Nairobi Nights: Musing at MUZE

I didn’t feel like going to the club. It was a Thursday, I was broke, and social situations were starting to feel like interrogations at a time when I needed to be alone with my thoughts. But Nairobi is Nairobi. There’s always something happening. My mind was distracted, but in a conversation with my body- they decided that going would be good for the partnerships I was trying to forge for the year. After all, I was meeting a friend, for a birthday gift they owed me. It would be rude to cancel last minute.

Getting ready. “Make-up set. Basic outfit. Do the thing with your hair that makes you look like you actually wanted to show up. Fuck. You lost *that* lip gloss so I guess…Arimi’s? That should work. Wait, mum said you have to cook the chicken. You have like two hours so you’ll get to that. Okay, you’re done. Not so bad. Now, where’s Mwenda? He’s outside? Let’s get going for that movie. Shit. Traffic – we’re going to be late, guess we don’t have to go anymore?”

I didn’t know what I was doing exactly, but I needed a drink. There are serviced apartments with a bar area nearby, thought we’d grab a cold one and scope the place while we were at it. Cider for 300 shillings? No smoking? Fuck. No smoking. I’m not even much of a smoker but considering how bad that day was, I could have used a drag. We sat there and talked about why they were playing nothing but Ed Sheeran covers. He said it was something about the ambiance of the place: secluded, cute pool area and all. Something about the music irritated me to no end.

 

Done with our drinks but my phone is at 44%. He wraps up an episode of Doom Patrol and offers to charge my phone for me. I agree, it’s almost 6 and I wanted to be at the club by 8.30 PM. Seems like ample time. Scroll, scroll, scroll through Twitter. It’s 7.30. My phone is at 95% by the time we leave the house. We walk to the club – it’s not very far.

And then it hit me.

I can’t remember what we were talking about. A conversation about people who make their art work for them, they maneuvered even if they eventually cracked – at least what the outside world refers to as ‘cracking’: leaving the formal education system at any point to get a breather and recalibrate your life to figure out why any of it matters – they still got to make considerable strides, probably larger than anybody at that time had ever conceived possible of them.

“But then there’s sitting in the shit and actually making it work for you. Getting out of it.”

“And since it’s a pile of shit, there’s a chance you won’t make it out.”

Shit. Mwenda’s still here.

He noticed that I’m in my thoughts. “He would understand your rant but you’ve given it so many times before. You don’t even know how to explain where it all started. Ah yes, the chicken. Blame it on the chicken. Why was Mum so mad about the chicken? You cooked it. You missed your movie but you cooked it. Because you only think about your friends? A friend you hadn’t seen in months took precedence over the chicken you were making for your family. Why, Nyaguthii?”

He knows it’s not about the fucking chicken, because you cooked it and left it on the stove for them to enjoy. But he lets me go on with my rant.

I stopped. It came like a flood and I’m glad I didn’t let it drown me before we got to the club, because I would’ve spent hours in the (very comfortable) bathroom at MUZE. Can you tell I’ve broken down there before?

It came in flashes and the thoughts and imagery were heavy enough to make me physically nauseous. The urge to die. Actually trying. Calling on my mother just a minute too late to survive. Actually surviving. Looking at the disappointment in my parents’ faces. The helpless look on my lover’s face. Dealing with the fact that it didn’t actually happen, and I have to keep on keeping on. Feeling as trapped as Jon Snow in the 8th season of Game of Thrones, like my character arc was done ages ago and they’re only keeping me alive to appease the telenovela storyboards they borrowed from.

jon snow

He noticed the flood. I had to tell him what happened, but not enough to trigger him too. We’re not strangers to the demon of suicidal ideation. It knows us well. Visits us simultaneously. Makes us tea, spikes it with white rum and by the time we realize just how long we had been in its living room, weeks have passed and we have to rebuild, replenish and return to the land of the living because it chose us again. The ouroboros that has been my sadness has gobbled me up and spat me out like this for seven years now. I’ve forgotten what life looked like before it. I don’t remember because I never got the chance to see it.

We’re here.

60207112_2411977369034336_8682367588199563264_o

It’s Gallery Night at MUZE. Janice Iche is showcasing her work. We walk in as she finishes her live installation- I know her as a visual artist but part of the exhibition included a performance piece titled “Life Excerpt”. A few friends had taped it on their Instagram stories so I got to see it, but wished I’d been there earlier. They said it was the most beautiful thing they’d ever witnessed.

 

ji3

There was a mattress right down the middle of the aisle, where the stage was supposed to be. She used it as her bed, propped up with one of her pieces, ‘Mutuma’s Departure’ – a piece inspired and dedicated to the memory of the late Jason Kalinga. The performance: Janice would get out of bed. Paint. Watch a film. Paint. Get back in bed. Get up. Paint. Interact with the piece. Get back in bed. She painted the words “I’m too much for most” on one side of the black canvas, and “Doing these things without support is hard” on the other.

PEOPLE JUST TAKE & TAKE.

 

YOUR FREEDOM IS FAKE.

 

I was taken by how raw these statements were. How much they resonated with how I was feeling at the time.

ji

I’d been out of a job for about five months now. I quit my 7-7 job as I was graduating from law school and  didn’t see any career progression where I was working, plus I’d landed a creative contract that would act as my parachute and give me time to explore something I’m really passionate about while continuing to give me the financial independence that I’d already established. I worked throughout school but it always felt like it was only to get me the money to fuel my creative pursuits and give me full control over it, without the fear of debt. Even so, I try to make sure that the job aligns with my personal values, in a field which I am qualified for.

The contract ended. As creative contracts go, time passed before I got word of any payment. I picked up smaller contracts to give me enough float but time caught up with me. As an adult, being broke means going back to dependence. A tip: contracts that don’t explicitly state when they’re going to make your payment are open to ambiguous interpretation. Making the contractor’s work sustainable for everyday life is a game where they constantly feel like they’re nagging for money that was promised to them. Money they could use to sustain other projects. To pay the bills, to continue doing what they love, free from the shackles of debt.

Dumping a 9-5 for creative living sans the cognizance of the issues that hamper its sustainability or establishing a cushion will char you from the inside out.  Doing these things without support is hard. People do just take and take.

So how do you keep your creativity going in the midst of corporate bullshit?

Back to our night out.

Janice gave a brief speech thereafter. She talked about how the late Jason pushed her to exert herself into her art by preaching self-love. It’s always the first step: once you love yourself, once you’re comfortable with yourself, your art captures the same. For as long as I’ve known Janice, she has produced thought-provoking pieces in different art forms: music, photography, and now as a fine artist. She is always at the center of her art; she is a quintessential element of it in a way I can only compare to the late Frida Kahlo. Her experiences and the influence that others have impacted are stories she tells through her art. It’s inspiring to watch and experience fragments of her life in this way.

I believe in kismet. I didn’t want to leave the house, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have gotten to hear and see the things that I did. The interactions I had that night with other creatives and people navigating the creative industry in different ways was a message that I should continue to try, even when I am forced to consider otherwise. The urge to quit is always strongest when your life feels like it revolves around your bed. Don’t limit yourself to one medium of expression, either. There are too many ways to make your mark to limit yourself to just one.

Oh, and love yourself. You are important. No flowery language for that because it makes sense as it is. Do as you will with this information.

Nairobi nights, no sequels.

 

Sookie Murage is a dog-loving gin aficionado who spends her days conjuring concoctions with edible flowers & spends her nights as the flaneur of Kileleshwa. Sauntering about, thinking things.

Sookie Murage’s Instagram

Sookie Murage’s Twitter

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Royce Bett. 

Royce Bett’s Instagram

Royce Bett’s Twitter

Me and my Nibbling Conscience: Life Lessons from Earl Sweatshirt (Part I)

Honesty as Catharsis

Good grief, I been reaping what I sowed

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Grief‘.

I almost died twice last year. But what do we say to the God of Death?

The first time I nearly died, it was five a.m on a Monday morning and I was on my way home completely off my rocker. Five hundred meters from my destination, I lost my fight to the alcohol-induced sleep. The car hit a curb a meter of the ground, the impact spun it around and my sobriety instantly set in when the back wheels ascended the same curb. I came out physically unscathed.

The second time I nearly died, it was 2 a.m on a Sunday morning and, again, I was on my way home. My judgment impaired, characteristically, I took a sharp turn at an unadvisable speed. The car flipped through the air like a sous chef with a pancake and landed inches from a ditch. I came out physically unscathed.

At this point, you’d assume these near death experiences would have left me with some wisdom. Or impart some common sense, at the very least. Drive slower. Drink less. Maybe try and be responsible? What I didn’t know was that the hardest person to be honest with is yourself.

Why ain’t nobody tell me I was sinkin’?
Ain’t nobody tell me I could leave

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Shattered Dreams‘.

The scars were all on my psyche. It hurt to wake up. The insignificance of these near death experiences really got to me. I vividly remember flipping through the air. I always assumed this would be the grand moment where my life flashed before my eyes. Opening credits; my emergence from the womb; the time I got my first tricycle and refused to get off it for two days; making out with my best friend under the sheets; falling from my bike and breaking my arm; my first crush; closing credits. Nothing of the sort happened. The only thought that passed through my mind was, ‘Fuck, my dad is going to be so mad if I die.’

I kept waiting and waiting. All this had to mean something. It had to! Don’t people suddenly turn their lives around and pursue their heart’s desires? Climb Everest, cross the English Channel and take up knitting? But that’s where I was wrong. Encountering death doesn’t mean leaving with a gift bag of resolve.

 

The Necessity of Vulnerability

Try to make some sense of all this shit in my brain
One foot stuck in a tar pit of my ways

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Solace‘.

It took me a while to come to terms with these events. At first, I dealt with it the way I dealt with everything prior. Avoid sobriety like the plague, act like everything was fine and run in the opposite direction if anyone saw through my facade. I thought that, because of everything, my lust for life would grow stronger. I’m barely halfway through my bucket list, I’ve never had a cat and I still haven’t seen Coldplay live.

We stay on your ass
Your sense of safety melt in a flash, bang

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘December 24‘.

Instead, it had the opposite effect. If my existence is so uncertain then what’s the point of it all? Do I need to look both sides when I cross the road? Wear my seatbelt? Avoid stepping on cracks? I didn’t know it at the time but this is was an existential crisis manifesting itself in my head.

“You die and then you live, huh?”
Your heart and then your limbs break

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘December 24‘.

On the first day of 2019, it all came crashing down to earth. “Who knew that not dealing with trauma had its repercussions?”, he said jokingly. For the next three days, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was a pressure cooker. A cork no longer sealing its champagne. A can of coke dropped on the ground, it’s contents sputtering out uncontrollably. Eventually, I got some sleeping pills and had my fleeting sanity restored.

 

To Have a Home is Not a Favour

And I don’t know who house to call home lately
I hope my phone break, let it ring

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Faucet‘.

The next day I came out to my parents. My staunch Catholic parents. I had never confided to them to this extent. The only time this topic was ever broached was when I was eleven and my dad found me under the sheets with my best friend. Keeping everything to myself only let my mind spin round and round in circles until I began to doubt my own sanity. Everything was so close to my chest I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t keep it all to myself anymore.

Thankfully, I still have a roof over my head.

Can you see them now?
stumble from nowhere
to no
where
between
nothing
and nothing
I should just borrow
the rememberer’s voice again
while I can and say
to have a home is not a favour.

-Keorapetse Kgositsile ‘Anguish longer than sorrow‘.

BENEATH THE BAOBABS: NEW YEARS IN KILIFI

It’s funny. When you think of the Coast, one often conjures up visuals of palm trees and ocean. Not baobabs and forest; the coast less traveled.

Once a year in this little pocket of the earth, a 3-day festival occurs. One filled with sun, water, music, and magic. Over 3000 bodies on 30 acres of land, vibrating various energies and sweet release.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, night and wedding

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Nothing is as it seems.

Every structure on site: the 3 stages (Main Stage, Umojah Stage, Hidden Valley Stage) to the unicorns and shower swings- each a product of tireless human labour.

Image may contain: one or more people, plant, tree, sky, outdoor and nature

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Imagine a group of friends decided to throw a New Year’s party but instead, they threw the biggest festival Kilifi’s ever seen. No corporate sponsorship – just regular folk, sharing their corner of paradise with the rest of the world.

I went as a volunteer- partly because I’m underpaid, shit at saving and I don’t have Ksh.9,000 begging to burn a hole in my wallet.

Partly because I wanted the experience of contributing to this massive thing. Of camping in the bush in my little tent big enough for only one. Of being part of a community of people from different walks and spaces of the world – finding ourselves in the same place for the same purpose.

I spent 8 days in Kilifi. A baby, compared to the volunteers who had been there for 20 days by the time I arrived.

26th December:

I arrive in the dark with no tent and no torch. Luck is my homegirl, the first volunteer I meet has a spare tent that he & his girlfriend were happy to get rid of. The guy who promised to buy it off them never showed up. You know who showed up though, conveniently homeless – me.

Fate. It’s convenient.

I get lost every time I try to go back to my portable house from the kitchen. Mark, a kind man with locs grazing the top of his butt and a flashlight, would lead me back to camp any time he saw me stray a bit too far into the distance.

I feel like a bougie outsider, with my ironed clothes and un-sunburnt skin. They work from 8.30 – 5 and drink mnazi every day. By evening, their spirit is one of leisure but one of exhaustion as well. But it’s worth it otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.

After half a mboko of mnazi, my body decides it’s time for us to go to bed. Mark shines the way home for me.

27th December.

Billy Blunts made a pipe from a maize cob and two hollow sticks. He’s part of the team building the Hidden Valley stage. Blunts is his real last name. How apt. I breathed in the smoothest hit I ever had, endorsed by mother earth herself.

Every now and then, I drown in my own face sweat. Jay, a lithe girl with spaghetti blonde hair and shiny obsidian skin suggests a ride on the shower swings. Her days are spent in a bikini for this purpose, this freedom to get wet anytime she wants. I take notes.

Rasta weaves through every activity on a daily. It’s in the way they do their work, in how they relate to each other. Rasta is respectful, and equally, it calls for respect.

Image may contain: one or more people, tree and outdoor

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Rasta is the art of letting it go. A verbal dispute in the morning calls for a group meditation after lunch to heal the community vibes.

Long moist days are capped with nights spent drinking mnazi and searching for weed under a light fluttering breeze. A sky pregnant with stars.

The administration house is where it’s at. Shade from the burning sun.

That was the theme of my trip: burning.

burning sun

28th December

Tuk tuks are like taxis. Expensive.

It cost me Ksh. 400 to get to town from the plantations by Tuk Tuk and Ksh. 150 to come back by boda boda. Cruising down brown sandy side streets at dusk is more fun in a boda boda anyway. You can see the baobabs waving at you from all sides.

In the morning, I break up with my boyfriend. In the afternoon, I’m sorting dreamcatchers. In the evening, I’m at Distant Relatives BackPackers and Eco-Lodge with six other volunteers. I came to see Bruce J Rooke perform but I was late and missed his husky crooning acoustic set. He wasn’t mad, he’s a good friend. I’m the bad one.

enchanted

Lucky Birdi’s set is a zig zag of electric synths under banging basslines and drums that slap harder that mvuli wood. His set merging into Lemi’s set like lost twins, reunited. Lemi had the tom-tom drums and ankara fabric weaving through the sound. In the heat of his set, I imagined me and a young Fela Kuti, rhythming the night away to this new funky electric Africa.

My break-up came at the right time. I felt like sleeping beauty, finally opening her eyes after what felt like an eternity of sleep. It felt like a weight off my shoulders. It felt free.

That was another theme: freedom.

free

29th December.

Spent shrouded underneath a fog of hangover and fabric. Still, no regrets.

The festival begins tomorrow. I go to bed early. We have a long 4 days ahead of us.

30th December. Before the Baobabs.

before tb

I was put on media liaison together with socially conscious rapper, InsectDudu, and a girl from the area called Hope*. We made press packets and got to interact with photographers, journalists and artists coming in to document the festival. Reggie and Arriana rode from South Africa to Kilifi on a motorbike. Eventually, they’ll ride to Casablanca to raise funds to support young upcoming artists in South Africa.

reggie

Hope and Insect vented about working from 8-5 without a stipend, about the Ksh.2000 deposit volunteers had to pay. Even though it would be returned to them at the expiration of their contract, they didn’t have the 2 grand to part with in the first place.

They hated that no-one cared to find out whether they had a tent to sleep in or not, or whether Hope could afford the Ksh.300 bodaboda home and still have enough to eat the next day.

Hope left at the end of the day and never came back. InsectDudu stayed. He sees the disparity but he also the opportunity. He’s trying to raise a point and he will not leave until that point has been made.

Volunteering is for the rich who want to know what it’s like to be poor, the professional savers & budgeteers, and for the broke.

Volunteering is not for the poor. It’s not for the people whose daily reality is struggling to make ends meet. You don’t earn money as a volunteer. In fact, you spend money.  The work is really all there is to it. Whether it fulfills or not, is one man’s white bread and another man’s wholemeal.

31st December. Day 1.

A group connection session led by Ronan and Gayle taught us to vomit bullshit. Any bullshit that comes your way, purge that shit. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Not that they were teaching us bulimia.

“Kilifi is a city full of hippies,” someone muses.

“There are 4 white people for every black person,” someone else muses.

“But we all found ourselves here. We’re all here for the same reason- we’re here to experience something that will change our lives.” The stranger with the shell necklace sips his baobab juice and grins.

Image may contain: night

Image courtesy of James Patrick

I get sucked into the Main Stage in the middle of my afternoon rounds by Eric K (editors note: of no relation) playing electric sunshine and flowers through the Funktion One sound system. I love having a dancefloor to myself, it’s like the moment you didn’t have to share a room with your siblings anymore.

Regardless of color or language, we are here because we are trying to liberate ourselves. It’s safe to be you on these grounds. We’re here. We’re alive. We’ve accepted it.  But most importantly, we’ve accepted ourselves.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

Image courtesy of James Patrick

“We are the generation of transition.” The DJ at the Umojah Sound System Stage chants into the microphone.

We love ourselves for what we are and while we know it can always get worse, it can get better too.

The countdown begins 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

Happy New Year.

1st January.

“You have started the new year on a journey. Your whole year will be a journey.”

I need to stop having these kinds of conversations.

It’s a bushman’s carnival. By day 2 (day 6 tbh), I’d danced at all the stages. Showered under all the swings and mushrooms. Climbed all the jungle gyms and wooden animals. Slept on all the decks and teepees.

Image may contain: one or more people

Image courtesy of James Patrick

 

In the admin. house, renamed ‘The University’ for the duration of the festival, there’s a forum on racism at 2pm. A discussion on feminism at 3pm. Sexual Wellness and Secrets of the Yoni at 4pm. Documentaries showing back to back for most of the night.

At 7pm, I had a micro-racist experience at the Umojah Stage aka The Reggae Stage. After two hours of gyrating and dutty whining, I was tired. I reached for my bag which I had stored in a pocket in the subwoofers. ‘Coincidentally’ at the same time, a white woman decides to adjust her bag which was sitting next to mine and move it further away. I guess it can’t lay on one side for too long lest it gets bed sores.

Flatline: She thought I was trying to steal her bag.

Flatter line: Racist.

95% of my time was spent at the Umojah Stage. Umojah was where I’d go to escape the harsh EDM boom booms and lose myself in smoke and irie.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, night and outdoor

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Flattest line: Not even racism could ruin the Umojah Stage for me.

It’s almost midnight. I join the burn procession for the sole purpose of face glitter and a bedazzled rhino horn hat. This year’s structure is a 30-meter tall man with a rhino mask on, in memory of Sudan – the last male Northern White Rhino. I name him Sudan Man.  I’m so caught up in the circus of it all, I lose my fellow rhinos.

Henry, straddling drums made from recycled plastic, and the man on the Kayamba communicate with no words- only hand gestures, facial expressions, and pure rhythm. They play perfectly in sync despite only having met 5 minutes ago. I accompany them on the shakers. Our feet digging up mini-storms of dust with every downbeat.

They set Sudan Man on fire and cinders of his body fly into the air. The sky is painted with glowing dots of burning wood and makuti. I sit down on the ground and watch Sudan Man burn until he’s nothing but a pile of ash. The fire cleanses me of all the bullshit of 2018. I reflect on all the choices I made and the ones I did not, and how they all led me here.

To this fire. To this earth.

It’s my birthday.

Image may contain: night

Image courtesy of James Patrick

2nd January. Day 3.

The music goes hard all night and all morning. Fast Pumping EDM at insane decibels. Despite this, the beauty of the Main Stage’s Funktion One Sound System is that regardless of how loud it gets, you can still have a conversation with the person next to you without having to shout in each other’s ears.

Image may contain: sky, night, plant, outdoor and nature

Image courtesy of James Patrick

7am. I’m sitting on a jungle gym specially built for hyperactive adults to climb. From up here, the stragglers walking around look like sleepless zombies, waiting for the last of their mnazi, MDMA or whatever they’re on to leave their system so that they can fall into the sweetest slumber of their life.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky and outdoor

Image courtesy of James Patrick

I take in the final hours of the festival and hold it in my lungs. I buy my last Rollex and eat it on the baobab deck, feet swinging over the forest.

Eventually, I go to sleep.

It’s 2019. I am 23 years old.

 

 

For more images, follow James Patrick here:

https://jamespatrick.net/event

https://www.facebook.com/shotbyjamespatrick/

https://www.instagram.com/shotbyjamespatrick/

For more on the Beneath The Baobabs Festival, follow Distant Relatives and Kilifi New Years here:

https://www.facebook.com/Kilifi.Backpackers/

https://www.facebook.com/KilifiNewYear/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wavey Soul: Vallerie Muthoni

I believe in the power of tides and waves. I believe the moon controls the tides and waves and since human beings are 70% water, the moon controls us too. We have that in common with the sea. Wavey souls gang gang, let’s dive into and under Vallerie Muthoni’s debut EP, The Wavey Soul. 

  1. Waves Never Die (Intro)

The static when you first switch on the television, back in dem days. A V.O.K public broadcast.

vok

I am the ocean the sea there is a world inside of me

The poetry is finger-snapping powerful.

What a cinematic ride. I’m in a dark cinema, popcorn on my left, soda on my right, squeezing the arms of my seat, goosebumps washing over me as the first scene begins.

She sounds like Ursula except in this version of The Little Mermaid, we’re rooting for Ursula. And if Ursula was Beyonce and Beyonce absorbed Jay-Z’s spirit for herself, thus making her more powerful (Ed: if that’s even possible).

As powerful as the ocean, as beautiful as the sea. 

As a PFC (Person from the Coast), I approve of this ocean-themed message.

 

2. Me, You & The Sea

Waaavvyyy. I’m surfing 70’s Japanese technicolor VCR waves. It’s a vibe.

Is this about God? No, it’s about love. A love by the sea.

Beat switch.

Her vocals are stripped down, it gives it a live performance feel, oscillations lapping at our ears like we’re barefoot by the ocean, digging our toes in the soft warm sand.

I’m homesick.

 

3. Brown Suga

I love it when she raps. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when she sings. But I love it when she raps.

Like heaven’s favorite angel drank too much Henny and smoked the dankest of blunts. Brown Suga is sweet angelic Lucifer with fire in his soft golden eyes.

Flow- hard. Lyricism – hard. Beat – full hard-on.

Shout out to Bongo Sawa – wavey apparel for the wavey soul.

Those 808’s banged me upside my head, I wasn’t not ready, who produced this? Imechizi kama Mathare {Ed’s note: Kahael beats}

 

4. Lover’s Game (feat Harawa)

Who produced this? It caught me off-guard, tripped me off my surfboard.

Why is it so hard for people to be consistent with their vibe? Just keep it real all the time and don’t make games out of people, is that so hard? (Raw nerve)

Harawa enters like slow trickling honey. Bryson Tiller and 6lack had a baby and named him Harawa: a prince.

Damn, that harmony.

Harawa’s husky crooning and Vallerie’s thick nectar stew vocals on top of each other taste like a BLT with all the right sauces. (Shout out to honey mustard).

In that last chorus, they’re talking to each other. Each one has their reason for why things went wrong but still, they crave that closure; the need to ask him / to ask her “How did we get like this?”

Ah yes. The extreme euphoria or the unsettling resentment of romantic love.

 

5. End Rape Culture

The title is culminative. It brings this film to a close. If you don’t leave this EP with anything, at least leave with this.

Where’s that sample from? {Ed’s note: It’s a T.D Jakes Sermon}

It’s a story. A sad story.

Life is an ocean- I’ve known this all along. The ocean is beautiful, the ocean is immense, the ocean exists in different parts and in vast multitudes.

The ocean is salty the ocean stings. The ocean is choppy. The ocean can kill you without mercy. The ocean can consume you.

Tl;dr – Consent.

It’s all a test.

It’s almost like its an experiment. God’s experiment. 

When are we going to understand that we were put on earth to love?

 

 

You can purchase The Wavey Soul EP off of Mookh here

Also,wavey soul launch

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?”

West-to-East-coast-of-USA-575990.jpg

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

 

 

 

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/

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.

 

SLIDE_BNRD_ft_Mankind_Nomad

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

Moses-Sumney-Aromanticism-1499694864-640x640

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

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 

Music Listened to and Music Felt 

I remember watching a Crank Lucas video on how we listened to music then vs how we listen to it now.

It got me thinking about the music I hear on a regular basis and the music I actually listen to, and what makes the difference. I think the difference is that- feeling the music- is listening transcended. It’s when the kick drum becomes your heartbeat, the bass mimics the rhythm of your breath. It’s when the hi hats or claps or snares coincide with your blinks. 

In a similar piece we did a while ago on Music Heard and Music Felt, Eric talked about how he marks the passage of time with music. How a song can stir nostalgia for a time in your life when everything was rose gold and purple hued, or when everything was shot to shit.

For example: the humid and rainy month I spent in Kilifi digging up trees and dancing in the dimly lit night with dogs at my feet, watching the sun set over the creek every night and slowly seep into my tent at dusk; the month two tiny ants nearly killed me with anaphylactic shock. That month is marked by ‘One Last Thing‘ by Clams Casino and ‘Mr. Flava‘ by Katchafire.

A couple of days ago, I came home from a short but perspective changing trip to Nairobi, I sat on a balcony with the sun hitting me square in the face and listened to ‘Walking in the Sun‘ by Fink. It’s the kind of hymn that made my Sunday morning all the more spiritual. I felt the ash of his trials in the gravel in his humming. I wiped the sweat from my brow and thanked God for the day, whoever he or she might be. At that moment, as I felt the chapter in my life change, the song wove itself through me, through my skin, tissue and bone. I listened to Fink and felt what he felt, through the lens of my own life.

Even a blind man can tell when he’s walking in the sun.

Meanwhile, in a backyard somewhere in Lavington, as the sun slowly crept away from the city, ‘Wish You Were Here‘ by Pink Floyd strummed its way through the garden and splattered itself across the orange sky. I wanted to speak but I couldn’t, the song had thickened the air, moistened my lips and dried my throat. It spoke for me and said the things I could never say but wished I could, and from the look in his eyes, he must have known this already.

We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year

Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears

Wish you were here

Sitting on a cold wooden floor on a pleasant afternoon, Harry Belafonte crooned to Juanita, his ‘Sweetheart from Venezuela‘. But what at first felt like a sweet calypso to a true love quickly became patronizing and misogynistic, at a closer listen. It threw the whole vibe of the song off. I still danced, but with a pinch of salt. I don’t care if its 1961, no señor means no, señor.

And late at night, as the temperature dropped with each passing hour, after everyone had gone to sleep and the night was as silent as could be for a city that never sleeps- ‘Molasses‘ by Hiatus Kaiyote crackled on vinyl, more poignant than ever. Things are a lot more profound at 4am.

I listened: it told me to relish in the present moment. That moment, 4 am under a snug blanket somewhere in the heart of Nairobi, feeling like everything I want and would ever need was within arm’s reach. Throw me your serene beaches, your kawaii rustic cottages, the flowery meadows, there was no where else I would have chosen to be other than there. In that moment. 4 am. Snug in love. With myself. 
As Nai Palm sang, I felt the love flow down my throat like a glass of iced lemon grass tea, soothing any anxiety I had for tomorrow and the general future. Through Hiatus Kaiyote, I learnt about the art of letting go: letting go of control, letting go of attachments that no longer serve me- attachments to things, to people. I learnt to take the moment and enjoy it for what it is at that given space and time. With every note plucked, I felt myself getting lighter; as if a boulder had dropped from my back and I realized I had wings all along, and I could fly.

It could be a compass, rare and so bountiful
It could be the opposing opinion
It could be the point of traction bound to all
It could be the point of letting it go.

I listened to it. I felt it. And it changed my life. I think that’s the difference.

 

The Black Femme Fatale 

When the word ‘savage’ comes up, you probably won’t think of her first. You would probably think of the male bravado rapper, wissa knife tattoo on his forehead and Google image results of mug shots from different angles.

That’s okay. She doesn’t brandish her knife on her forehead, her weapons are concealed but boy, do they cut deep and clean.

It did not start when Beyonce sat us down and calmly explained to us that girls run the world. However, it might have started when Beyonce became Sasha Fierce. No. When Beyonce became Foxy Cleopatra. Or when Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson addressed that ‘Son of a Gun’. Or when En Vogue elaborated that “No. You’re never gonna get it.” .

tumblr_ng9fc4ftff1s2safbo1_500

Whenever it started, whoever it started with- the black femme fatal has been a cultural staple in music for years.

She is not to be confused with the carefree black girl,  The black femme fatale is just as whimsical as she is sinister. It’s Rihanna in ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. It’s Sza in ‘Love Galore’. Kehlani in ‘Distraction’.

tumblr_op3ndwpkq21viblyvo1_500

The black femme fatale is not to be taken lightly, She is the proverbial woman scorned that hell hath no fury like. She will use and discard you with an angelic smile on her pretty face, with no apology. Do not, I repeat, Do. Not. Cross. Her.

tumblr_nqvipnde5q1u6s61ao3_r1_400

Key features of the archetypal female include:

-Mischief, boredom or hunger.

-Leather or latex.

-Past or present scorn that she emerged from the ashes of like a Phoenix.

-Quentin Tarantino heavy breathing.

Dej Loaf summed it up pretty well back in 2014:

Let a nigga try me, try me
I’m a get his whole mothafuckin’ family
And I ain’t playin wit nobody
Fuck around and I’m a catch a body

The black femme fatale is the female praying mantis devouring her lover post-coitus. She’s emotionally needy and insecure and fiercely independent at the same time. Affectionate and emotionally unavailable. Warm and inviting, cold and cruel. She is the reason hurricanes are named after women.

Here’s a playlist for the next time you’re feeling devious and maybe a bit violent too:

  1. Serena – Dreezy ft. Dej Loaf

2. Son of a Gun – Janet Jackson ft. Missy Elliot

3. Never Gonna Get It– En Vogue

4. Pull up– Abra

5. Distraction – Kehlani

Everybody: Logic

Life. What’s it all about?

In this project, Logic raps from several perspectives. Logic is everybody, everybody is him. We follow Kai and Thomas where they left off last album, on their trek through Paradise, as Logic serves not only as their walking music, but also as their existential reference guide.

Next, we meet Atom, who dies in a car crash at the end of ‘Hallelujah’ and finds himself in purgatory with Neil DeGrasse Tyson God. God informs poor Atom that he’s dead, lets him freak out over that fact a little and then they go in to discuss the meaning of life and existence as we know it. Cue Logic.

Logic confronts the conflict he’s always had with being biracial in a world that’s either white or black. He sees the inequality of it all and he doesn’t understand because these two unequal sides are literally two equal sides of him.

Damn, my skin fair but life’s not

He doesn’t understand why people are so cruel; why they mistreat each other like our differences are irreconcilable. Why can’t we just let people live and do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?  Why can’t we all just get along and exist together?

The bottom line is love and self acceptance because if you can’t love and accept yourself for who you are, who will? All it takes is a butterfly effect and you could easily have been him and she could have been you.

Atom: So what now? What advice can you give me ?
God: What advice can I give humanity?
Atom: I suppose so
God: Live your life. Don’t waste your days on the negative energy of others. Remember that you’re not your salary. You’re not your house. You’re not your car. And no matter how big your bank account is, your grave is six feet under just like everyone else’s. So enjoy the days you have. Worry not bout the days that came before you. Nor the ones that will follow you in death. Remember that right here in this moment is all you are guaranteed, and the fact that you are living is what life is all about. So live your life to the fullest, according to your happiness and the betterment of all

 

“1-800-273-8255”  is the phone number for the USA National Suicide Hotline and the title of a song sung from the perspective of someone who’s hit rock-bottom and feels like they do not have the strength to crawl out. Life is hard, especially for the living, but sunrise is never too far away. Somehow, someway, it always gets better. Please don’t give up. (Featuring Khalid and Alessia Clare)

About ‘Black Spider-Man’ Donald Glover should be spider man. Idris Elba should be James Bond. That’s it. I don’t understand why these things haven’t happened yet.

“Afric-Aryan” sums up the theme of the album and is the fireworks that shine the light on how good of a lyricist Logic actually is. Featuring another Afric-Aryan rapper- Clue: he went double platinum with no features.

70dbc21aa145c3d53543193ba861d631-1000x1000x1

Although it sounds all over the place and somewhat defensive sometimes: It’s true that Logic can pass for straight up Caucasian so that may have given him some white privilege but that’s not the point. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s Logic’s story to tell. Not mine nor yours but in a sense too, ours – it’s everybody’s. And it does what it’s meant to do: It makes us feel okay about not feeling okay.

Please make Childish spider-man.

Rated : 4.1 / 5 

 

For the Love of Crate Digging: Pt I

We all listen to music in various ways. Few still buy CD’s. Vinyl’s are a thing again. Music streaming is at an all time high. And the pirates among us still sail the seas. If you’re still on that waptrick/tubidy vibe then much love to you as well. In the end, we’re all listening to the same music.

These days though, artists find other ways to put their music out there. The conventional single/album format is slowly being usurped. There’s something beautiful about it..

Youtube

These days it isn’t uncommon for an artist to put out an entire album on youtube. However, this doesn’t do much for their publicity. Ed Sheeran could put out an entire album on Youtube (which he did) but if we didn’t know who he was then no-one would really care. So, artists find different ways to get their names out there, through Youtube. If you dig deep enough, there’s a treasure trove of amazing artistry that isn’t limited to music videos. Here are a select few:

i. BBC 1/ BBC 1Xtra

This is one of the more well known channels, but to the unfortunate few, you would not believe what you’ve discovered. When an artist releases an album, they tend to visit radio stations to build hype for it. BBC 1 took it a step further and gave these artists a platform to perform some of their songs. They call it the Live Lounge. And, as a bonus, they do covers as well. What’s better than mainstream artists covering other mainstream artists? Here are some of our favorites:

 

Or:

 

And:

 

 

ii. Tiny Desk Concerts

Imagine if every week, your boss scheduled a performance for the office behind his desk. That’d be pretty cool yeah? Well, NPR did that. And they call it the Tiny Desk Concerts. Since the performances are literally behind a desk, artists are forced to be at their most minimal. This means you can’t have an entire backing choir. And, more often than not, the results are beautiful. And, at the same time, literally anyone can perform. Here are our favourites:

 

or:

 

or:

 

and, just for good measure:

 

if you aren’t convinced yet:

 

 

iii. Documentaries (The FADER & Noisey)

When you know about an artists life, you get a different perspective on their music. Wikipedia can only tell us so much. Thankfully, the FADER and Noisey have us covered on that front. They don’t do conventional interviews. Instead, they give us a glimpse into the day to day happenings of a musician. It could be through their tours, or a visit to their mothers home, or just a random trip to the supermarket. Here are our biased picks:

 

or:

 

and:

 

 

iv. Others

Here are some random picks that we thought you’d enjoy too:

 

and my personal favourite:

 

 ( featured image: the vinyl factory )

American Teen: Khalid

Listening to this album, it feels like most of the songs started out in jam circles with him and his friends. If I could summarize the album in one word, it would be ‘youth’. 18 year old Khalid is aware of his youth and uses it wholly to his advantage.

‘Location’ caught everyone’s attention and put Khalid into a different lane. From being a military kid from El Paso to performing live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and contributing uncredited vocals to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Heart Pt IV’. Indeed, Young Khalid is doing quite alright for himself.

Not to patronize him, but you should notice his lisp on words like “American” and “Therapy”. It’s unendingly adorable.

Admittedly, 2 seconds into the titular track, ‘American Teen’, and I thought, “Oh no. This is going to be some cheesy Katy Perry-esque mishmash of debauchery and patriotism. Shoot me now.” But it wasn’t, and this should serve as a lesson to anyone who prematurely judges a song. At least wait for the 30 second mark before you start sharpening your pitchforks.

However, if you still wish to, you can test his patriotism with the visible folk influences in ‘Another Sad Love Song’; like it was recorded over a bayou.

He has a gritty buttery voice. Like a baby trapped inside the vocal cords of a grown man who has experienced the hardships of life; and whereas Khalid’s hardships involves too many subtweets and not enough dates over Subway, the journey feels all the same. No adversity feels more or less than the other. Khalid is like seeing a wolf with the softest shea-butter fur.

When the lyricism isn’t an ode to youth, it’s heartfelt and sombre. Always dedicated to someone in the second person, not ‘her’ nor ‘him’. ‘You’.

‘Shot down’ is for the slow dance at prom. Comparing his feelings for ‘you’ to being knocked down by a sudden powerful force.

He is a breathing example of the cultural significance of Soundcloud in this day and age, it doesn’t take much for rubies like Khalid to shine. It gives artists a platform to be heard in a world where they would have previously formed part of the ‘listen to my demo’ chatter, piled in the back of an underpaid A & R’s desk.

‘Angels’ is his personal favorite song on the project, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s a divinity to it. Backed by a melodic piano that his voice uses as a platform to propel itself further up, the old-fashioned wordsmith radiates a bright halo glow, as he becomes like the angels he talks to: a transfiguration of sorts because transfigurations almost always take place at the end. He is without ego. He is honest. He is kind. Khalid is the American teen living the American dream.

We float above horizons
And sail across the seas
I hope for better days
And lately times are tough
The angels give me strength
And I’m not giving up

030617-music-khalid-american-teen-album-cover-art

Image: The Fader; Cover art

Lyrics: Genius

Rated: 3.3 / 5

 

For Lack of a Better Playlist | 001

  1. 3WW- Alt-J

Complete with LSD Dream Theatre visuals. Alt-J have gotten weirder, yes. It’s an unrushed fall down the void. No one’s going anywhere. The beat switches when you least expect it except now that I’ve told you, you’ll be expecting it. Spoiler alert.

It plays like your alternative hipster uncle narrating a children’s story over a mason jar of kombucha. Well, 3 different stories. Listen close.

I just want to love you in my own language.


And it doesn’t end when you think it does. Come back, it’s not over yet. Joe & Gus & Elie’s cut and paste vocals complement each other in the most intimate way. If this song was a piece of surrealist art, it would be a Pollock.

Like soft lovers singing to each other in the still of the night from their respective sides of the bed. 3 worn words. I love you.

2. Chorea – Huzuni 窪地 ⏏

I think he could be Blinky Bill’s baby brother. Find me somewhere by the river with this unrestrained Lo-fi truth spill. Sheng meet vaporwave. Shengwave. Who is this ‘Sadness’? How do I tell him how much I love him? I like it when people cut themselves and their real self bleeds out.

3. Passionfruit – Drake

Spanish Riviera.  Sipping champagne watching a sun set over the water’s horizon. Drake is such a tender marshmallow. My heart skips giddy like girls with white knee socks and pigtails in their hairs, jumping rope. I want to eat it, sweet and bitter like passionfruit.

It’s a nonchalant resignation. Drake is acknowledging the end and signing off. Wishing you love, Aubrey.

 

4. Take your time- Meka Mungai ft. Taio

Produced by Nairobi producer, Mr. Lu. R&B from a time when people burnt incense in their living rooms. When music was for lovers.

There are countless scores of beauty

Staggering drums. It plays and the air around me goes thick and moist, engulfing me like a snug onesie.

5. Fools – TylerCole and Wilough

One small step for Sichangi, one giant leap for KE.

Produced by Nairobi based producer Sichangi. Warpy space bass and synths stroke like water paint. Off-beat and lazy hikes through tree archs in the woods.Swishing our limbs back and forth. They came through. They came through on this one.

Music and its place in my life

This article is extremely introspective so if that isn’t your jam then check out the rest of our wonderful, much more objective, topics on music.

3 – 5 a.m.

For 3 years of my life, this is when I’d listen to music. In high school, when every snippet of free time was treasure, this was my catharsis. Back then I didn’t have the convenience of an Apple Music subscription or unlimited wifi connectivity. Every week I would, through some way or form, access 350 mb bundles . These were my salvation. Youtube? Nope. Movies? Not really. But music, all the damn way. The pirate bay never had a customer as loyal as me. Every week, with the same limited internet connectivity, I’d scroll through archives of Pitchforks reviews to find what I would be listening to this week. Hate on Pitchfork all you may, but they gave me Because the Internet and I don’t take that lightly. My music exploration was extreme. I was on everything from Bring Me The Horizon to MF DOOM. From Abbey Road to Racine Carrée.

Present day

I don’t have a set time to listen to music. I don’t have two hours in my day that I can allocate to this sole purpose. Or, much rather, I haven’t allocated two hours in my day to music. Has life become busier than it was before? Not in the slightest. I could easily do this but I just haven’t. Now, I have more resources than I’ve ever had before. 350mb is my internet usage in a day. But it doesn’t mean I listen to more music and this I find horribly tragic.

My reasons are fickle. I’m always with other people. In fact, I have playlists on my phone tailored to the people that I may be with that day. Pop for the prep-school girls, trap for the OG’s, afrobeat for the alcoholics and so on and so forth. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy these genres but rather that I’m not listening to these artists or albums for genuine reasons. It’s begrudgingly accommodating for others. It wasn’t always like this. Before, it was like: if you didn’t fuck with my music, leave. Now I’m like a bartender at a music club, serving requests back and forth.

On some days I find clarity. It could be a moment, a person or an album.  When the sky is dark and all I want to listen to is The Dark Side of the Moon. When I meet a person with a genuine appreciation of music and I can play music I actually want to listen to. When I’m on Soundcloud and I find that one gem that I can hold tight. When I first heard Anderson .Paak and Noname. In a sense, I started this blog to pursue that clarity. Writing about music forces you to become more acquainted with the album, the artist and their contemporaries. It makes work of a hobby. It crystallizes this clarity. And I think I’m achieving that. But I’m still a long way off.

So thank you to my loyal readers.

My day ones.

You are the reason I do this.

You are my greater appreciation of music.

 

 

No Ad Libs: Barak Jacuzzi

Produced by Brakxx. Contrary to the title, Barak Jacuzzi does have an ad-lib: “More Juice.” And true to its spirit, this track is 100% juice. Not diluted. Juice from the cup.

The young Kenyan-American entertainer put on his rap hat, pulled up and took his seat. Not asking. Taking.

‘No Ad Libs’ stirs up sensations of basement parties. LED lights. Sweat and hype and molly fueled energy. He noticed you sleeping on him and decided to do you a favour and wake you up. The bass will hit you first. You won’t see it coming.

The tribal elements of the track and the drill trap style of the song complement each other generously and every now and then his tongue dips into Kenyan Sheng in a manner that may just put it in the same league of street lingo cool as Jamaican Patois.

He carries an A$AP Rocky-esque self confidence that somehow, for reasons yet to be understood, does not spill over into arrogant braggadocio though it lingers rather close sometimes. You get this feeling like he knows he was sent to earth by gods to bless us with the message of ‘More Juice’ and bars rare to this turf.

He throws shade to his rivals in the rap industry, like writing their incompetence with swift steady hand, i.e: He writes his curses in cursive.

You couldn’t make a crowd jump if your name was Kriss Kross

Unfortunately for now, the video has been pulled off of Youtube due to a copyright claim by the producer, Brakxx Beats Africa. But you can listen to it here.

Or here.

 

Rating: 3.5 / 5

( image: kenyans.co.ke )

Sweet. Sexy. Savage: Kehlani

Produced by Jahaan Sweet, Pop & Oak, and Charlie Heat among others, Sweetsexysavage is the posterchild for the multi-dimensional woman. Independent. Confident. Insecure. Selfish. Pretty. Needy. Kehlani. She attempts to rid us of the notion that a female must only be one thing at a given time. A tattoo splattered tomboy sometimes vixen, other times angelic. Kehlani herself is a walking contradiction.

More inadvertently sweet than anything, Kehlani pays homage to the 90’s with an album that conjures up nostalgic thoughts of Aaliyah and Brandy. A dash of SWV. Traditionally constructed in a way that just goes to show you how much of an old school kid Kehlani really is.

She sprinkles that reluctant sweet in ‘In my feelings’:A song about an exasperated girl, grappling with her emotions and trying to understand why she feels more than the other people: an upbeat track with downbeat lyrics. And in the vulnerable Spanish guitar of the ballad ‘Hold me by the heart’ where she drops her guard and humbly asks for a bit of patience.

She turns on the sexy in ‘Piece of mind’ ,a cathartic bonfire sing-along and an ode to better decisions, showing us how sexy self-confidence can be.

She drops the savage in ‘Distraction’, bluntly expressing how little time she has for a serious relationship, all she’s looking for is someone to take her mind off of things for a little while.

Bravery is feeling fear but doing the thing anyway. Kehlani’s background is that of a person that has been tenacious on her come up despite the fact that life did not make things particularly easy for her- from shoplifting food from grocery stores to stuffing two mixtapes and an album in her back pocket. She’s the closest she’s ever been to her dreams, and she’s grateful. The carefree woman. Master of her fate.Captain of her soul.

kehlani-sweet-sexy-savage-artwork

Rated: 3.4 / 5

 

Image : Blavity; Album art

An Introduction to Frank Ocean

WARNING: A sea of bad ocean puns. If you like analysis and bad puns- come, swim good with me. Let’s begin.

There’s a plethora of in-depth analysis and think pieces on Mr. Ocean on the internet. He has this je ne sais quoi about him that just has to be documented. It has to be discussed. It has to be written. Once you have fallen down the rabbit hole and into the Ocean, there’s no swimming back.

My first step into the waters of Frank began with his 2012 performance of ‘Thinkin bout you’ at the VMA’s. Prior to that, I had never heard of him. Who was this stranger in a striped bandana and why was he making me feel some typa way?

He had just come out of the closet and that definitely didn’t sit very well in the testosterone fueled world of hip-hop. T-pain exposed the homophobia of the industry when he blurted that rappers refused to work with Frank Ocean because of his sexuality. I’m sure they regret that decision now. Regardless, Frank stood his ground by performing for millions a love song directed to his first time, and the unrequited love referenced in his coming out letter.

tumblr_m6me6usdo81qdrz3yo1_500

Again, I didn’t know who he was, but I was intrigued. I had to know and since then, I’ve been swimming in Frank Ocean ever since and never once have I needed to come up for air.

It’s hard to throw him into a genre box. Instinctively, one would say r&b but that’s a limiting injustice. Just because a black man sings does that automatically make him an r&b artist? His style ranges from everything to anthems that border on gospel such as ‘Godspeed’ to Intelligent Dance Music in ‘Device Control’ and Post Britpop in his cover of Coldplay’s ‘Strawberry Swing’.

He’s an expert storyteller, who can paint an entire film in a listener’s mind through lyrics and sonic texture.

And now, we may begin.

i.) Somewhere around 2008 – The Lonny Breaux Collection

Born Christopher Edwin Breaux on October 28th 1987, he grew up in New Orleans. In 2005 he relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina caused irreversible damage to his studio. He got his foot in the music industry by songwriting for artists such as Brandy and Justin Bieber and eventually signing with Def Jam/Island Records in 2009, while under the moniker Lonny Breaux.

They say you have to make a lot of bad art before you make good art. Lonny was Frank’s chrysalis stage.

These songs were leaked and compiled by a comrade devotee from the interweb, a majority of them being reference tracks he wrote for other artists. ‘Acura Integrl’ is pretty much the only song he proudly owned from this compilation, so we can safely say that it is the first song he ever publicly dropped.

The collection comprises of mostly cheesy bubblegum r&b, a-la 2008 Justin Bieber. The Midi-mafia production is synth heavy and, honestly, quite cringeworthy. Tracks like ‘Hardest Thing’ sound like he was writing through writer’s block and ‘I Need Love’ is exceedingly whiny. However, Lonny’s corny r&b made a good rhythmic foundation for Frank. Through the factory presets, you can catch a glimpse of Frank slowly brewing inside Lonny. One can sense his frustrations with L.A, a city that doesn’t give love as easily as it is given.

The least unpalatable track is ‘Dying For Your Love’ featuring James Fauntleroy, and would have easily been a hit of that time, had it received any radio play. In 2011, Chris Brown tweeted what could have been interpreted as a backhanded compliment comparing Frank Ocean to singer/songwriters like James Fauntleroy and Kevin Cossum, which led to a tweef (twitter beef) between the two. Tension built up for a couple of years and this eventually resulted in a physical brawl outside Westlake Studio in Los Angeles.

brown2

It’s understandable. While James Fauntleroy and Kevin Cossum are highly regarded prolific songwriters, they’re not G.O.A.Ts. If you’re gonna compare Frank Ocean to anyone, at least compare him to Drake, not Quentin Miller.

Conflicts aside, it just goes to show you perfection isn’t born, it’s bred.

ii.) 2011 – Nostalgia, ULTRA

Nostalgia, ULTRA is what it look likes when a man makes music for himself for the last time, before the world cast its eyes on him and never looks away.

Frank’s frustrations with his label constantly passing him over led to his decision to self release Nostalgia, ULTRA as a free mixtape. He changed his name from Lonny Breaux to Frank Ocean and started affiliating himself with OFWGKTA (A.K.A Odd future), garnering a bit of traction from their fan base.

“You know that guy Frank who sings in Odd Future?”

“Yeah?”

“He just dropped a mixtape.”

“Nice, let’s check it out.”

He blew up after this.

The production is significantly better, sample driven with 90’s nostalgia cassette stops and faint video game soundtracks in ‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Soul Calibur’. He shed his commercial skin with Lonny Breaux and opted for a more individualistic, personal approach.

In ‘Novacane’, he compares the numbness after heartbreak to the pain-suppressing nature of drugs and the elusiveness of happiness. The song title is a wordplay on the anaesthetic Novocain and the cataclysmic figurative supernova that happens when a star dies. He references Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, which Frank also samples from in the track ‘Lovecrimes’, the love crime in question being impregnating his girl in the throes of passion.

The James Fauntleroy outro in ‘American Wedding’ is a string section reminding you that you can do anything that you want. Just believe.

These niggas can’t do nothing that I can’t do
That she can’t do, that he can’t do, that you can’t do, that we can’t do

‘Nature Feels’ is a jiggy explosion that blends ‘nature’ and ‘sex’ into one cohesive theme. He compares himself to a biblical Adam exploring a world unseen.

iii.) 2012 – Channel Orange

Channel Orange is the relaxed, lethargic introspection of a man who has all the time in the world, even though he recorded it in under three weeks. It’s orange because in true synesthete fashion, he recalls the summer he fell in love, when everything was orange.

With pressure from listeners anticipating his second release, Frank gets rid of the elephant in the room by starting the album off with ‘Thinking bout you’. An ode to his first love.

He shows us how the opulence of the 1% in the staccato ‘Super Rich Kids’ and the jazzy cabaret ‘Sweet Life’. Congratulations Frank, you made it.

So why see the world, when you got the beach

‘Super Rich Kids’ is a jagged decadent tale. The song commences with the protagonist starting his day enjoying the view from his roof; carefree and revelling in his inherited wealth. It ends with him at the end of the day, asking, “do they sew wings on tailored suits?” He plunges off the same roof upon the drunken realisation that while money can get you a great many things, it could never buy you happiness. The hook portrays the two major themes: the pleasure of the beginning and the melancholy of the end. Furthermore, Earl Sweatshirt’s verse on the track is a grammy worthy spit to all the latchkey kids who got too big of an allowance and not enough love.

A million one, a million cash
Close my eyes and feel the crash

‘Crack Rock’ and ‘Pilot Jones’ tackles the destructiveness of drug abuse and the havoc it can wreak on loved ones who really do care, but just can’t deal with the addict in their life anymore. It’s drawn from the times Frank spent with his grandfather, a reformed addict himself, who would take Frank to Narcotics Anonymous and AA meetings, where Frank would hear sordid tales of battles against the bottomless pit the is drug addiction.

‘Pyramids’ is 10 minute track about Cleopatra reincarnated. In the second half of the song, after having fallen from grace, Cleopatra finds herself working as a stripper at the Pyramid, in slow bounce R&B format.

Finally, Frank employs Andre 3000 and his bluesy guitar in ‘Pink Matter’ to question existence as we know it, and the utility of a woman.

iv.) 2013 – Unreleased, MISC

A.k.a songs from a tumblr. An unofficial compilation of the singles that Frank put out on his tumblr page.

‘Pyrite’ is the quintessential breakup song, comparing fake love to fake gold, you can always tell the difference. He soberly paints a picture with tropical guitars and beach hues in ‘Voodoo’, a song about the unity and trust required to make a relationship work.

I know pyrite from 24 karat, yeah
Cubic’s from genuine diamond, yeah
A call from the woman who loves you and hello from a friend
I know when it’s real, I know how to tell

 

v.) 2016 – Endless

It had been two and some years of practically radio silence from Frank, when he showed up on his Tumblr teasing an album called Boys Don’t Cry, saying“I got two versions. I got twooo versions…”

tumblr_nmete1zzoc1qdrz3yo2_500

July 2015 was the month. We waited in an excited frenzy. July came, then August, then September, then Christmas, then Easter. Silence. Everyone was losing their shit:  You said July, Frank. You promised. Where are you? Why did you lie to us?

We had lost hope and moved on with the drudgery of our lives until one day in August 2016, a live stream appeared of an empty warehouse. It was him. He was here.

Unfortunately, Endless is in the shadow of Blonde. Either that or it is viewed as a shameless IDM apple plug, a means to the termination of his contract with Def Jam. It flows like one long 45 minute play with one track seamlessly blending into the next. It is highly underrated. It is so much more.

With top notch production and immaculate features from the likes of crooners like Jazmine Sullivan and Sampha. The layered vocals, singing over each other  but not cluttering are a representation of the cacophony that takes place within a  normal person’s mind: different voices saying different things at the same time but somehow in harmony still. It’s airy and reminiscent of James Blake.

He prays that his children get to see him and his love in all their bloom in the gut-wrenching ‘Wither’.

‘Slide on me’ is a syncopated dancehall track with acoustic and deep bass come together as one. There’s a line in it where he says ‘Aki’ and ‘Wallahi’ , whereas ‘Wallahi’ means ‘I swear’ in Arabic and ‘Aki’ means ‘I swear’ in swahili sheng, and I swear my Kenyan self exploded like a firework.

‘In Here Somewhere’ is Jazmine Sullivan driving my feelings down a desert road at dusk.

The outro in ‘Rushes’ is a flooding warmth. The atmosphere instrumentals like ‘Honeybaby: Ambience 002’ dim the lights for you and set the mood.

His vocal capability shines in ‘Rushes To’ and then he  switches up and casually spits macho bars in ‘Higgs/Outro’ as if he did not just gut my heart into a million pieces in the previous song.

 

vi.) 2016 – Blonde

The album formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry. Frank never shies away from tackling weighty topics. From abortion and religion in previous albums, to the ceaseless death of unarmed black men in America in ‘Nikes’. Both Endless and Blonde are highly autobiographical: they chronicle his childhood in New Orleans, his various moves from Texas to New Orleans.

The vaporwave ambition is strong on this one. He built a staircase in Endless, he built a sky in Blonde. Tossing out the synths for guitars.

He switches up the beat in ‘Nights’ from shady undercuts directed towards a resurfaced ex, to gratitude expressed towards an ex whom he owes a lot to. Former lovers you remember fondly and those you remember with the aftertaste of stale cabbage in your mouth. With cruising kicks and snares just to toy with you.

Did you call me from a séance?
You are from my past life
Hope you’re doing well bruh

He brings back 3 stacks on ‘Solo reprise’ who starts the song off with a tribal cry and continues to assert himself at the top of the hip-hop food chain.

‘Seigfried’ feels hazy, like slowly waking up from a dream, drifting in and out of consciousness. It is a romantic and melancholic contemplation of surrender to societal norms and expectations, asking if the fight is really worth it or if he should just throw in the towel. ‘White Ferrari’ is celestial and gentle, about dumb youth and how quickly time flies.

Blonde is unlike anything he’s ever done. It feels limitless, no walls nor boundaries erected. Like an immersive stream of polished consciousness.

Well worth the wait. I forgot why I was even mad in the first place.

 

Bonus: Noteworthy features 

‘She’ & ‘Analog 2’ where him and his buddy Tyler take turns being psychopaths.

He drops the weed in favor of a clear head in ‘Sunday’. The only person Frank has more musical chemistry with than Tyler is Earl. The play off of each other’s energies like a friendly round of ping pong.

The stripped down ‘Frank’s Track’ from Life of Pablo, where he talks of a dystopian future where humans find out that life is indeed precious but by then, it’s too late.

In conclusion, what makes Frank so amazing is how much he refuses the focus to be on him. Don’t look at him, listen to the story- in its words and in its sounds. Pure and simple.

If the story needs him to visually articulate something, he’ll do it for the sake of the story. But the story always comes first. You get this feeling that even he didn’t know where it would go until he put the dot on the last sentence and a picture revealed itself.

You see, the goal of the artist is to get you to see what they see. Of course, this is easier said than done but Frank makes no compromises. He makes sure that what he shows us, what we see, is 100% the way he saw it in his head, the significant bits and the garble jarble. All of it, in its entirety.

Like how he captures both sides of love as a theme. The ‘loving’ and the ‘loveless’. The best of times and the worst of times, but still, it is love and that is what he is showing you.

Or how he can relate love to anything. Drugs and love in ‘Novacane’. Tattoos and love in ‘Blasted’. Religion and love. Cars and love (saying he’s really into cars is an understatement. You know this) I’m sure he could pick the gnarliest topic like a colonoscopy and still find a way to relate it to how love is a pain in the ass.

Every detail is deliberately and meticulously executed. Even in the parts with no lyrics, no instruments, he sets the ambiance just by waking up and scratching his balls like at the end of ‘Strawberry swing.’ Walking home in the rain and setting down his keys. Making love in the back seat of a car. All these sounds emphasize the significance of ambiance to a story, to a picture, to a film, to a song.

Moral of the story: Mom is right. Be yourself. Be secure with yourself. Rely and trust upon your own decisions. Own your own beliefs. Be yourself and know that that’s good enough.

 

Images:  http://frankocean.tumblr.com; The Daily Dot

Lyrics: Genius