Nick Brewer is a beautiful man. Now that I got that out the way, I can actually talk about his music. Since Alone In My Thoughts Part 2, I have been an instant fan of Brewer and his two-step, Quiet Storm Hip Hop. For Valentine’s Day, the romantic wordsmith released the visuals for “So Good” that is just the right amount of simple and sweet. The soulful boom bap of the Moods instrumental, “Love Is Real”, blends perfectly with Brewer’s hopeful rhymes about his budding romance. There’s so much to love in the video with its array of beautiful flowers, Brewer’s adorable pits check, and the playful dancing at the end. I did hope that “So Good” would eventually feature his leading lady, but that might be an artistic style. The vintage coffeehouse visuals of “Spare Thoughts” shows Brewer using the abstract to paint vivid mental images. Check out the video after the jump and be ready to unwind. Twitter Facebook Youtube Website
- 16th February
- 14th January
East London emcee Barney Artist definitely lives up to his name. His relaxing compositions full of crisp percussion, shimmering melodies, and atmospheric samples never ceases to put me in a creative mood. Barney’s free 12-track BAEP is an incredibly mature project for the rising emcee. He stays consistent to his style with a quiet confidence that is mysterious and intriguing.
Barney continues his string of well produced videos in “Turn Your Head Around”. While most of his visuals feature stunning, yet simplistic scenes, Barney takes a more cinematic approach with his latest. The Gerald Boye directed video follows Barney and his friends in what appears as a coming of age, day in the life short film. The face shots and circular camera movements hint at deeper meaning, but for some reason, I haven’t discovered it. Despite my questions, all I know is that the Alfa Mist produced song with gorgeous, breathy vocals by Emmavie is more than enough. Twitter Website Youtube
- 7th September
Life is hard in these grad school streets. In between 5 classes and my networking hustle (read: looking for a job), there’s not a lot of time for extracurricular activity. That’s why when I blog, the music I share must be unique, authentic, and skillful. One of the artists who embodies that is London emcee Dewy Sinatra. He’s an artist who always seemed “too cool” for the “Christian rapper” label. His fashion forward style and fresh, organic sound is relevant far beyond the pew. To debut his weekly “ear-goodies” series, Dewy branches out with the smooth and elegant “Merlot”. Brandon Rowan’s production places the listener in the middle of jazz lounge with extended sax solos, piano riffs, and head nodding drum rhythms. With such an exquisite arrangement, I would have been happy with just an instrumental. Fortunately, Dewy blesses the mic with feel good lyrics on love and ambition. It’s apparent that Dewy has many intangibles as an EMCEE. He reminds you of Hip Hop’s legendary past when rapping was about moving the crowd with creativity and hope. Facebook Twitter
- 19th July
Have you ever listened to a song that you just can’t shake? No matter how much I try to downplay the London collaboration “Love Simple” by producer Wizzy Wow and vocalist Hayley Cassidy, I can’t resist the repeat button. ”Love Simple” is paint by numbers “acoustic” pop, but the format works for a reason. The melodic opening segues into popping percussion and the satisfying, sweeping chorus that I was expecting. ”Love Simple” is a slick song, but Hayley Cassidy’s smooth vocals have a passionate emotional delivery. She even gives a nod to her Virtuous gospel group days with an intimate mention of her spirituality (“you got me feeling like I can’t confide in the One who makes me whole”). Though “Love Simple” is technically a breakup song, there is still optimism that bubbles underneath. ”Love Simple” is certainly a reflection of two promising artists.
- 29th May
When I first heard of Mishal Moore’s I’m Not A Hipster EP, I wasn’t too sure about her statement. I mean, she has hipster glasses on the cover for goodness sake. But when I dived into her 5-track EP, I was proven wrong. Mishal’s genre-bending sound has both substance and style. It challenges the listener to tear down the boundaries that segregate music. Co-produced by DJ Fonti and Mishal Moore, I’m Not A Hipster is sultry and defiant. Mishal’s devious whisper in “Wolf” shows her counter-cultural stance. The clap-driven pattering makes you feel like something unknown is coming near.
- 5th December
At first glance, it’s apparent that Himal, the West London singer/songwriter, has a lot of things going for him. His swoon worthy looks and unconventional approach to music points to a very promising career. In preparation for his early 2012 EP, Soul Light/Soul Love, Himal releases the visuals for the Kensaye produced single, Makin’ Moves. Himal’s light, airy voice blends so beautifully with the soulful Hip Hop instrumental. There’s an inviting warmth to Himal’s music that allows the listener to see life through his eyes. As Himal cycles through the streets of London taking in sights and sounds, we get to see how music unifies people of all ages and cultures. Though I’m not of the Buddhist persuasion, I applaud Himal for making positive music that neatly fits on my chill music playlist. With sparkling vocals by Cherri Prince, Himal’s Makin’ Moves goes down like “sweet vanilla”. Free Download on Bandcamp Twitter Soundcloud Facebook
- 30th November
WARNING: I’m about to introduce a song that you won’t be able to get out of your head. It may or may not haunt you during study sessions and tempt you to grab a hairbrush and dance in front of the mirror.
Comprised of Aluna Francis and George Reid, London ‘Hip Pop’ duo AlunaGeorge seemed destined for greatness the moment George first remixed Aluna’s music. Working in their home studio, George and Aluna must have have engineered You Know You Like It for it’s almost instant memorability. The lyrics, “you know you like it but it drives you insane” may just be an explanation for their music itself. The song’s bouncy synth and Aluna’s baby doll voice has made their August single a darling among soul music blogs. With sleek visuals and Aluna’s undulating, “I don’t care what you think” dancing, AlunaGeorge can certainly bring their song concepts to life. Their prominent End of the Year Party as well as a plethora of remixes show that there’s a lot on the horizon for this group. Facebook Twitter Soundcloud Website
- 27th November
With an impressive album and mixtape on his hands, London based Shakka has raw talent dripping from his pores. Shakka’s eclectic music is a reflection of his Dominican upbringing where he was raised on dub reggae, Hip Hop, Motown, and Garage. Having a musical lineage that includes his reggae musician father, Shakka immersed himself in music production and recording when many of us were checking yes, no, or maybe. In launching his Shakkapella series, Shakka has finally found a medium that displays the totality of his unique gifts.
With unbridled energy and inspiration, Shakka makes amends for pump faking his promising Take Our Time video in his acapella cover of my favorite 4 song, End of Time. From the very beginning, Shakka creates a wall of sound with stunning self-made bass lines and crisp rhythms directly lifted from the recording itself. I have no idea how Shakka could stay on the beat with his machine gun vocals, but he handles it with the precision of a finely tuned instrument. If the remake wasn’t enough, Shakka remixes the remix in adding an energetic breakdown rap verse and a musical invitation for his fans to decide his next Shakkapella (*cough pick Frank Ocean *cough). With the viral quality of Shakka’s cover, I hope his career skyrockets as the world begins to see the dynamism that is Shakka. Soundcloud Facebook Twitter
- 3rd November
With features on Audio Diva and Soulbounce, 14th is hot in the streets right now. This London duo comprising Tracy Duodu and Tom Barber released an impressive four track EP that segues into electronica, soul, and dubstep without missing a beat. Their sudden genre shifts adds emotional depth to their tense-filled songs about relationships. As true artists, 14th’s creativity doesn’t end with their music. The video treatment for the EP’s title track, Hide Yourself, is just as inventive as the song’s concept. The sparse piano opening gives a sense of Tracy’s loneliness as her love interest disappears from her bed. From the beginning, the scratchiness of Tracy’s voice mirror the conflict within. As 14th gets into their dubstep groove, we see weird visuals of Tracy gorging on food and costumed characters getting their Carlton on. It’s definitely the side eye moment of the video, but it makes you wonder what people are hiding from others and ultimately themselves. As the video closes, Tracy and Tom run away only to resign next to their authentic selves. Hide Yourself encapsulates 14th’s ability to be artistically abstract while grounded in realism. With this balance, it goes without saying that 14th is an group you should look out for. Facebook Twitter Website Soundcloud Youtube
- 2nd November
With just one live EP under their belts with So I’ll Boast, Abimaro & The Free have masterfully created a musical balance that is both fearlessly Christian and accessible. Even in dropping the Jesus bomb on the opener, Carry Me, lead vocalist Abimaro seems more focused on her conversation with God than the audience around her. With Carry Me’s soothing background vocals and foot stomping beats, it’s clear that the inventive musicianship of Abimaro & The Free gives them access to enlighten people’s minds and hearts. The dub-jazz hybrid Falling Leaves has Abimaro showcasing rich, metaphorical lyrics that explain her desire to transcend the past. On Pinnochio, Abimaro has the sultry delivery of a romantic song while passionately asking God to “hold her strings”. It’s as if Abimaro & The Free took a Quiet Storm hit and replaced it with Christian lyrics. This South London group lets their musical ambitions become a launching pad for expressing their spirituality. On my personal favorite, Twenty One, Abimaro holds a songwriting clinic. Using somber folk instrumentation, Abimaro tells the painful stories of eager and even reckless twenty one year olds. It’s biographical accounts are reminiscent of Amel Larrieux’s sympathetic chronicles in Infininte Possibilities. The title track, So I’ll Boast, is a perfect closing to a short, yet far-reaching EP. The melodic piano riffs and wishful chorus oozes in optimism. But instead of a happy, go-lucky ending, So I’ll Boast becomes a raucous, pulsating rock song where Abimaro learns to boast in God’s strength and not her own.
Vocalist Abimaro Suit, bassist James Beatt, and pianist Alex Montaque have a huge responsibility that they are carrying with ease. With the unique stylish flair of So I’ll Boast, Abimaro & The Free have successfully shared the unpopular struggles of the Christian faith while vividly painting a picture of God’s true heart. Website Twitter Facebook