on ‘Sing to me’ ft. Namikolove, her daughter. It’s as adorable and endearing as you think it is. Scratch that, it’s more. The beauty and vulnerable power in the image of a mother-daughter duo vs. the world moved me to tears in a feeling I haven’t felt since I finished watching Gilmore Girls.

The album moves through the stages of grief, finally ending in acceptance with ‘Frequency’. A prayer and a thanksgiving. And ‘Trip’ ft. Mali Music. Love pays but it also collects taxes. *shrugs* It’s a trip.

Life is a trip. Death is a trip. Family is a trip. Love is a trip. It’s all a constant unending journey. Breathe it all in, look around, learn, keep moving forward.

 

Rated : 4.3 / 5

 

 

 

Silk Noise Reflex: James Tillman 

Does everything feel like it’s going to shit? Does your life suck right now? Do you feel like no matter how hard you try it isn’t getting any better and you just can’t catch a break?

James Tillman got you. Take this sonic vacation with him. Escape in 4/4 into his silky world of dreamy electro-acoustic nu-jazz. Urban Lounge Music for the depressed and the stressed.

It’s so titular: Silk Noise Reflex. Silky and noisy in the finest ways; a reflex reaction of his emotions, the way one would normally react to what the world has to throw at you. Mellow and breakbeat. His falsetto is sweet and he sprinkles his percussions the way one would sprinkle salt, sparse but present. 

The moral lesson of each track can be summed up in a sentence. For example:

‘Rat Race’ = Slow down.
‘Death of a Star’ = sorry we couldn’t be together it’s no one’s fault.
‘Ms. Urbane’ = let it go.
‘Ms. Malaise’ = you make me happy
‘Human behavior’ = who are you to feel this way? Things happen to everyone everyday. No one’s feelings matter more.
‘Self Portrait of a New Yorker’ = why am I such a loner?
‘Tabloid theory’ = why am I still not happy?
‘Missed encounters’ = I just want to meet up and spend time with you

At night, the stars like fairy lights against the midnight blue backdrop. Drink wine and forget your woes, James will help you. 

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Freudian: Daniel Caesar

Two songs came out in 2016 that didn’t receive the airplay they deserved until later this year. These two songs are now certified classics. Songs you will play a month from now, on your wedding day and to your kids on long road trips.

Goldlink – Crew

Daniel Caesar – Get You

Once ‘Get You’ hit, Daniel Caesar’s shot to fame was bright and meteoric. When his first EP (Praise Break, 2014) came out, it was ranked number 19 on Rolling Stone’s Top Twenty R&B albums of 2014. I felt very left out. He’s been on his grind for three years but we’re only listening to him now? That’s the price artists pay for stardom. No-one cares how good you are until you have your first hit. Coincidentally, Goldlink.

Anyway, Daniel hasn’t stopped working hard.

His debut album Freudian is a sonical landscape of love and heartbreak intertwined like lovers on Insecure. On ‘Best Part’, his duet with H.E.R, aided by softly-strung guitars, hands inch closer to each other, stares grow deeper, the shade under the tree is warmer.

You’re my water when I’m stuck in the desert
You’re the Tylenol I take when my head hurts
You’re the sunshine on my life

‘Hold Me Down’ takes gospel and turns it into a PartyNextDoor interlude. Kirk Franklin into Tiller.

The rest of the album plays like a live concert. Songs flow into each other sounding better together than apart.

‘Loose’ plays out like intimate backstage practice. On the last half of the song, he performs the introduction to ‘We find love’ and it sounds like unrequited love. Sad, harsh, beautiful. When the song begins, this turns this into a rally cry. Breakups suck but it isn’t the end. We rise and we fall. The end is not the end.

You don’t love me anymore
Let’s see how you like this song

He still want to be loved though. He still wants it to all mean something.

Ever since the day that I met you
My world’s been spinning out of control
I just need you to hold

On ‘Blessed’, Daniel is a junkie at the knees of love. I may not be good for you but I can’t live without you.

It’s the way that you pray
Prey on my insecurities

Daniel takes his gospel roots and, hand in hand with an actual gospel choir, redefines soul in 2017.

This album will be a classic. Quote me.

 

Here’s a really nice piano cover. I hope it makes your day a little brighter:

 Image: Billboard

Rated: 4.4 /5

 

Finding clarity: Janice Iche

Floabs: Who do you think you are, Janice Iche?

Janice Iche: I think if there’s just one word that would describe me: it’s artist. Growing up and getting older, I’m using my brain more than I was and being more conscious and present. I’m learning many lessons, finally seeing the reason why things have been the way they’ve been since I was young, and there’s a reason I’m like this because I just have to be like this, y’know? By like this I mean-

Janice Iche-

Yeah.

Who do you want to be?

An artist, and I’m happy about this. I’m happy because everything I do is now productive in one way or another and it contributes to every piece of art that I want to make. I realize that I’m not just a musician, I’m so much more there’s so much more that I want to do and now I’m realizing why I’ve been wanting to do all those things and that makes it feel even more special.

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Why?

Because every single different art form has its purpose, but they all just merge into one. Growing up, I always felt very singular; it was always just me, especially in my teenage years. I felt different from everyone else, but all those experiences I had when I was by myself contributed to the person that I am today and I think it’s because I’m appreciating the person that I’m becoming. I’m starting to love it and I finally love myself. It’s exciting.

I’m accepting everything that I’ve seen and experienced in my life, and how they make me the person that I am today. It’s a very strong emotion and I’m happy about it. Literally, my heart is racing talking about it!

A friend once told me that I’m an empath because I feel very deeply and I feel other people’s emotions as well, and sometimes you don’t even know whether they’re your own emotions. Most times, they aren’t- because with your own emotions you always have this piece of yourself that you’re able to maintain.

I’m having so much fun in my life right now, discovering all these things and-

Discovering yourself-

Yes, and what I want to do. Everything is clearer. I know exactly the woman that I want to be and I’m actively going for it. It feels amazing.

Sometimes, I wish it would hurry up and get there but I know you’re supposed to enjoy the journey and well, it’s always gonna be a journey.

Why did you start JaniceIcheblog?

I realized that there’s so much that I want to create and share and I needed a platform to do that. Besides my music, everything I write is going to be on the blog. I also realized that I can use my vulnerability as my strength: I’m a very sensitive person and for the longest time, I’ve been having trouble dealing with the emotions that I carry; pretending that I don’t have these emotions when these emotions dictate every single day of my life. So I’ve been figuring out how to use these emotions to my own benefit. Instead of letting them keep me sad, I can turn it around and use them to my own advantage.

First of all, because I hate feeling alone- I want to show other people who also might be feeling alone that we, basically, have no reason to feel alone. Being open with our experiences and being able to share them gives us a sense of community as human beings, because we’re going through human experiences and human emotions but for some reason, everyone’s pretending not to have these emotions and experiences which are such a part of being human and being at this age and being a woman or being a man.

These are things that are common, but then everyone’s pretending like they don’t have these emotions then everyone feels like they’re alone. I don’t understand why that has to be and I don’t like it. I didn’t want to feel alone so I don’t want anyone to feel alone when they’re people out there who feel the same way.

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That’s why I started the blog: I wanted to be open, I wanted to be raw, and I wanted to be honest. I want to stop pretending like these things don’t exist- they exist. Why are we still pretending?

And it’s not like pretending is doing us any good. Everyone is depressed because no one is talking about their issues openly and genuinely. I guess I also want to show that genuine people do exist and there really is no need to feel like we’re alone because we’re going through the same thing. I wanted to spread awareness on the importance of being open and how transformative and revolutionary it can be.

Who are your influences?

My influences are black women who are going after their dreams and just being themselves fearlessly: Hannah Faith because she’s a sick dj, Solange, Oroma Elewa, Sza, Lee Litumbe, Yagazie Emezi. These black women who are just doing things and are at a level that I want to get to.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

These same women.

And when I see someone’s work online and you can tell that they’ve put in so much love, effort, dedication and passion. When I see this work, it inspires me and I’m like, “I have to do the same thing. I have to put my all into it.”

Also, all the bad ass bitches near me who really motivate me and inspire me. Alexis Nereah because she has created her own path and she’s living it and it’s working out for her. It just goes to show how if you’re passionate about something and determined, it’s bound to work out.

Darina Anstis. She’s creating her own beauty standards and going with it fearlessly not giving a fuck about what anyone will say and it’s beautiful and she’s beautiful.

Lyra Aoko because she’s a boss ass bitch, simply.

My cousin Mary, who’s another boss ass bitch going after what makes her happy and stable.

My mom too.

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So what does the future hold for janice iche?

A lot. My music: I’m still writing music. That’s the one form that I feel has to be perfect so I’m really taking my time with it, but the future is going to be me with albums and performing on worldwide stages and at the same time, indulging in other forms of art which I am finding my place in.

Janice Iche is a singer-songwriter, a feminist, and an activist against emotional abuse. You can find out more about her at https://janiceicheblog.wordpress.com 

You can listen to her music at https://soundcloud.com/janiceiche

 

Images by : Adrian Kumli 

Good for you: Aminé

Anna Mae

Amino

Amen

Aminay

STFU

Aminé, born Adam Aminé Daniels, is a child of Eritrean and Ethiopian immigrants, tired of people mispronouncing his name.

When the triple-platinum song “Caroline” came out, no-one knew what to say. Here’s this guy with an unnecessary number of bananas in his video, with weirder ad-libs than a Migos feature, and, again, a weird sounding name. A combination of all these factors, and amazing hair, took him to number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart (on Jan 7 2017, which was my birthday!)

His album, Good For You, is every bit as Aminé we had come to expect and more. Every song sounds as if it was recorded in the ambience of yellow walls and banana-centric fruit salads. It’s alternative hip hop and dancehall combined in ways Drake wouldn’t dare to try.

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New rappers these days have oddly similar tendencies. As soon as any gets their first few hit singles, the main topic on their debut album becomes the “started from the bottom now we’re here” story (see: Post Malone).  This bothers me because becoming great is a process and a debut album is nothing but the beginning. When Drake recorded ‘Started from the Bottom’, he already had two platinum albums. Aminé, unlike his freshmen in his class, pours his honest soul into his first attempt.

The album starts off with an amazing intro featuring the underrated Ty Dolla Sign. Despite sharing the stage with this acclaimed artist, Amine steps to the front and carries the song with his charisma and never-before-seen flow.

When recording the song “Yellow”, Aminé heard that Nelly was in the next studio and fangirled his way in. He asked him to come into his studio and this bright ray of sunshine was born:

Flyest under the sea, I’m gettin’ Krabby Patties (true)
Dukes gave me juice so this beat feel like it’s caffeine
Dreadlock nigga so my hair is pretty nappy (woo)

On “Hero”, he takes a stand on the mispronunciation of his name. He’s made it this far, the least we could do is know what é is.

Respect, that’s all I ask for
My feelings feel too

The sun sinks and dawn sets on the second half of his album, with songs espousing mellow evenings with the family and his verses becoming harder and clearer. On the song ‘Sunday’, he takes an existential step back and looks at his life through the lenses of fame:

And she left me at the house
She left me at the house
Religious but I’m lazy
Naked like a nudist
Fruity Loops and Stanley Kubrick
Peanut butter jelly
Cousin bumping Makaveli
Sipping Stellas with my fellas
Bumping nothing but Fela Kuti

On the cut “Turfs”, Aminé channels his inner Frank Ocean and gives us a narrative about throwing yourself at life:

I look around and I see nothing in my neighborhood
Not satisfied, don’t think I’ll ever wanna stay for good
Packed up my bags, told Mom and Dad I’ve gotta go, go
And once I do, they’ll finally see the inner me

When he speaks of what comes after, it isn’t the rags to riches stories that we’re sick off. It’s clarity and honesty and confusion:

Livin’ in LA for the weather, I FaceTime mom when I miss her
I got some homies that’ll never leave my hometown
When I pull up to the corner, it smell like Miley Cyrus
I told ’em I don’t smoke, they say “Boy, you fuckin’ wildin'”

The album feature list grows longer with contributions from Charlie Wilson (!!!), the auspicious Kehlani and Migos number-two, Offset.

Listening to this project, I’d say Aminé is happy with his life. Someday, he’s going to be Kanye but today, he can afford to buy his sister Supreme and that’s a heck of a start.

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Rated: 4.1/ 5

Image: Pigeons and Planes

 

Lust For Life: Lana Del Rey

Is there such a thing as wasted love?

Lana del Rey, the Lady of Sadcore, is smiling for the first time in her life and that’s (sort of) the theme of this album. That she can smile when she wants to; that although it may be gloomy most of the time, it’s not always frowny faces and cigarettes. Sometimes it’s sunshine and flowers and that’s okay too.


This newly-flexed smile muscle also comes with features, there really is a first time for everything. Lana gets by with a little help from her friends: The Weeknd, ASAP Rocky and pleasant surprises like Sean Lennon and Stevie Nicks.

In the title track ‘Lust for Life’ featuring the Weeknd and his beautiful harmonies, it could either mean that they’re too good to die this young or that they are ready to die now at the prime of their youth and careers, however they’re not very good people so much to their dismay, their punishment is life.

Or that the only thing keeping them alive is their love, rather- lust, for living. They want it that bad. The song plays out like a suicide pact between lovers. Regardless, it’s sweet.

They say only the good die young
That just ain’t right

‘Cause we’re having too much fun
Too much fun tonight

 

Now, is there such a thing as wasted love? Sure, it might be misguided, ugly, regrettable even- but is it ever purposeless, without reason nor lesson?

Stevie and Lana don’t seem to think so in ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’. A poem; a prayer- for their well of love to never run dry, and to never drown them. Amen.

But when I love him, get a feeling
Something close to like a sugar rush

It runs through me, but is it wasted love?
(Let’s not waste it, love)

In an interview with Pitchfork, she talked about being intimidated by Stevie Nicks and her legendary voice. Stevie called Lana’s breathy voice ‘her little echo’. It wasn’t condescending. On the contrary, Lana nearly fan-girl died.

“…I felt a little more exposed in that moment. But she was like, “That’s you. You just be you.” 

True enough, as soon as Stevie starts singing I can hear that Fleetwood Mac on the record player, warm, calm and honest.

My heart is soft, my past is rough

‘God bless America(and all the beautiful women in it)’ comes complete with patriotic gun fire. God bless ‘Murica but more importantly, bless its beautiful women.

It’s eerie how much Sean Lennon sounds like his father -maybe you’ve heard of him? His name was John, he sang in a little band from Liverpool called The Beatles- in ‘Tomorrow Never Came’. Can voices be hereditary? Do I have the same voice my grandmother had at my age? Or her grandmother? 

It’s sad and wistful: of star-crossed lovers who thought they’d be together someday, one day. But that day never came. What’s even more eerie is that it sounds like it was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 

She dips her foot into the hip hop universe with two ASAP Rocky features on ‘Groupie Love’ and ‘Summer Bummer’ showing us just how much she isn’t afraid to try new things. This is all becoming too much.

About ‘Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind’, and before you cry blasphemy and sacrilege, listen. Believe it or not, Coachella is the millennial’s solution to not being alive for Woodstock. I feel the FOMO every time someone says 1969, everytime I listen to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Lana addresses the critics that tore her down after that damning Saturday Night Live Performance, as well as after the release of her previous studio album, Honeymoon. She relishes in her slow mastery of the art of not giving a fuck, and finally starting to enjoy her new life, not as Lizzy but as Lana.

I applaud her attempts at diversity and as heavy as it is, this project does feel generally lighter than most of her previous works. But still, what’s Lana without a little melodrama?

Image: Consequence of Sound

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Flower Boy: Tyler the Creator

We’re all secretly depraved on the inside.

One of my favorite songs from Tyler the Creator is ‘She’. In it, this guy likes this girl and, as in most songs, he tries to pursue her. Unlike most songs however, Tyler details the lengths he is wiling to go. The bridge goes like this:

One, two, you’re the girl that I want
Three, four, five, six, seven, shit

Eight is the bullets if you say no after all this
And I just couldn’t take it, you’re so motherfuckin’ gorgeous
Gorgeous, baby you’re gorgeous

I just wanna drag your lifeless body to the forest
And fornicate with it but that’s because I’m in love with you, cunt

It’s depraved. But somehow, it’s sweet. Tyler does this masterfully. He walks the thin line between romance and necrophilia. Death and love. In his new album, it’s the same Tyler. Just this time instead of death and fornication, we get Scum Fuck and Flower Boy.

This album is Tyler’s existential crisis. This time, though, instead of being worried about his mental wellbeing (or being disgusted by it), we can empathize. Not all of us want to kill and romantically subdue our crushes, but we all feel lonely.

I need love, do you got some I could borrow?

I find this particularly profound because Tyler was the founder of Odd Future. To the uneducated, Odd Future was the rap group that gave us: Frank Ocean, The Internet, Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy, Domo Genesis and many other artists. Basically, Tyler once had very many friends. Now he’s alone? I mean, in the video below he was literally surrounded by his squad. I’ll go into the intricacies of Odd Future in another article.

This is something we can relate to. Haven’t we all at one point been in a situation that’s vastly different to the one you’re in now? I mean, how many high school ‘friends’ have you kept in touch with?

On the song “Foreword”, we get Tyler’s self-doubt:

How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive?
How much drive can I have ’til I run out of road?
How much road can they pave ’til they run out of land?
How much land can there be until I run in the ocean?

Life is absurd and nothing really matters,  so what’s the point of it all?

And if I drown and don’t come back
Who’s gonna know? (Baby, then I’ll know)

We get to see a sweeter side of Tyler free from rape-filled undertones. It’s pretty nice for a change.

Wonder if you look both ways
When you cross my mind, I said, I said

On this cut, Tyler proves his talents as a producer. The production value on cuts like “I ain’t got time” and “Who Dat Boy” are amazing. Further, the features are the best 2017 has offered so far. Jaden Smith, Kali Uchis, Lil Wayne, Steve Lacy, A$AP Rocky, Estelle and Frank Ocean? Step back and bow down please.

On this album, Tyler mentions topics or subjects that allude to his sexuality. Articles across the interwebs have come down on this and so far, Tyler hasn’t said much. I try not to fan the flames because someone’s sexuality isn’t click bait. If Tyler really has come out, then I’m really happy for him. The closet is cold and dark and KFC charges for deliveries. If he’s trolling us then we’re probably used to it.

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 4.2/ 5

Relaxer: Alt J 

With every release, Alt J seem like they’re falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole with no wish to return to the surface. I get it. The surface is lame.

True to it’s name, Relaxer is a sedative shot to the veins: Listen. Breathe.

It’s honest and vulnerable and washes over you like gently crashing waves such as in ‘Adeline’ and other times, like ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’, it’s gritty and anarchist and they shout, ‘Fuck you!’ But Alt J are far from nihilistic and random. Every single lyric means something. Even when it means nothing, that in itself means something. 

The general theme of this album is wishful thinking- it’s about loving someone you can’t be with. Lost love. Forbidden love. Unrequited love. Alt J frequently like to revisit this topic of a love that cannot be or one that is doomed to end in disaster. Remember the cinematic story of Gerda Taro and Richard Capa in the intoxicating ‘Taro’ from their debut project An Awesome Wave? They were both killed while documenting war. It was not a happy ending.

In ‘Adeline’, the Tasmanian devil cannot be with Adeline. Personally, I think it’s because he is a marsupial and she is human. Regardless, he is perfectly content with watching her swim under the Kodachrome blue sky. He wishes her well.

Ooh, I wish you well
I wish you well
I wish you well
I wish you well

As I listened to ‘House of the rising sun’, I saw the blazing sun burning a hole against the burnt orange sky, over a creaky house somewhere near the edge of the horizon. Mother cannot be with father. The day of reckoning is close. We shall all pay for our sins. 

Joe tells us what he did every month of last year until his untimely death in December in the song ‘Last Year’. The months pass. Life floats away. 

If I were to sum up this album in a few words:

Fuck you

I’ll do

Anything that I wanna do

Rated: 4.0 / 5 

Depression and Music

We don’t take artists as seriously as we should.

Creating music is a process that, ideally, should come from within. This is why rappers get so much shade if they are found or suspected to be using ghost writers. It’s considered wrong because music should be an artist’s impression of their own life. If someone wrote for you the words that we, as listeners, take to be true, it feels like actual betrayal. Kendrick spoke about peer pressure and we take all of his Compton adventures to be true and solid. If we find out, years from now, that he never wrote what we actually listen to then he would lose his value and standing as an artist.

As a wide exception to this, we give artists creative freedom. You can lie and give us all the bullshit you want as long as they are your lies and it is your bullshit.  Artists can bend and will their reality as they please because that’s what being an artist means. It means being creative and telling us ordinary things in a meaningful and poignant way. There’s a very thin line between being honest and creative and letting someone else be honest and creative for you. This is what we demand from our artists. That they give us truths as long as these truths are from them. Not ghost written.

This artistic independence means that, a lot of the time, we don’t take artists as seriously as we should. Music, as myself and Chia have written about, is background noise to us these days. We don’t sit and listen to music, we vibe to it. What this means is that we end up listening to the music and not the artist. We miss their cries for help because that drop after the second verse was insane. We vibe but we don’t empathize.

Joy Division was an alternative band formed in England in 1976. Their lead singer was Ian Curtis, a soulful singer with a very gritty voice. They achieved a moderate amount of success in the late 70’s. On 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide. Thing is, his lyrics were dark. To quote his wife after his death ‘His lyrics were dark. So very dark.’ His bandmates knew this. Because of the opaque banner that is ‘creative license’ we take these words and shove them under the carpet. We vibe but we don’t empathize. I mean, if this is not a cry for help then what is?

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Chester Bennington, the lead singer for Linkin Park, died a week ago.

I may have appreciated the artistic works of Prince and Michael Jackson and mourned for them when they did, but I didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t feel their deaths the same way that my parents did. They were not part of the culture I adore, they were only idols to it. But I grew up with Chester. At 13, I knew every Linkin Park song from every Linkin Park album that existed, I shit you not. Through their music, my angst and frustrations with the absurdity of life had a voice. Their music was loud and filled with pain but it warmed my growing soul. But, just like Tyler the Creator’s coming out, all the signs were there.

Somewhere I belong (2003) Meteora

I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

Easier to Run (2003) Meteora

It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone

Crawling (2000) Hybrid Theory

Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real

I’m not saying we should overanalyze everything we hear because our favorite artist is going to kill themselves. Sometimes people don’t mean what they say and that’s fine. What I’m saying is that we should listen. Show compassion. Realise that creative license is just that. James Bond has a license to kill but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a alcoholic womanising gun-toting murderer.

If you have or know a person going through something and expressing themselves in whatever creative manner they choose, reach out. Life’s a bitch and then you die but friends are friends and you will miss them when they are gone.

I started this blog to appreciate artists while I could. Chester, I’m sorry it took me this long. I hope you find peace.

When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me and, when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest