Well, well, well. What a little belter this is.
Little Simz AKA Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo (can see why she went for the shortened nickname) has been knocking around for a few years. I heard a couple of tracks that I really liked without falling in love with. She did stand out from her peers by seeming less interested in the beats of grime and more the classic beats of old skool hip hop.
So I admit it – I initially dismissed her a bit as a promising UK hip hop like a million before her that was full of promise but hadn’t quite delivered THAT track.
And then I heard OFFENCE. Jesus H Christ. What a ridiculous beast of a track that is. It became a genuine crossover that was being played on 6Music AND Radio 1 AND Capital (which I know, thanks to my kids).
Still, I approached this album expecting 10 tracks of more of the same. What I wasn’t expecting was such a rich, inventive brew, so full of creativity and painted on such a wide canvas.
Influences? Oh man, where to start? The nu-soul meets hip hop of Anderson .Paak and K-Os (of old!) on tracks like WOUNDS. SELFISH is basically a gorgeous RnB pop song but with a rap holding it together. VENOM’s flow feels like a grime style and BOSS is a great track 2 choice, smacking you right in the face. FLOWERS could be a collaboration with Cinematic Orchestra, and obvs Michael Kiwanuka is always a seal of quality.
So much to love on here – the live band and instrumentation gives it a blaxploitation film score vibe. Everywhere there are surprises – fresh samples, unusual arrangements. This is a really ambitious album made to aim high, and it nearly completely delivers.
Finally – oh joy of joy – it’s got NO SKITS and it’s a tight, punch 35 minutes long. How many hip hop albums could learn from this?
I notice she right at the top of the bill of one of the Coachella stages. She’s that good. Not surprised the US is noticing.
Any criticisms? Maybe her delivery and flow is a little bit monotonous at times, but lyrically it’s bloody brilliant – and she works around that by making each song such a uniquely constructed entity.
So yeah. I LOVE this album and I’m sure it’ll end up in my top 10 at the end of the year. How about you, Brothers?
Little bonus album for the Brothers.
This has been bubbling under on my (metaphorical) turntable in the last couple of weeks, and it’s slowly dawning on me that’s it’s a work of complete genius. Nao’s one of the brighter lights of the British neo-soul/R&B scene, and she first came to my attention via the brilliant collaboration she did with Mura Masa a couple of years back:
I liked her debut, but I didn’t love it. This is her second album and it is a GIANT leap forward. It has such a beguiling mix of classic soul tropes, great 90s R&B arrangements (of the kind Brother Joey and I used to lap up back in the day), but it also strays deliciously into Frank Ocean territory, like this gem:
Best of all, it is just JAM PACKED full of great songs and top songwriting chops. It starts off pretty slowly, but really gets into its swing mid album, and the run of songs – Saturn, Gabriel, Orbit and Love Supreme – are as good as anything I’ve heard in a very long time.
What do you reckon, Brothers? Thought I’d throw a little extra listening into them mix.
Had a proper WHAT IS THIS moment when I heard this on the radio today. Isn’t it BRILLIANT? It’s everything I love all rolled into one. The artist is apparently deliberately a total mystery.
All there is, rather ingeneously, is a Spotify playlist of their musical inspirations…
I am more than intrigued.
Been noticing for a while that there’s an increasing amount of pretty top notch music coming from across La Manche. So I’ve put together a playlist of modern French tunes. Let me know what you think.
Ach, so late on this one. Soooooo sorry.
I mean, there’s not much to say in a weird way, is there? After an EIGHTEEN YEAR gap, and after losing one of the group’s cornerstones and founder members, Phife Dawg, and without much of a contribution from Ali Shaheed, who would be have been surprised if ATCQ would have returned with something a bit tired, a bit old, a bit derivative.
Instead, they rock up with one of the albums of the year and add a genuine new chapter to an already glittering career. Like Bowie’s Blackstar, this album is one you’d be happy to put next to their finest like their debut or Midnight Marauders.
Let’s be clear: they’re not totally reinventing themselves, and there is something enjoyably familiar about hearing that ATCQ sound. But what makes this such a thrilling listen is to hear Q-Tip and the crew sounds so vital, so passionate, so playful and so political.
It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The first four or five songs are all stone cold classics, and almost every contribution brings out the best in everyone – the tracks with Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak are all total standouts. It also rewards repeated plays, and each time I find a new track that I’ve overlooked.
If there’s a criticism, it’s maybe that with it’s a touch overlong, and with the loss of 2 or 3 tracks, it would have been flawless. But actually, there’s not really a track I dislike intensely, and I love nearly all of it.
Welcome back ATCQ. The world missed you. The world needs you.
I love everything single about this more than I can say. So perfectly formed. What a video. So much colour, so much life. I wonder if a UK rapper like this might blow up globally soon. Feels so much fresher and less bloated than most US counterparts (Kendrick et al notwithstanding). Dunno. Anyway, enjoy…
Wonky all-female Liverpudlian electro-psych pop trio? Count me in!
Also, this video is incredible. Love how it captures that weird folk takes/ancient magik bucolic English village thing.