In this week’s 5, we have the return of the ethereal, woozy vibes of JGrrey, Pa Salieu continues his hot streak with ‘Black’ which explores the varied nature of blackness. IDK drops in with some support from Lil Yachty, while Joel Culpepper evokes shades of James Brown with the funky ‘WAR’. Finally, I could’ve gone for many of the banging cuts from SL’s debut album ‘Different Dude’ – but the stark energy and storytelling on ‘Bye Bye’ stands out most. There’s a mix of vibes throughout this 5 but there’s energy for every mood this weekend.
JGrrey – Doubt Nothing
While 2020 has been a bag of uncertainties, simple messages delivered with clarity and sincerity can make the difference. JGrrey’s songwriting has always been sharp yet easy to roll with. All of this is on show in ‘Doubt Nothing’. In the visuals, which mirror the song perfectly, she floats around her changing bedroom, with clouds in the air and an animated ‘’Frrog’’ for a companion. The video is packed with metaphors. While cutting the telephone line, she says ‘’you can’t just look for the storm in the weather’’ (x3) – likely a reference to the proliferation of bad news which dominates our social feeds these days. The message on this track is one of self-belief and perseverance: “fake till you make what they try to break // trust the process // feel yourself’”. Do what it says on the tin. Doubt nothing.
Pa Salieu – B***k
“Music black, skin tone black, lifestyle black, why they fear that fact?” Very good question. Pa Salieu has had a stellar year and while his star continues to rise he drops the highly experimental, concept-driven ‘B***k’. The clue is in the title, Pa says “the title being censored is to highlight how throughout history parts of society have portrayed black people and culture almost like a swear word”. This track and video stand as a riposte to that sentiment: black excellence takes the lead here. Pa’s flow switches in and out of his Gambian drawl, to patois, back into the light Coventry twang that got people taking note earlier this year. But the flow-switching points to his main message: the multitude and vastness of the black experience. This is expressed through costume in the video, starting with traditional African wear, to a girl dressed like Angela Davis, then into your normal everyday garms. An intricate flute loop mixed with some simple 808’s and a bit of bass fuse to create a sound that sounds familiar but is equally unique. The kind of sound you’d expect to hear upon arrival on an alien planet. Which is where it seems the video ends with Pa dancing in front of a giant black queen, who is protecting the gates of a new world. Pa has arrived on the Black Planet Chuck D and Public Enemy spoke of almost 30 years ago.
IDK – King Alfred
IDK is known for rousing, rollercoaster-esque salvo’s of lyricism and poignancy. But this time he leans on Gil-Scott Heron to do the heavy lifting, with a monologue from the late, great poet opening up the track. Before a pulsating bassline enters the room and shakes things up. The track, co-produced by IDK, provides the perfect soundscape for his firebrand delivery “bring Obama back, tell em bring Obama back” while wearing an Obama mask. The way it’s delivered, it’s hard to tell whether IDK is being sincere or ironic about the return of the 44th President of the United States. While dropping his sardonic witticisms, a beaming, iced-out Nefertiti pendant glistens, as he speaks of opps that he’s seen out ‘’this is a warzone / send em back to the Gulag / they was talking shit, now they talking Tupac / now they JFK with the roof off’’. The Tupac line stands as a double entendre, questioning the authenticity of people who may have never spoken up on black issues previously, but now are speaking up loudly while it’s top of the global agenda. This isn’t one of IDK’s densest tracks, but he always manages to throw some punches.
Joel Culpepper – WAR
South London-based singer-songwriter Joel Culpepper is on smoke. He opens with “don’t mess with me / I’m a winner”. An opening line that could’ve been delivered by God’s Son-era Nas but on this, Culpepper sounds like a Prince/James Brown hybrid. The funky bassline and Culpepper’s lively, high pitched intonations mixed with sharp songwriting “my hearts on my sleeve / fist tight / I grit my teeth’’ make this sound like an empowerment song the Motown legends would be proud of. The message behind the track is powerful but delivered with a lightness of touch and purposeful energy to act as a reminder that while we fight for black lives all over the world and safeguard future ones, that we have some fun while doing it.
SL – Bye Bye
SL has dropped his longest body of work yet on his debut album ‘Different Dude’. Building off the momentum from his Selhurst EP which came out earlier this year, ‘Different Dude’ opens up the world of the elusive SL just a bit more. On ‘Bye Bye’ a Spanish guitar loop is front and centre on the production, creating a base for SL to tell a story about the dude behind the bally “I got some matters to address // I think she’ll give me brain it’s an educated guess // she asks my name she ain’t getting more than S”. The beat progresses, bringing in flutes and xylophones to make the song feel more cinematic as the story continues “like here we go again / same old yutes / from the same old ends / tryna make big moves with the same old pen”. He sounds world-weary, bored by his challengers. He knows the uniqueness of his flow, but on ‘Bye Bye’ the ease at which he builds a world, while not giving much away and in under 2:15 is a testament SL’s talent. Hopefully on the next album, he opens that world up a bit more.