First Friday of February. It’s still dark as hell at 5pm, but the cold seems to be subsiding, making wa for Spring – and hopefully (!!) we’ll be able to vibe outside. Until then, here are some of the waviest drops of the week.
Mozart-based rapper/producer Jevon drops his long-awaited album – Fell In Love in Brasil. Packed with samba inspired production, rich with energy and honest bars. A standout track ‘Heaven’s Calling’ features a sample from fellow Brazilian and legendary musician Marcos Valle. Digga D links up with AJ Tracey for a rousing B2B on ‘Bringing It Back’ – meshing two styles, from two eras – with a brand new dance move, as expected. VanJess continue their strong run with some help from Phony Ppl, blessing us with the funky ‘Caught Up’. The Memphis native Pooh Shiesty delivers some ignorant, icy lines on ‘Neighbours’ – from his debut mixtape Shiesty Season. Finally, Lucky Daye teams up with Newham’s Tiana Major9 to explore the very modern predicament of being left ‘On Read’.
Jevon – Heaven’s Calling
A symphony of tamborims, Caixa, surdo, ganzas and most presently, Chocalho (shakers) take their time to open this track. What’s clear though: we’re in Brazil. Via London and Coventry – the three places Jevon cites as home and the bases for his musical inspirations. The upbeat tone set by the instrumentals are balanced by sombre lyrics, speaking of a friend, who’s recently passed away “I was gonna call you the other day, had an idea, wanna see what my brother say, all of a sudden now my mind on freeze, how could I forget my brother died last week?”. It’s a heavy line to follow the joy of the dancing instruments. But this blend of triumphant sound then austere, moral pondering lyrically is a pocket Jevon knows well.
Likely inspired by his deep Christian beliefs. Much of The Bible points to the challenge man faces between salvation and temptation. This challenge is a centrepiece of Jevon’s music. Unpacking the duality of light and dark. Assisted on the bridge by the legend, Marcos Valle, Jevon continues to endorse positivity while questioning his mortality: “If I’m young Mufasa, and I lost count, how many times did I really cheat death, how many cat lives do I have left?”. These are timely questions and subject matter. Imbued with the hope of better times to come.
Digga D x AJ Tracey – Bringing It Back
Two golden boys of their craft, emblems of a new generation in UK music connect for a high-quality salvo of bars and braggadocio. It’s interesting to watch Digga D, the new poster boy in drill, link up with AJ Tracey – who was once touted as the new poster boy/saviour of grime. It’s a kind of sliding doors moment. AJ was labelled (by others) as the new vanguard in grime – right at a time when drill was taking its very first breaths. AJ’s breakthrough track featuring Dave ‘Thiago Silva’ flips the famous Ruff Sqwad instrumental ‘Pied Piper’ – giving the mantle AJ never asked for even more energy. AJ has never said he’s a grime MC purely – and his discography points to somebody who likes to dabble musically (see ‘Country Star’).
Now, look at Digga in comparison, he’s enjoying the benefits of coming up in a new era, with a new sound, meaning – no unwanted mantles, no predetermined titles – just space to create freely. It’s like AJ’s the eldest child, who had a template to follow and Digga is the free-spirited creative rebel, making it up as he goes along. With that said, AJ has long dashed whatever template there was – and he’s always been his best when spraying off the cuff – true to his word, he’s brought it back. Digga is the standout here though, another banger packed with elastic bars and a dance move that’s sure to go viral. It’s whatever.
VanJess – Caught Up feat. Phony Ppl
Nigerian-American sisters VanJess are on a roll. Their new EP Homegrown points at a new musical direction. The collaborations artists choose tend to show the lanes that they’re looking to cut into. So, enlisting the mad underrated Phony Ppl to assist their already soulful energy shows they’re taking real care with the next evolution in their sound.
Opening with 80’s sounding synths, before a funky, Parliament-esque bassline kicks in, combining to create that timeless sound, the sound of the music our parents came up on, the music many of us were first exposed to. This might be it: a return to their musical roots, after all, the EP is called ‘Homegrown’. Elbee Thrie, Phony Ppl’s lead vocalist/rapper handles the bridge, delivering a verse that maintains the rhythm of the production while adding another dimension to the song’s narrative – breaking down relationships from the male perspective “don’t wanna blink too slow, to miss another opportunity to let you know”. Elbee Thrie is a more considered lyricist, so it’s interesting to see him and Phony Ppl get the chance to deliver on a verse where guys like 6LACK or Brent Faiyaz could’ve slotted in. It’s a vibe.
Pooh Shiesty – Neighbours feat. BIG 30
Newcomer Pooh Shiesty, representing 1017 Music (Gucci Mane’s label) comes through on some unruly biz in the lead single ‘Neighbours’ on his debut mixtape. Telling the story of a rich, young black man in an affluent neighbourhood, who has to deal with some oppo neighbours. With a bassline that’s reminiscent of Drake’s ‘Nonstop’ and ghoulish, Castlevania sounding keys, Pooh’s interesting flow and voice takes centre stage. He delivers his verses in a kind of talking voice, a bit like Valee, then as the song progresses, he starts to sound a bit like Kodak Black. Lil Baby makes a cameo in the video – which is reminiscent of old school, plot-heavy music videos. Make no mistake though: Pooh Shiesty isn’t trying to be a throwback.
Lucky Daye x Tiana Major9 – On Read
A Very Contemporary Conundrum™. Being left on read, getting blue ticks, WhatsApp messages not delivering. These are the hallmarks of situationships getting tense. Trying to suss each other out, not wanting to look too keen, trying to play it cool, playing hard to get, or flat out not being interested. We all know these situations. But Lucky Daye and Tiana Major9’s vocal talents make something extremely trivial sound like an event. This is a testament to both their skills as songwriters and vocalists.
Opening with the sound of a new text on iMessage, we’re getting right into it. Lucky sets it off – a smooth falsetto sitting on cooly present guitar strings, it sounds like he’s singing in a quiet speakeasy after… Being left on read. He’s seething, but he knows it’s a game “making me weak, what you gon’ make me beg?”. The chorus opens a can of worms “cause you left me on read, I’ve been waiting all day…”. It’s a game of cat and mouse. Tiana Major9 comes through and to reminds us of the chase … “I ain’t the one, baby I’m so headstrong, it’s your lucky day if I answer”. Both artists dovetail really nicely throughout the song, neither overpowering the other, a properly balanced modern-sounding… Duet?. There will be some left on read this weekend. But forget that… You’re still healthy and living. Perspective.