Yes, this blog has been pretty much abandoned, but there’s always a day when an album comes out that is so excellent I can’t but tell you about it straight away, in more than 140 characters or a quick Facebook post. Today’s project is courtesy of French favourites Pumpkin and Vin’S da Cuero. Before I tell you about them and the brand-new “CHIMIQ” EP, I have to admit that I have been listening to it on repeat since I received the email from Bandcamp in my inbox an hour or so ago and I’m so obsessed about it already and so eager to share it with you that I took a break from work, after barely getting started. Oh, well.
Also, Pumpkin is one of the few artists whose projects I ALWAYS support and buy (or even preorder in this case). My slowly growing vinyl collection therefore includes most of her previous solo albums, as well as “LE BEAU TEMPS” EP and “PEINTURE FRAÎCHE” LP, her previous two projects as a duo with her partner in crime and official producer Vin’S da Cuero, and I look forward to getting my hands on this one.
Now, about the album itself… WOW! is pretty much how I would sum up my reaction after listening to it for the first time. I had already listened to the title track, which was released recently and complemented by an excellent, original and cheeky video that I highly recommend you watch (link below), and it made me very impatient to discover the whole project. What I can always count on with Pumpkin is a crazy flow and crazier lyrics, which often make me smile and/or utter this succinct but pretty accurate “WOW!”. I use crazy in a good way, of course, and I usually feel pretty bad for people listening to her music who are not francophones, because even if music is a universal language and all that, let’s be honest, they’re missing out. The level of lyricism, technicality, wit and smartness is simply impressive. I was already pretty blown away with “CHIMIQ”, but “SCIENCE FRICTION” (pretty clever pun) is on a whole other level in terms of power and emotion. I’ll get back to the subject matter in a second, but simply in terms of lyrical prowess, Pumpkin definitely stands out. To say she has a way with words would be an understatement and it’s always a pleasure for me to listen to her tracks. Hip-hop is not dead, y’all!
Besides the MC’s skills, another quality of the “CHIMIQ” EP is of course the music, with a return to “boom-bap” hip-hop, after experimenting with electronic sonorities on previous projects. Percussive drums, scratches, and beatbox; you can find all the ingredients for an excellent soundscape that welcomes Pumpkin and the guests’ voices and flows perfectly. Yes, it does make me think of the “Golden Era” of hip-hop but of course it’s very current and another proof that you can pay homage to the past while representing the present. This is also a reminder that Vin’S da Cuero is pretty comfortable with various genres and that’s something you can’t but appreciate from a producer. Also, the aforementioned guests are a most welcome addition to the project, from frequent collaborator Sarah Gessler (Beatspoke) to Vicelow and Sly The Mic Buddah aka Sly Johnson aka TAGi, as well as Neue Grafik and Scratch Bandits Crew on remix duties, and frequent collaborator DJ Lyrik (aka A Cat Called Fritz) on scratches.
Last, but definitely not least, the concept and subject matter of the short project is highly relatable and explored in a wonderful way, from “friends with benefits” aka fuck buddies aka “plan cul” for the French speakers, to how to cope with life’s highs and lows, and domestic violence. “CHIMIQ” is an exploration of how chemistry rules our lives whether it is with sex, relationships or depression. As I was mentioning earlier, “SCIENCE FRICTION” really blew me away, dealing with domestic violence in a very clever and powerful manner. Art is a way to spread messages and I commend Pumpkin for dealing with such an important topic that is too often ignored or downplayed. Once again, that’s quite an incentive to get your French lessons on…
To say it’s been a while would be an understatement. *removes cobwebs* However, instead of revisiting once again the reasons why I haven’t updated this blog in so long, I’ll simply move right along and present an amazing interview. How’s that for a come back?
Here’s the kicker though: it’s in French. Now, while I would encourage anyone willing to learn my beautiful language to give it a try, I know it’s no easy feat and I don’t expect you all to understand it. So, what I will do is offer you a transcript, so that you all know how awesome my guest is. Elom 20ce is a Togolese MC I mentioned on the blog before, and whose music I played on my radio show a few times, but I finally had an opportunity to meet him face-to-face last week, after knowing him and communicating with him online for over a decade (!!). What was so wonderful about this encounter, besides the fact that I could enjoy his live show and the infamous “Marseille by night”, is that it felt super natural, as if we had indeed been friends in real life for all those years. I just love those moments and I’m really grateful to have experienced them several times over the years. Personal notes aside, Elom 20ce was in Marseille for a few days for his live show and some interviews as part of his international “INDIGO tour”, to promote the album of the same name. After kicking off with two festivals in Ghana, the tour stopped in my beautiful city, before continuing in Berlin, Germany (30th September), coming back to France for a show in Paris (1st October), and finally returning to Elom’s hometown of Lomé, Togo (7th and 22nd October), before ending in Dakar, Senegal (12th November). Phew! With all that said, let me now present the actual interview in French below, followed by the transcript. Enjoy!
WWOC: Hello and welcome to this special edition of The Wonderful World of Carminelitta, with an interview, something I haven’t done in quite a while. I have the great pleasure of welcoming Elom 20ce, who is hailing from Togo. Hello and thank you.
Elom 20ce: Hello Carminelitta and thanks to all your followers.
WWOC: Thanks to them indeed. So, I met you for the first time yesterday, after knowing you for about a decade, so I’m really happy to do this interview. To begin with, I have a question about Marseille. It was the first time you had a show here, so tell us how it went and what you think about the city.
Elom 20ce: I’ll start with the end. Marseille is a city I really like, it’s a vibrant city, with a great melting pot so that’s interesting. It was not my first concert in Marseille, I did a quick show 2 years ago, in a small library called Manifesten. And yesterday we did Dar Lamifa, which was even bigger, there were not many people, but we are building things and compared to what we did 2 years ago, the audience was reactive and I’m really happy about that. We hope that when we come back there will be even more people.
WWOC: It’s true that the audience was not really present, but it was a great pleasure to discover you on stage. Speaking of this “INDIGO tour”, you started it in Ghana and there are a few upcoming dates, so could you tell us more about it?
Elom 20ce: The INDIGO tour started in Africa and will end in Africa. We started in Ghana, mainly with two festivals, Nkabom Festival and Chale Wote Festival. Yesterday we were in Marseille, we are still in Marseille, on September 30th we’ll be in Berlin, on October 1st in Paris, and then we’re back in Lomé on October 22nd, finishing in Dakar on November 12th.
WWOC: I will normally be able to see you in Paris on the 1st so I really look forward to that. I will ask more in-depth questions later, but we’ll take a quick musical break for now. I’ll play some of the tracks of the album, my favourites, so we’ll start with “Comme un poison dans l’eau”. Could you tell us a bit about this track?
Elom 20ce: “Comme un poison dans l’eau” is a track dedicated to anyone within the system who is working to make the system collapse. Today there are lots of rappers who chose to talk about things that don’t represent the people, it’s their choice. And then there are others who continue to rap about realities, about things indigenous people can relate to, and for me, these are the “poison in the water”. So it’s a track dedicated to all the outcasts.
WWOC: My next question is about the fact that you’re doing hip-hop from Africa (I have another related question coming later). But I was talking about that with someone recently and he told me he couldn’t really appreciate it because for him it wasn’t the type of hip-hop he was used to listening to, because he’s from Paris. Do you think the way you rap and what you talk about are really different from Parisians for instance?
Elom 20ce: I rap about my reality, I talk mainly about Africa in my lyrics and I think Africa is a continent that is everywhere. There are Africans in Paris, there are Africans everywhere in the world. I talk about the facts of life too, my album deals a lot about death for instance. I don’t think you need to be in Lomé or Conakry to talk about these things. They affect everyone. I think my message can touch people everywhere. Oxmo [Puccino] is on my album, he’s from Paris, there’s Le Bavar, who’s also from Paris, and the track was mixed in Paris. So I think maybe the person didn’t take the time to listen.
WWOC: That was my next question actually. I think your message really is universal and it’s true that there’s the Afro-centric element, because you’re from Togo and you live on that continent, so of course that’s your experience, but as a French person, I can still find things in your music that I can relate to, and I think that’s interesting. So, since you already answered that question, and that you mentioned the featured artists… You talked about Oxmo, Le Bavar, who are really well-known in France and who’ve been doing music for a long time. But there are also other MCs who are much less prominent, from other countries, like Germany, and who are also younger. So, was it important for you to bring together several generations and nationalities on the album?
Elom 20ce: Of course. Look at the name of the album, “INDIGO”, that’s the blending of colours, the seventh colour of the rainbow that is not visible to the naked eye. For me it was important to showcase all those talents that are not well-known. There’s Avénon, Prince Mo, Zalem, Sitou Koudadjé, who are not famous but nonetheless very talented. At the same time, it was important for me, when I talked about “indigo”, i.e. the blending of colours, that there were MCs from all over the world. There’s Sir Okoss from Gabon, Amewu from Germany, BLITZ the AMBASSADOR from Ghana/US. So that was done on purpose, because the album is “INDIGO”, so I needed different colours.
WWOC: You just talked about BLITZ the AMBASSADOR, and for this next track I’ll play “Aveugles, bavards et sourds”, which is also one of my favourites. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Elom 20ce: “Aveugles, bavards et sourds” [Blind, talkative and deaf] because I think Africans do not read history. When I say Africans, I mean mostly African leaders who don’t want to read history. They are blind, talkative and deaf, they talk a lot but they should read history and listen. At the same time, it’s also showing 3 Africans rapping in the language of their former colons: German, French and English. At the same time, it’s as if we couldn’t understand each other, because the languages that were imported, or imposed, became barriers between us when we are supposed to understand each other. So it’s the themes I developed: showing people that our leaders are people who are blind, talkative and deaf, and how important it is for us, even if we adopted or were made to adopt those languages, not to allow them to be hindrances to integration and to use them as tools to build bridges.
WWOC: My next question is about your music videos, which are very interesting, and that’s something I really appreciate because I often see rappers making a music video just so that they can say they have a video on YouTube, and they’re just there in front of the camera doing things that are not original at all. So I already appreciate that, and there’s also a very particular theme. Could you tell us a bit about those videos?
Elom 20ce: Thanks for the compliment. For me, the videos are follow-ups to the tracks. I don’t want to do videos that are like a background to the tracks. The videos are a complement to the tracks, because in a hip-hop track, there’s about 4, 5 or 6 minutes at most, and you have a lot to say. So when a video is released, it must support the track. When I write, I like projecting images in the mind of people and when I create the videos I want to imprint those images in their mind so that they are clear. Also, when I create tracks like “Dead Man Walking”, it’s interesting for me to add exclusives. An exclusive could be an intro that I thought was too long in audio form, to include in the album. So I keep the intro and use it in the video. When you discover the video, you realise there’s an intro that wasn’t on the album. So that makes it even more appealing. For me, images are really powerful and it plays a lot in people’s psyche. So for me creating videos means complementing the tracks I already recorded.
WWOC: I encourage you all to go and watch all the music videos available on YouTube. My last question for today is about the fact that you use a lot of references in your music, to African leaders and others. Among those other famous people, you mention a lot of American Civil Rights activists. I think there really is a connection, which makes me think of Malcom X who said that it was not only a civil rights issue, but also a human rights issue. Do you think it’s important to make people realise that the history of American people is linked to the history of African people and other people around the world?
Elom 20ce: I didn’t really tally the number of Black Americans I mentioned, but I think that it’s because they are more well-known. Because I think if you listen to the album closely, I talk more about African leaders, a lot of people who are not necessarily well-known. There’s a question of reference, which is very important in the rap music I create. It’s important to remind people that in Africa, and more specifically in West Africa, historians are kind of MCs. They are the keepers of memory, they pass on the memory, everything is done orally. So they are the ones who will tell you who your grandfather was, who his father was, etc. They are the keepers of this information. When I rap, it’s important for me to follow in the footsteps of this caste of people, the griots, to refer to men who had a positive influence on our history. There’s an esoteric element to it for me. If we forget the work those people have done, it’s as if we were building a house and starting from the foundation all over again. We have a saying: “it’s at the end of the old rope that you weave the new one”. So when we talk about the States, about the African-American leaders, there’s something to connect with Africa. There’s already an existing link to begin with, but also because these are brothers and sisters who went through extremely complicated things but, for 50 or 100 years, fought to achieve rights, even if these are not really effective. If you think about it, 100 years ago Black people were lynched in Mississippi, even if today they are still shot on the streets. But they organised, and used violence and non violence. You had the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King. From moderates to radicals. They never ceased to renew the organisation to face injustice, and I think Africa could get some inspiration from them and vice versa. When I talk about Cabral for instance, he thought culture was important in the struggle. I think influences go both way. Hip-hop is a culture of protest, of militant action. You can’t talk about militant actions in hip-hop without referencing those who are actually out there and who fought in peril of their lives against injustice. In other words, references are very important.
WWOC: As I was saying that was my last question, I’ll play another track now, which is “Fourmis”. Could you tell us a bit about it?
Elom 20ce: “Fourmis” because ants do not make any noise. I think we are in a world where people like to be seen, taking selfies. At the same time, those who are actually doing the work are not seen, because they don’t have time to take selfies. I would like to be like ants, in the way they are organised, the way they work together, the way the help each other. When ants move, they are in a single line, each one has a specific role, they always touch. I think that’s what humans lack. Being humble and hard-working, unifying others. I think humans do not have those qualities nowadays. On this track, I wanted to invite a European who is like a brother to me, Zalem, as well as Sitou Koudadjé, a guy I’ve been rapping with for over 15 years. For me we are a good “ants” team because a lot of things happen behind the scenes that bring us together and allow us to move forward. “Fourmis” because ants do not make any noise.
WWOC: We are back for a quick conclusion. First of all, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. As I was saying earlier, it was a great pleasure to finally meet you and to see you on stage. So, if you have any last words, do not hesitate. And the last track is gonna be “J’ne pleure pas, ce sont les Oignons…”, which may be my favourite on the album.
Elom 20ce: Thanks for the invitation, it’s a pleasure to meet you in the flesh as well. It’s a pleasure to be in Marseille, because I think it’s a thriving city, where people are welcoming. I really like this city. Go get the album, I think it’s my best project. Go listen and discover it. “J’ne pleure pas ce sont les Oignons…” is a track where we talk about what makes us suffer. What actually makes us suffer: is it the things we create ourselves, or things we have to endure? It’s also about masks people wear: “I’m not crying, it’s the onions…”, as a way to say “I’m not suffering”. I see a lot of people suffering but pretending they’re not crying. This theme was important. And I really wanted to talk about women. I think women in Africa… Before, in ancient societies, women had very important roles and today they are more and more deprecated. I tell the story of a widow. It’s almost a true story, or even a true story. It was important for me to invite Pépé Oleka, who is a Beninese-Nigerian-Togolese singer. It was also important to invite Oxmo Puccino, because we had a lot of conversations about Africa in the summer, during his Blue Note tour when his album “Hipopette Bar” was released. He came to Lomé, we met there, and we talked a lot about the atmosphere in Togo because he was touring several countries. We talked about suffering because he felt the situation was tense in the country. So we thought we would make a track on this topic. It’s also a track where I tell a story. Storytelling is something I’m really interested in for future projects, how to tell stories. I think sometimes the message is easier to understand, since people can relate to it. That’s what’s interesting about this track. It’s a track I really like because musically the African element I wanted to emphasise is perceptible.
WWOC: Thanks a lot. Yeah, was lucky enough to see it live yesterday, and it was also my favourite track from the concert. It was quite impressive. Listen to the track, enjoy, and go get the album!
Now that you know more about Elom 20ce and his music, go get “INDIGO” on his Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below.
Lianne La Havas is a singer I absolutely love. With that disclaimer out of the way, please don’t expect this write up to be highly objective. When I first listened to the British singer’s work, I was immediately touched by her voice, her lyrics, and the music. The combination of those three elements works like magic, as was exemplified in her debut album, the excellent Is Your Love Big Enough?. After seeing the lovely lady on stage a few years ago, I was further convinced of my musical infatuation. In case you missed it, read my review of Lianne La Havas’ concert at Espace Julien in Marseille. Now, with all that said, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a slight concern before listening to her brand-new album, Blood. Because you see, Lianne has come a long way in the past few years, signed with a major label, and became somewhat of a “big name”, with a growing fan base. All this has the potential to change a young artist for the worst. However, as soon as I listened to the first singles before the release of her second full-length album, and watched the mesmerising videos for Unstoppable and What You Don’t Do, I was reassured that the Lianne La Havas I grew to love was still here, with a twist. More mature, more confident, more sensual, she was a sight to behold. A little while passed between the moment I saw the videos and the day the album was released. On that day, July 31st, I bought Blood. It took me about two weeks to finally listen to it though. Hey, life happens… I guess I needed to be in the perfect mood and frame of mind to fully appreciate it. Since the first 3 tracks of the album were those she already made available (the aforementioned tracks, plus Green & Gold), the listening experience was like going from well-trodden paths to unknown territory. As soon as the first notes of Tokyo were played, and Lianne’s delicate voice started singing, I already had a smile on my face. Sounding familiar and somewhat similar to songs from Is Your Love Big Enough?, it was different, as mentioned earlier. Something more. While Unstoppable and What You Don’t Do have that positive, playful energy, and look at love and relationships from an optimistic place, Tokyo is the first song of the album that exudes melancholy and loneliness. Full disclosure: I have a weakness for sad songs. This means tracks like this one made me love the album. Next on my list of favourite songs, which actually happens to be the following track on the album, is the incredible Wonderful. I don’t think I even have the words to express how much I adore this song. Delicate, sad, precious, it just reaches deep inside of me and stirs memories and emotions I may have been keeping tucked in there for a long while. Before I get overly sentimental, let me move on to the lighter Midnight, which gives us a glimpse of a more mischievous young lady. Daring and confident, the singer invites us to live with her at the witching hour, an offer that sounds very tempting to me. I read somewhere Lianne saying that Blood was her most personal project to date, which is obvious with the tracks Green & Gold, Ghost, and Grow, dealing with her childhood, presumably past relationships, and what her generation is going through. Closing the project in the most beautiful way possible, Good Goodbye is highly emotional too, especially as I lost my uncle last year and have been thinking about my late grandmother a lot lately. Let’s not forget the “good” in “goodbye” though, as indeed, “no one ever leaves you“.
Now that you know a little bit more about Lianne La Havas’ second album, Blood, discover the videos for the first two singles, and of course go get your copy! The album is available on digital, CD, and vinyl via her store.
Phraim is one of the very few artists who can (and do) drag me out of my blog hiatus when they release a new project. If you have been following this site, or my radio show, you already know that the Chicago resident is one of my favourite producers. Therefore, when I discovered recently that he was planning on releasing his fourth full-length album today, I was quite excited. After the incredible Silver Lined, Kasbah Moments, and Scars To Prove It, the talented producer now presents the beautifully named Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears. In case you are not familiar with him, check out previous blog posts about Phraim, including a very interesting audio interview we did. Now, one thing I love about him is that while you can always recognize his touch, all of his projects are quite different. Some things are recurrent, like the witty wordplay in track titles, the cinematic dimension, or the influence of travel, but the overall themes and sonorities are always unique.
With this brand-new offering, Phraim seems to have opted for much more concise musical treats, as most of the tracks are under 3 minutes, often closer to 2 minutes. On the one hand, this makes greedy me a bit frustrated, as I would love to listen to those tracks for a much longer period of time and discover how they could evolve. However, it is also a way to keep the listener on their toes, as atmospheres and ambiances change regularly.
When it comes to the title, I have to admit I looked up “ruby tears” because I had a feeling it could be a famous saying or something like that. When I discovered it was actually a flower, I was both intrigued as to what that was supposed to mean in the context of the title and mischievous in my decision to stick to my own interpretation. Yes, when I saw the title for the first time, and discovered the gorgeous cover artwork for the album, I decided it was a reference to a beautiful lady crying precious tears. Whatever the case may be, both the title and the picture hint at music dedicated to love and a muse. The “Midnight Kisses” part of the title only reinforces the sentiment, and I was therefore ready for a beautiful journey through emotions and feelings even before I hit the play button. If this album sounds slightly less cohesive than its predecessors, I could still feel a specific direction and imagine how and why the music was created through the lens of love and relationships. In addition to this theme, the wordplay in the title of the tracks, as well as the various sonorities, makes the idea of travel quite obvious. Then again, love is a journey, so that fits perfectly.
In terms of actual music and sounds, Phraim makes a clear departure from his latest project, Scars To Prove It, which was much more electronic than others, and comes back to very melodic tracks. From the samples to the notes played by the producer, there is much to please your ears in Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears. Speaking of the differences and evolution from previous projects, the artist himself says that the album is “indeed a senior release of sorts”. Confirming my first impression, he adds that “while it combines heart from past production, something about the formula of MKFRT is clearly different. Evolved, but grounded. Keen.” The feeling I get is that both the man and the artist have indeed grown, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold and hear.
As the project ends on “Hopeful Headaches”, I am equally optimistic about music and love after listening to the whole album. That’s probably why I had to start all over again, and again. Without a doubt, Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears will join Phraim’s previous three projects at the very top of the list of the albums I listen to the most. It should be on yours too.
Now that you know more about Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears, you can listen to the album and purchase it on Phraim’s Bandcamp. Enjoy the journey, support, and spread the word!
Avenging Wind aka Fathom 9 was one of the very few artists who have my unconditional support. From the day I discovered his album Untitled (Pulse Beta), when GQ Tha Teacha put me on his music (thank you so much!), to his very last release, I always bought all his projects, often before I listened to them, because I knew they would be amazing. He never disappointed. I can’t pretend we were as close lately as we used to be, back in some kind of golden age for Twitter and this blog, but we still communicated every now and then and I could always count on him to share my podcasts, whether or not I played his music. He would also send me “exclusives” and that’s something I greatly appreciated. Contrary to certain bloggers who are interested in exposure, views and hype, I find it way more interesting to connect with artists on a personal level. This is why Avenging Wind’s passing hurts so much. We may not have been lifelong friends, but I have a deep appreciation for him and I do feel like I lost a friend yesterday. While I didn’t know much about his personal life, his music allowed me to relate to him and know at least a few sides of his numerous personalities. A very talented producer, MC, poet, all around amazing artist, fellow Gemini, man of contradictions, he put his heart and soul into his music. From smooth, dreamy soundscapes to hard-hitting beats with jazzy samples and militant rhymes over martial instrumentals, his music was eclectic but always beautiful and powerful. An incredible wordsmith, he was extremely candid when expressing his thoughts and feelings, which is obviously admirable and inspiring. His poetry is very relatable to me, whether he talks about life and inspiration in general, physical desire and relationships, or music and social issues. It is quite rare to find an artist whose work is reflecting your own ideas and for that I am eternally grateful.
He has been on my mind heavily since I learnt the news and I can’t quite believe he’s actually gone. I was still hoping I could finally meet him one day, see him on stage, and work on a project with him. I guess it was not meant to be, in this lifetime at least. This is yet another reminder for me, after my uncle’s passing this summer, that life is indeed fragile and you never know what tomorrow may bring. One day you’re here, the next you’re gone. What will people remember about you? I know Avenging Wind wanted to make sure his contribution to the world would be a lasting one, and his artistic legacy is indeed a beautiful imprint he left on the world. While his body is no longer here on Earth, his soul lives on, and his words and music should be read and heard for many years to come. I will make it my mission to ensure as many people as possible know about this wonderful human being and beautiful soul who left us way too soon. Today is a very sad day, but I am also grateful to have known Avenging Wind and what is important now is to celebrate his life and art, and remember the beautiful memories he created through his music.
If you are not familiar with Avenging Wind aka Fathom 9, I urge you to listen to his music, to have a better understanding of just how important and powerful it is. I am glad we finally got to do an interview last year, after talking about it for months (years?), as it was a way to learn more about him and his album Dump Truck Blues: Battle Cry of The Wanderlust. Now, let me share a few of my favourites with you.
Whenever I have been away from this blog for months and do not really plan on updating it, I can always count on a few artists to release a project so amazing, beautiful and powerful that I won’t have a choice but to come back here and share it with you. Phraim is one of those artists. Last time I told you about him, he had just released his sophomore album, the enchanting Kasbah Moments. Today, the Chicago-based producer offers us a third full-length album, the wonderful Scars To Prove It, and I am very happy to tell you about it now. Just before I go into more details, I just wanted to highlight the power of this project (and great music in general), as it helped me snap out of my PTDS (Post Travel Depression Syndrome) and the gloomy mood I have been in since I came back from my amazing trip to New York City and spent days under grim London skies.
Besides the inspiring power of the album, what I always appreciate about Phraim is his tendency to craft detailed, multi-layered concept albums. After his debut release Silver Lined, created after and inspired by the passing of his grandmother (something that was easy for me to relate to), and the beautiful musical journey to the Middle East that was Kasbah Moments, the producer now delves into darker territories with Scars To Prove It, as the project is centred around “invasion” and the physical or mental scars left by difficult experiences and life trials. Once again, this is something I can definitely relate to. I am actually struggling with a few of those scars at the moment and it’s always a great thing to know that other people go through similar predicaments (even though the triggers and weapons creating the scars are not the same at all), but decide to use music as an outlet for their pain. As always I may read too much into this, but that’s just how I do. There is also an obvious reference to war and armed conflict, which could very well be taken literally, considering the current state of the world. This is something that has become quite difficult to ignore nowadays, and I appreciate the duality (or multiplicity, actually) of the album, since it can be interpreted in different ways.
The music itself is a delightful addition of a myriad of details, one of Phraim’s trademarks, which was already mentioned when I told you about Kasbah Moments. As was the case when listening to that previous album, I found myself imagining the “musical architect”, who clearly deserves the nickname, spending hours and hours on each track, making sure they sound as perfect as he wanted them to sound, and adding tiny details that make them whole. While the overall atmosphere on Scars To Prove It is more electronic than the producer’s previous endeavours, I am not one to complain. Variety is the spice of life and I really appreciate when artists provide their listeners with something new with each project. What’s the point of creating a different piece of music otherwise?
Finally, something that Phraim prides himself on, and that is quite obvious here, once again, is the cinematic quality of the project. Try listening to it at full volume while closing your eyes and tell me you don’t visualise specific scenes in your head… Whether it is cruising in a car in the streets of the Windy City at night trying to fight your demons, walking along your nearest lake/river/ocean and indulging into a quiet session of introspection, or simply reminiscing on days long gone, the project is sure to create snapshots in your mind and will most likely become the soundtrack for special moments, real or imagined. Listening to the album as I type, I have to admit quite a few thoughts and emotions go through my mind and heart, and I am truly grateful for music’s ability to take me to different places and times. Traveling without moving indeed…
I guess I’ll stop my rambling for now, but not before I urge you to give the album a listen and to add it to your collection. Also, if you are a film director, please get in touch with Phraim. I would love to see what a creative mind could do with such a beautiful and inspiring soundtrack.
Now that you know a bit more about Scars To Prove It, go listen and buy the album on Phraim’s Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy the journey!
It’s been a while, right? Right. Moving on swiftly… I watched a few lovely videos in the past weeks/months and I wanted to share them with you, because sharing is caring. Those four videos are completely different and this is great because variety is the spice of life. As usual, I chose them specifically because they provide the viewer with something interesting and original, which is something all artists should aim to do, don’t you think? So, for this edition, you have a wonderful selection of visuals, courtesy of Stevy Mahy, a regular in this section, Mr. Bird & Greg Blackman, Maleiva Kem & James Klynn, and Raashan Ahmad. I told you it was varied! Now, without further delay, let me tell you more about those new(-ish) videos.
First of all, as I said above, Stevy Mahy has been featured in most of those video updates so far. The reason for this is quite simple: all her videos are amazing! This new one, complementing her brand-new single Ban di’w, taken from her upcoming album Renaissance Woman, is as beautiful and inspiring as ever. Singing both in French and Kreyol, Stevy addresses her lover with a delightful, heartfelt declaration, while the visuals present snapshots of a relationship that oozes love, affection and spirituality. This is what dreams are made of… The music is also an invitation to let your mind drift away and to envision a bright future for yourself, or at least it does for me. In case this is your first time hearing and seeing Stevy Mahy, I would suggest you browse this blog to discover my album review for The Beautiful Side of A Kreyol Folk Trip, as well as other posts about the lovely singer.
Then, UK artists Mr. Bird and Greg Blackman team up to provide you with visuals and lyrics dealing with the aftermath of a relationship, which apparently didn’t go too well… Taken from their collaborative album Low Fi Classics, released recently via BBE, Since You’ve Been Gone is undoubtedly among my favourites on the project. The concept of the video is quite simple but works very well and makes the message of the song all the more clear and powerful. While I haven’t really been in this type of situation before, I can still relate to Greg Blackman’s words and feelings. I am sure some of you will recognise yourself though and maybe wish you had said these words to a person or two… The duo also released a remix for this song, courtesy of The Paragons of Goodness, who are none other than Greg Blackman himself and Nathan Wacey. Available with the single, released via BBE last month as well, it’s a great addition to the album and provides a new dimension to this break-up tale.
Maleiva Kem and James Klynn also tell us about love with their new video/short film, taking us on a Cold Path and providing us with an original story to accompany their words. Part of Freedom Hall, a wonderful collective of artists I told you about in the past, they always strive to push boundaries and create art that is all at once innovative, thought-provoking and inspiring. This video is yet another example of their approach and it should not leave you unmoved. Taken from the recently released album of the same name, Cold Path blends a lovely melody and Maleiva Kem’s angelic voice with James Klynn’s expert writing skills and candid lyrics. The result is a bittersweet tale that still inspires hope, which I think is what the visuals are all about. The hopeless romantic in me can’t but appreciate that and I’m grateful to the artists for giving me a reason to feel optimistic about love and life right now.
Last but not least, Raashan Ahmad just released a brand-new video for The Remedy, taken from the album Ceremony that was released last year and has become one of my favourites ever. Far from swoon-inducing declarations of love, post break-up relief or complicated feelings, what the American MC offers us is a testimony to his passion for hip-hop. Shot last week in Tokyo, Japan, during his tour in the Land of the Rising Sun, the video is full to the brim of positive vibes and energy. While the storyline is quite basic, the power of the visuals is to make you feel good. That is usually what a lot of Raashan Ahmad’s music is about and I have to say it works perfectly well. As I have been going through rough times lately, I can definitely relate to music being The Remedy, which makes it even easier for me to enjoy the song and video. It actually ranks among my (many) favourites from the album and listening to it, along with watching the MC do his thing in Tokyo, makes me feel better.
I have been meaning to update the blog for a while now… In the same way as life is made of ups and downs, my levels of motivation and inspiration have this way of taking rollercoaster rides, creating severe inconsistency. While listening to the album I am about to write about today, I felt a desire to share. Again. At last. Add a friendly but firm virtual kick in the ass (thanks Keisha ;)) and you get a blog post. Hooray!
While this album is not “recent” by any musical industry standard (which I couldn’t care less about), it is new to my ears and probably many of yours. Hence its presence on the blog in my regular “Newness for your ears” category. Released in 2009, Chayé Kow has this type of timeless sound that makes it enjoyable from the day of its release till… infinity? I can’t vouch for that just now, but I can say that 5 years after it came out, it pleases my ears and that is all that matters to me. I actually first heard about French singer Érik several months before he finally released the album and it was beautiful to witness his journey from new, young artist with an innovative sound to well-known personality in the West Indies (he is hailing from the beautiful island of Guadeloupe) and mainland France. The first songs I heard, sometimes accompanied with beautiful videos, are present on Chayé Kow, making the album slightly familiar at first listen. While a couple of those tracks (On bel jouné and Si ou pa la) remain my favourites, all the ones I discovered were pleasant surprises and made my ears and my soul happy. Overall, the project is a comprehensive introduction to Érik’s universe and a lovely musical journey into his various influences. Singing both in Kréyol and in French, the young man tells us about love, loss and growth, among other topics. In addition to his extremely appealing voice and well-written, heartfelt lyrics, the other strong point of the album is undoubtedly the music. From delicate strings to uplifting percussions and compelling bass and piano, all the instruments appeal to my ears in various ways and each song creates a different atmosphere, allowing me to experience a wide range of feelings. Parler de tout ça, specifically, is an emotional tale about the struggles you can encounter in a relationship and, while I didn’t experience anything similar myself, I can’t help but be touched by the quality of Érik’s words and delivery. Another favourite, the closing track, Viré tombé, is an hypnotic number that deeply touches me and entices me to vibrate to the rhythm of the percussions. Quite a wonderful way to end this listening experience and leave listeners enthralled!
As a conclusion to this short presentation, I would like to say that Chayé Kow is one of those albums that seduce me as soon as the first notes of the first song are heard and it will most definitely be listened to on a regular basis. In case you didn’t listen to it when it was released, as was the case for me, don’t fret: music like this is a gift that you receive whenever you are ready. I know I was and it came into my life at the perfect time.
PS. His new album, École créole, was released last year. I have yet to listen to it but I will most probably keep you updated once I do.
Now that you know a little bit more about Érik and Chayé Kow, I invite you to discover the whole album on iTunes (or other various digital music stores). If by any chance you still need convincing, watch the two videos below, for Si ou pa la and Chayé kow, very different but equally beautiful tracks that give you an idea of the variety of sounds and atmospheres you can find on the album. Enjoy and please share!
I discovered Shinobi Stalin quite a few years ago and I told you about him on several occasions, including with my review of his debut album Zombie School and with an interview I did with the Orlando-based artist, so it is with great pleasure that I now present you his sophomore album.
The highly-anticipated Invisible Man was released last week and it was definitely worth the wait. With this new project, Shinobi Stalin proves, once again, how gifted he is when it comes to penning lyrics and expressing them over instrumentals. While he invited several of his frequent collaborators, including his Vets of Kin crew, as well as other independent hip-hop artists such as Roc Marciano, he clearly shines on this project, from start to finish.
From the very first seconds of Anticipation, a heart-felt track, he steps out of the shadow and goes straight into the heart of the matter, taking the listeners on a journey through his thoughts and feelings, equipped with clever rhymes and seamless flow. Here Not There, which could have been the subtitle for the album, is probably the best explanation of its name. The beautiful, slightly hypnotic instrumental serves a perfect backdrop to what is probably the most relatable track for me, as it describes how you can sometimes be present physically but actually somehow aloof. This is something you can also find later on Energon, where Shinobi Stalin explains how he is more of an observer, something I can definitely relate to.
The MC then proceeds to touch upon relationships (Game Should Never Play), politics, history and the media (Control, His Story), or his Black-Puerto Rican heritage (Nigger Rican), among other topics. He also offers an ode to his city of Orlando, FL, nicknamed the Ozone, on the aptly-titled Welcome to Ozone, and invites the Vets of Kin and Kap Kallous for N.I.K.E., a posse cut that makes my ears quite happy. Another guest worth mentioning is Mike Rosa, who is none other than his brother, as well as a talented skateboarder, and joins him for Brothers Influence.
In addition to the great quality of Shinobi Stalin’s lyrics and flow, I can’t but mention the wonderful instrumentals, provided by talented producers Reeplay, Abbott, Tempermental, Soy Is Real and Shinobi Stalin himself, among others. The different soundtracks match his flow perfectly and create a very pleasant atmosphere, which helps increasing the level of replayability (yep, that’s a word). I need to give a special mention to Control, which, in addition to being my favourite track in terms of lyrical content, benefits from the most beautiful instrumental you could ever dream of (shouts out to Tone Blare). Also, Sing The Blues is a wonderful combination of lovely production and honest lyrics that stands out as one of the most personal and compelling tracks of the album.
Overall, Invisible Man is a comprehensive and cohesive project that serves both as a worthy follow-up to Zombie Skool and a testament to the MC’s brand of quality, timeless-sounding music. If you are just discovering Shinobi Stalin, this should make you want to dig deeper and listen to the rest of his discography, both on his own and with his crew.
You can now discover Invisible Man by heading to Shinobi Stalin’s Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy, share and support!
As a bonus, here is the official video for Welcome to Ozone, complete with cameos from his Vets of Kin crew members and other Orlando MCs.
Four years… Who would have thought? Arguably this was not the greatest year for The Wonderful World of Carminelitta, but I am happy to be able to say that despite it all this blog is still alive and I didn’t give it up completely. Surely, I thought about it several times. Lack of inspiration, motivation and support made it quite difficult for me to keep on pushing for something that I was not sure was worth it. However, I now know that I simply can’t stop what I started. Through the ups and downs, this blog is still my baby. This is one of the few things I created from scratch and I’m damn proud of it!
In these strange times for the music industry, with things constantly changing and evolving, digitalisation in full effect and competition to be the “hottest” or create the biggest “buzz” (among other horrible catchwords…), I often feel that I am out of place and don’t belong in the world of music blogs. When I read some of your messages though, I am reminded that my voice matters and that I can indeed bring something to artists and music lovers. This is why I will not give up. I will keep on writing about artists I discover, sharing music I love with you, providing you with substantial, in-depth interviews and most of all loving doing it. Here’s to yet another year of beautiful, powerful, inspiring, life-changing music!
I would be remiss if I didn’t take some time to thank all the artists who touched me, communicated with me and helped me through the year, as well as everyone who has ever supported me and my endeavours. As cliché as it may sound, you are the reason why I am doing this and this blog would never be what it is without you. Please stick with me for more musical adventures and help me spread the word about amazing projects for many, many years to come!
To celebrate the past year, I put together a compilation, as I have always done since the beginning. It includes all the artists I featured on the blog in 2013, and this is both a way to say thank you to the artists and to help their music be heard far and wide. Listen, enjoy and most importantly, tell your friends! More than ever, it’s all about sharing 🙂
You can discover The Wonderful Year of Carminelitta Vol. 4 by heading to my Mixcloud page, or simply by clicking on the link below.