Snoh with the warm feels

Today I got a little beautiful gem for you. Snoh Aalegra just released her new single “I Want You Around” that features one of my favourite artists Leven Kali on the background vocals by the way (read my blog post about him here). And I don’t just want you to listen to the song, I want you to watch the video while listening to it for the first time. I feel like a lot of music videos nowadays fail to fulfil their purpose which is to enhance the song and emphasise its deeper meaning. For me, a great music video is like art. It’s more than just about telling a story, it’s colours, lights, setting, interaction between characters, camera angles, filters and little details that underline metaphors and references.

Now, if you’re thinking that you’ve never heard of Snoh Aalegra before, I can almost definitely tell you that you have because I’m pretty sure you’ve heard Drake’s single “Do Not Disturb” from his More Life album where he sampled Snoh Aalegra’s single “Time“. The original is a very beautiful and deeply emotional song about her father passing away that Drake took out of context in kind of a rude way to be honest. But anyways…Snoh Aalegra is a very special artist, she has this timeless grace and beauty almost like she’s time travelled to the future from another time. I had the chance to see her perform live at a small club, last time I was in Los Angeles and she definitely wowed me.

Enjoy this short little romantic movie. Also, shout out to Snoh for reminding us of the greatness of Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” album.

NAO – Artist to Watch

For this week’s *Artist to Watch* I want to talk to you about NAO, 31 year old singer-songwriter Neo Jessica Joshua from East London. Her voice is so extraordinary that I doubted it was real when I first heard one of her songs. But after having watched some of her interviews I can confirm, she actually sounds like a cute little angel all the time. Her debut album “For All We Know” was released in 2016 which included “Fool To Love”, “Get to Know Ya” and “Bad Blood” and I can imagine you’ve probably heard one of them before.

Her lyrics are full of emotions and power, but it is her voice that really transfers the feelings onto the listener. I’d describe her music as soulful, sometimes funky, electronically influenced, galactic RnB. That she is not only a great singer but also a talented songwriter is proven by the fact that she’s co-written Stormzy’s “Velvet/Jenny Francis (Interlude)” which I personally loved for its depth and honesty.

Now last year, NAO released her latest project called “Saturn” and it absolutely amazed me. Listening to this album, it feels like she is taking you on a very personal spaceship ride right through her inner galaxy. Starting out right away with the first song “Another Lifetime” which is heartbreakingly beautiful (I absolutely love her reference to the concept of having multiple lifetimes and meeting certain people again in another). The next equally beautifully tragic song “Make It Out Alive” features the incredible SiR which I’ll most likely feature in one of my next Artist To Watch posts as well. Yeah… I could probably talk about every single song on this album but instead I will give you my personal highlights and then leave you to listen to it and make up your own mind.

First favorite I have to mention is “Saturn” with British singer Kwabs. It’s a beautiful, romantic duet which uses planet and zodiac sign metaphors in order to describe a relationship. “I love the way you open my heart, I feel you around me like Venus and Mars”, she sings, very #universey if you know, you know. The other song I want to emphasise is “Orbit”, equally universey and sooo, sooo magical.

Now while writing this, I am getting extra excited because I will finally be able to see NAO live in concert on my birthday next month. So if you find yourself loving her songs as much as I do check out her upcoming tour dates here and maybe you’ll be able to go to one of her concerts this or next month as well.

 

Audio Push elevating us to Mars

Okay WOW guys! WOOOW haha so I’ve always said that Audio Push are the real ones but this new project. WOW! Okay let me rewind a bit for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about. Audio Push are the two rappers Julian Browne aka Oktane and Larry Jacks, Jr. aka Price from California. I first got to know the two through their “Teach Me How to Jerk” song back in 2009. But don’t be fooled those two have come a long way and they’re definitely here to stay. After releasing a bunch of brilliant free mixtapes like Truth Be Told, The Good Vibe Tribe (which inspired their own clothing line and merch check it out here) and my favourite “Come As You Are“, they have now decided to take it to the next level. Getting together with the legendary producer Lamar Edwards aka My Guy Mars, (who has, amongst others, produced for Snoop Dogg and T.I. in the past), they’ve made some real magic happen on their new project “Audio Mars”.

Before I get into the songs and why this album is so special I just want to say that these two are seriously talented. There are thousands of rappers out there, I won’t mention any names in particular, that release amazing music and make a ton of money with it but if you’d put them on the spot they’d probably give you a weak ass freestyle rhyming crash with cash and banana with bandana. Oktane and Price, however, could probably be woken up in the middle of the night and serve you the wildest freestyles that are lyrically better and more sophisticated than your favourite rapper’s latest track. And if you don’t believe me just check out their endless freestyle (I think they went on for about 15 minutes) on L.A. radio station Real 92.3 yesterday. Now this is real, raw rap talent my friends. Alright so let me get into this…

First track is called “Further.” with Stacy Barthe, who’s not just a great singer but has also written songs for Rihanna, Brandy and Kelly Rowland, by the way. This song is about overcoming challenges and coming up from the bottom. It’s about believing and chasing your dreams instead of money, which is such a valuable message to spread in today’s world especially in rap culture. Lines like “If I had all the money in the world, I’d probably burn it all in your face, let the whole world see that money look good in the hood but it’s all a facade, never happy, set the whole world free” are so, so real and need to be heard. In a way, this song is also about self-improvement and, as the lyrics say, “going further than (you) ever thought you could” and being able to literally reach for the stars. “See the world, all the stars, all the love, from here and Mars, it’s yours”, they sing and this is way deeper than realising your dreams, it’s about a bigger perspective and I love that.

Alright next up “Come Correct.” featuring California rapper Buddy who’s just released a deluxe version of his album “Harlan & Alondra” last Friday, which you should check out as well. The lyrics of this track are confident and real, “I’m proud of what I’m becoming”. It’s about integrity and some real life wisdom-gems are dropped in this one, “Never trade my soul, not for clothes, not for checks”, “cause they don’t like seeing you becoming what they pretend to be”, “winners gon’ win, losers get offended”, “we are what we get through it’s raw and official”, “fear no man, play no woman, eat no swine, feed your mind and take your time, don’t run in place”… Yeah quotable on the highest level!

The next one “WILD.” talks about coming back from a setback. Dealing with heartbreak, shootings, getting played, trust issues. It’s about not getting phased by hate and frustration but taking that energy and coming back stronger, “slipped up, switched up, came back”. The angel voice in the background is Baltimore singer Rose Gold who Spotify has incorrectly linked as a very intense rock band that shares the same name. *rolls eyes* I’ll link her Soundcloud for you here. You’re welcome.

The bass on “SAFE.” (Notice the period behind all the song titles? They’re making a point!) is so hard, do me a favour and turn it all the way up in your car so you can appreciate it to the fullest. This one has a bit of a darker vibe to it, talking about distrust, church shootings and how money doesn’t protect you from death “Ten gold chains in the coffin, ain’t nobody safe”. Serving as a reality check “Young realtor, I’ma put em in their place” (love that metaphor by the way). Also the bass on this one is very turnitupable as well and if you’re like me you’ll probably catch yourself singing along “oooh” towards the end.

Now, “Keep Up.” with Nick Grant (who’s had big names like DJ Khaled, Yo Gotti and DRAM on his 2018 album) has a reaal old school vibe. They’re saying “Try see if you can keep up with us” like they know it’s going to be hard because they’re really just getting started. On this one, I especially want to emphasise the brilliance of Nick Grant’s verse which is relatively short but packed with lines like “Boy you ain’t a leader unless the hard times become a lesson”, “Tryna make my point like the pyramids of Giza”, “Kill everything I touch, gentrified”, “All this green you would think I mowed the lawn” and so on. This is fun, quality rap. Also the sound setting in at 2:53? Pure gold for your ears. This is a classic.

The next one “Wrongful rights.” is a vulnerable song about loss, “seem like the real go the fastest, I done held too many caskets”, heartbreak and dealing with smoking and drinking in order to drown your sorrows, “Tonight the homie lost his life, the only way to make it right is smoke up, drink up”. The way they turn this into a positive message is very, very important and beautiful, “It’s bigger than you and it’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than this, it’s all inside of your mind, I just advice you to meditate and then resist”. Oktane is giving us a a whole instruction here on how to solve your issues and live right, “that’s why the mind is sacred, that’s why peace of mind is greatness, look take your time don’t fake it, authenticity is needed here”. Yeah this is definitely my favourite track on the album. Okay I gotta give you one more line “I got high expectations of myself, none of anybody else and that’s why I got peace”. YESSSSS thank you for this!

The transition into the next song says “They make life so hard for themselves down there, Earth I mean, it could all be so simple”. I especially loved that because it reminded me of this phenomenon called “Overview effect” described by astronauts that have made the experience of looking down on planet Earth from space, realizing that everything is connected and we are all sharing one planet and all boundaries are human-made concepts.

Alright last one. If you’re still reading you’re a real one. The last track “Freedom In 95.” is about life lessons and realizing that life doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. This one is filled with so many gems it’s crazy. I’m just gonna go ahead and list some of my favourite ones here. So here it goes wisdom by Oktane and Price;
“Communication kills assumptions, I know that I know a little and I know that there’s a lot that I don’t”
“They care to make an opinion, don’t even care to meet you, you gotta be inside that battle for them to defeat you, if they wanna bring you down, they’re already beneath you”
“It’s hard to miss somebody that ain’t even dead”
“A lot of real things that you left unsaid, and that will be your regret and that’s yours to hold and you won’t understand it ’til you’re old and that’s cold”
Yeah, let that sink in.

Producer My Guy Mars said about this project, “This is the void, this is what people have been missing”, and I couldn’t agree more.