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Hip-hop loves to draw from its influences. Australian hip-hop artist Tkay Maidza draws from her African background in her debut record Tkay.
The Zimbabwean born Maidza has a lot of appeal in her debut. It's not dull hip-hop we've become used to. Instead, colorful instrumentals and melodies accompany her young and refreshing voice. The album begins with the high energy, intense 'Always Been,' a big of a misleading track to open the record yet does hype it up. It's dark and dramatic, the beat strong and the delivery packed with grime influence. The bars are pretty quick fire, but there's a recognizable reference to Kanye West's 'Black Skinhead' in there that'll pique you're ear in case you can't pick up on anything else.
There are several other songs that go hard. 'Carry On,' with Run The Jewels' Killer Mike on the track, throwing down above the synthy bass between the upbeat but still urgent chorus. A darker presence envelops 'State Of Mind,' bouncy synths radiating ominous vibes on top of Maidza's gun of a mouth paired paranoid harmonies.
The majority of the record finds itself being poppier. The instrumental of 'Simulation' channels Sia almost blatantly, yet the vocals' light melodies soar high above the 'Cheap Thrills' reminiscent synth. There are thicker, dancier songs like 'Monochrome' that robotically have some groove to them. The muddy instrumental helps elevate the poppier lyrics. 'Drumsticks No Guns' is a fun-loving track, infectiously cute synths bouncing happily throughout the track. 'Castle In The Sky' is the pinnacle of the album's pop tracks, the sweet melodies pairing with the strongest and punchiest instrumental on the record, dynamic brass synths pairing with various acoustic instrumentation and electronics.
Sometimes it goes a little too far. With the pop influence, there are a few annoying tracks, like 'Tennies.' The song starts okay, but there has to be a limit as to how many times you can sing "tennies" before it gets old. The beat features some cool instrumentation, some bongos sounding with a punchy string instrumental, but even those can't save the song from its muddy tendencies. The big vibes of 'Supasonic' are interrupted by pretty annoying lyrics.
Tkay has all of the the uncertainties of a debut record, but it definitely holds its ground. It's an indicator of a new threat on the block with Tkay Maidza - she's bound to be something big in the hip-hop and pop world. It's a refreshing new sound and certainly one that won't be getting old anytime soon. Now we sit back and watch a career unfold.
Favorite Tracks: Castle In The Sky, Always Been
Least Favorite Tracks: Tennies, Supasonic, House Of Cards
Rating: 73 / 100
Skepta’s fourth full length LP, Konnichiwa is the first grime album I’ve seen that has taken notice outside of the U.K. Grime has been on a roll lately, the term becoming known throughout hip-hop worldwide now. Skepta’s newest album is a fine piece of it, though it also shows that it has room to grow.
Kicking off with the album title track ’Konnichiwa’, the album begins with an almost stereotypical Japanese scene that actually makes sense in the context of the song - the readying of swords is akin to the sharp verses of the record. The song itself actually bashes stereotypes, even further accentuating the theme of the song. The album itself seems to be a big metaphor for the prejudice of the genre and the struggles within an artist, the pressures of which are seen in the skit at the end of ‘Corn On The Curb’. The instrumentals and moods of the record demand your attention, especially in tracks with grand instrumentals and strong assertions like ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Man (Gang)’. There are little colors splashed in the instrumentals too, like the demanding brasses in the background and the rough orchestras found in ‘It Ain’t Safe’.
Unfortunately, there are not many praises left for the record. The problem with this record, and grime in general, is that at some point, everything starts sounding the same. The beats becoming predictable and uninteresting by the time the second half of the album rolls around, the end of the album being good but bland. The guest spots on this album don’t really add anything, except for JME on ‘That’s Not Me’, which is actually pretty refreshing, since the rest of the either sound awkward (Pharrell on ‘Numbers’, for example) or the guests sound the same as everyone else on the track. And I just have to call this out: ‘Lyrics’ uses that obnoxious goddamn airhorn sample that successfully ruins the entire song. That is no longer a hype thing. It’s just dead.
Skepta’s newest album is a good representation of grime, which is good considering the album’s popularity. This may just be one of the world’s first big exposures to grime, and honestly, it’ll be hit or miss from this starting point. We’ll have to wait and see who follows suit to ride the rising wave of grime popularity this year. For what it’s worth, Skepta got it off to a good start.
Favorite Tracks: Man (Gang), Konnichiwa
Least Favorite Tracks: Detox, Ladies Hit Squad, Lyrics