|In this new section we have one hand on the cd player and the other on the keyboard to review the best albums and singles that were released in the past months. Of course we couldn't get holdof everything we wanted, and there's much more that came out but isn't featured here. We are talking mostly about albums that were released internationally and are available on cd. If you want us to review your cd, please send a copy to the Africanhiphop reviews address:
att. Thomas - Juma4
1015 DM Amsterdam
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1) UB40 & Gentleman & Bantu - Rudie (hold it down)
The Nigerian brothers of the group Bantu in Germany have made name in the past years with the 'Brothers Keepers' recording and concert initiative which was a cry out against racism and an effort to introduce the German hip hop crowd to the fact that some of its key players are of African descent. Meanwhile Bantu also recorded a few tracks in anticipation of their full album, and the track 'No more no vernacular' became a chart topper in Nigeria. We met Ade, one half of Bantu, in Cologne in May 2003, and he passed us a promo copy of the upcoming UB40 single 'Rudie - hold it down' which features Bantu.
We had not really been following up on the latest UB40 releases as they seemed to become ever more poppy and polished, but this release is much more unpolished, with an instrumental heading towards dancehall, UB40 keeping themselves to the chorus and Gentleman & Bantu really ripping it up in the verses, and the message is: rudeboys put down the guns. We can expect this to do really well, first of all in Germany which is one of the world's primary hip hop markets. The same instrumental was also worked by dancehall/reggae legends Beenie Man, Gregory Isaacs, Tippa Irie and others, the vinyl of that will be out soon. In the coming months Bantu are finally dropping their album and you'll hear more about them as we have planned to hook up this summer.
[released Virgin Music Germany, May 2003]
2) Salah Edin - Hakma promo version
It happened before - a largely unknown Moroccan rapper from the Netherlands getting signed to a major (remember Cilvaringz who got a deal with Wu-Tang records?). Salah Edin comes from a different angle though, as his lyrics and music strongly reflect his North-African heritage. His beats will make your head nod like any well produced underground track, but he adds the aural pleasure of sampled Arabic melodies. The demo sleeve says he's the 'first person to put Arabic hip-hop on the map' and while that may not be exactly true (take crews like Intik and MBS from Algeria who have blown up internationally), this cat is certainly bound to shift units. We saw him perform live and the energy of his stage performance has certainly been captured on cd. From performing at the Midem festival in France, he signed a distribution deal for North Africa and there's been rumours about a major label deal in the USA. Time will tell.
[To be released 2003]
3) l'N Fect - Tašj el-Mehtašj
Once again an Algerian rap crew comes along with beats and flows that just blows our minds. Made up of three former members of the crew Talisman (that we first heard on the Wah Rap compilation), this breakaway formation has come together under a new name with a new style. With production by MC and beatmaker One Der, this EP really kicks. On the track Fi Bladi, the group talks about the political and social situation in Algeria where young people have to deal with unemployment, threats of terrorism, and corruption. With production that goes beyond the predictable, this group is definately one to watch for in the future. What makes it even more worth checking out is the fact that the group have placed their music online for us to download.
[Available for download at the website]
4) SNK (Mali) - 'Toujours Underground'
Mali is one country that we at Africanhiphop.com don't often get news from. SNK, first heard on the compilation Mali Rap 2001, represents his homeland on this, his latest album which has the title 'Toujours Underground' which translates to 'always underground'. Maybe this is one reason why Mali hasn't been heard that much yet on the international level. They are representing their local scene though, over the past five years there's been an explosion of local talent and many tapes were put out.
Mali Invasion reports: "It's been a long time since Mali Invasion Records put out their last release, the Magic Black Men album Lume. Malian Hip Hop fans were waiting for a new sound from Yeli Fuzzo, MBM or the compilation Mali Rap 2003. But SNK was the surprise nobody had been waiting for. When his first single "Be ki Tolo Ma Djo" (meaning "Everybody listen") hit the radio, it became an instant success. Now, fans can find his first album through Mali k7 (Mali prime distribution company). The album also features guest emcees Fanga Fing and Magic Black Men.
For more information, visit the Invasion Records website which is the web's primary source for news on rap in Mali.
5) Positive Black Soul (Senegal) - New York Paris Dakar
The album from 1999 which never came out though Universal/Island records has now been released by Africa Fete. Although it comes in a very sober packaging without liner notes, we still have to give props to the label for releasing this to the fans. 'NPD' features tracks from as early as 1997, and it has PBS giving their best to follow up on their ground breaking 'Salaam'. With a number of international guests (KRS-1, Supernatural, Djinji Brown, Vinia Mojica), some rhymes in English and French alongside their native Wolof, this album could have made an impact if it would have dropped at the right time with the right kind of promotion. Some people say that PBS have had their best days, and they may no longer be the most popular rap group in Dakar. But they still have their years of experience to give a good show, and this year they have set out on an international tour which has them visiting Madagascar, South Africa, Zimbabwe and some European countries. Awadi released a solo album last year, and now it's Doug-E Tee's turn to treat the home audience to a solo album of which we heard one track (reggae!).
Anyway, try to get hold of this French release which contains fine PBS tracks like 'Capsi' which at the time came with a video, 'Degloul' one of my favorites, and 10 other energetic, well produced tracks. Latest news is that this album is also available on vinyl!
[Released February 2003 Africa Fete/Night & Day cd, France]
6) Daara J - Boomrang
We first got hold of the tape in January 2003, and it did ask for rewind after rewind on our borrowed getto blaster in a small room in Dakar. A few weeks later the cd became available and we just continued playing it, as did many people in France considering the good promotion that the album got. The album does also sound more commercial than their previous cd 'Xalima'. Daara J flirt with Latin American music and even use a Timbaland kind of beat on the shure-shot hit 'Bopp sa bopp' which is supported by an Arabic sounding sample. The trio have sharpened their flows and this is a long haul from their self-titled debut album. They also have Rokia Traore, the famous young griotte from Mali, sing along on the choruses. An interesting addition, but it seems a bit as if she wasn't allowed to use the full potential of her powerful voice. Still this is among our top 5 of favorite Senegalese rap albums for the past 12 months. Apparently the Boomrang cassette version was pirated heavily in Dakar, so support the group and buy the cd!
[Subdivision/BMG cd, France]
7) Pee Froiss - Konkerants
One of the most awaited Senegalese cd debutes, and one of the most deserved, as this trio (two emcees and a dj) has been around for almost as long as PBS, who produced their 1st tape back in the mid-nineties. On a visit to Paris in July 2001 we heard some of the tracks, and these suggested that Pee Froiss also have airplay on their mind, but their usual dedication to true hip hop wouldn't be lost this time either. In February we finally got the full album and our predictions were largely confirmed. On the cover it reads 'We are going to start African colonies which teach Wolofonie' where 'Wolofonie' should be the Senegalese equivalent of the French effort to create a global empire of France-friendly culture. An interesting quote because 'Francophonie' was also a stimulant in the creation of Senegalese rap (think of the activities of the French Cultural Center). A tour through the album learns that the synthesized beats can't hide the fact that Pee Froiss are very gifted vocalists who master different styles of rapping, in particular Xuman's voice is one out of a thousand. When his partner Kool Kocc goes in r&b mode he can compete with any of the new generation of artists. Our favorite songs: Africa for Africans, Ca va Peter, and High. In 2003 Pee Froiss are touring abroad so if you get the chance, go see them.
[24/2/2003 Africa Fete/Night & Day cd, France]
8) Myk 7 (Nigeria/France) - Facing Reality
As unusual as it may sound, this is a Nigerian emcee based in Aix-en-Provence (France). On this second album, MYK and a number of invited French emcees drop their rhymes and singing (in French and English) over pleasant-but-never-jiggy beats. Self-released but the overall sound is nowhere amateuristic.
[Myk7 Entertainment cd]
9) Da Fugitivz (Gambia) - Escaped
This album is just out but our copy is on the way, so not much we can say except that the first tape released in Senegal and Gambia was an excellent West-African dancehall hip hop album and we hope to hear more of that.
[Swing-a-ling Records, Sweden]
10) Tony Allen (Nigeria, feat. TY) - Homecooking
The pioneer drummer of Afrobeat is still touring and made some sort of a come-back in the past years. He deserved the success cos his show is real tight, reminding of the Headhunters (1970's Herbie Hancock) sometimes. The new album features mc TY (UK, Nigerian roots) and popsinger Amon Tobin. Ty's rapping fits in nicely with the groove and the combined rapping and live afrobeat playing sound as if they have always been together.
[Comet Records, France]
11) Various - Red Hot & Riot - a tribute to Fela Kuti
One of the most interesting hiphop crossovers of the last years, this non-profit effort raising money for Aids brings together some big names in American black music with African musicians and European dance producers to do covers of classic Fela tracks. PBS (Senegal) do a little appearance, other familiar names are Common, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Cheikh Lo, Les Nubians, Manu Dibango, Tony Allen, Kelis, Baaba Maal etc. In our eyes still not enough African hiphop representation, but then again the album is meant to raise money in the west for projects in Africa, so the fame factor does play a role here - the featured American artists are big names and will get people to buy the album.
[Red Hot cd]
12) Zimbabwe Legit (Zimbabwe/USA) - Doing damage in my native language
Reprint of a very rare promo 12 inch that was wanted by fans of dj Shadow, whose first-ever performance features here in an instrumental remix that has little to do with the other tracks. We like this cos it's probably the first African hiphop release abroad, with nice beats by Mr Lawnge (Black Sheep) and afrocentric lyrics by 'real African emcees' as the label sticker proudly exclaims.
[Hollywood Basic Promo - 12" vinyl reprint]
13) Das Primeiro (Angola) - Liberdade
Two tracks produced by Mr Bee, with chart potential in a reggae vibe and apparently doing well on the Portuguese market where this came out. Mc Das Primeiro and his group are based in Amsterdam, Holland but targeting the Portuguese speaking countries.
[Kianny/Reino da Musica - cd single]
14) Cashino - Subterranean
Nigerian origin emcee in the UK has been doing his thing for years on the web - we have been in touch since back in the days when websites didn't have images! Now Cashino has an album and it's hardcore, no compromises beat- and lyricwise. Parrish Smith (PMD from EPMD fame) blessed the album with an intro rapped over the phone, so you should have an idea what Cashino's inspirations are. Tracks like 'Underground nino' really got us in an 'OK this is fresh hip hop' mood which doesn't happen too often these days.
[Rugged Style Records cd, UK]
15) African consciences (Various)
A collection of lyrics kicked over slight variations on one dancehall riddim produced for the occasion by Jamaican reggae legend Sly Dunbar. The project aims at discussing and building on a pan-African conscience which according to initiator Mbegane N'dour (from the Senegalese rap group Djoloff based in Paris) should stretch to black people in the diaspora. So African consciences brings together people of African heritage from all over: Jamaica, USA, UK, France and naturally (West) Africa. Mbegane got the opportunity to work with high profile names including Sizzla and Anthony B (Jamaica), Ty (UK), Pee Froiss (Senegal), Bantu (Germany/Nigeria) and others on 12 tracks which are all lyrically focused on Africa and what it means for this diverse collection of artists. And if there's one common theme it must be the desire for Africans worldwide to stand together. Though the booklet is a good read, the music will do its best to get you out to the music store and buy this unique cd.
16) Kaysha (Congo/France) - It's all love
We haven't listened yet, but traditionally Kaysha is bringing a fusion of zouk and r&b which does well with the pop audience between the Antilles and West Africa. The album will be released in July 2003, previews are up on his site already. Check out www.kaysha.com - homeboy is a pioneer of the web and even sells his own gear online.
17) JJC & 419 Squad (Nigeria/UK) - Atide
We didn't receive our copy of the whole album yet, but the first single by the same name crosses borders of many different international styles. Hip hop is an important element. JJC's bi-weekly radio show on the new BBC channel 1Xtra which started last year, works according to the same formula. In fact it's one of the very few international radio shows that plays any African hiphop other than the usual 3 albums worth of material that has been out on the international market, and Africanhiphop.com has supplied them with some exclusive tunes.
[Big Ballaz/Sterns UK, www.sternsmusic.com]
18) Expressions (compilation)
Last year, Black Rage productions (the people behind the Rage.co.za site) started out with their own label Outrageous, releasing South African music (hip hop, r&b and kwaito). April the compilation 'Expressions' came out. We received a copy, and a first listen suggests that this is probably the best South African hiphop collection on the market. It's been a while since other highlights like Motherload (the 1995 Johannesburg compilation) or the early 90's tracks on 'Cape Hip Hop Classics'. Rage did their best to unearth the raw talent of unsigned crews that is often left untapped. Some names are familiar - Skwatta Kamp, Amu, Spex and Neo Muyanga for example, but there's room for newcomers. The whole cd is well produced in a Talib Kweli/Roots/nu jazz vibe. There's a slightly melancholic mood throughout with plenty of soul and a wealth of lyrics in English and what sounds to us like Xhosa or Zulu. There's also poetry and r&b mixed in. This album should please die-hard hip hop fans who might not have bought the first Rage compilation last year as it was a bit more jiggy.
Outrageous is well branched, and we should expect their product to reach far - and it deserves it. The listeners of YFM (popular radio station in the Gauteng area) seem to love the compilation, too.
Check out rage.co.za and contact them if you want to get hold of the album.
19) Love Bandit (Kenya/USA) - Infinity
Solo release by Kenyan emcee in the USA, formerly known as Stan Knight. His style reminds a bit of the r&b rap Kaysha but without the zouk - smooth rapping and lyrics talking about love, Crystal but also some consciousness in 'Wanna be a star?'
[Knightman Records, USA]
20) Metaphysics (Zimbabwe/Germany) - Elevated Perception [Swamp records, Germany] and Migrant Souls (Zimbabwe/Germany) - the Foundation E.P. [Pyramid Music, Germany]
Metaphysics is another old friend from the years before our site became Africanhiphop.com. He pioneered Zimbabwean hiphop with his group Peace of Ebony, and he is now making waves in the German hip hop scene. Unlike many other immigrant emcees, he isn't forever struggling to get his name out - in the past 2 years he's been all over the place and even toured with popular singer Xavier Naidoo. If you listen to his solo EP you will understand why - he's on some next level lyrically and his flow is really elevated. He is also part of the Migrant Souls together with Laygwan Sharkie, another rap pioneer from Zimbabwe. They put out the impressive Foundation E.P.
21)Africa Raps (various Senegal/Gambia)
The vinyl version of this popular sampler of West-African rap is now also available with a selection of the best tracks, plus the bonus track Siensall remix by Pee Froiss which features some twenty guest emcees!
[Trikont, Germany - 1 x vinyl LP, limited edition]