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Music Wrap: The must-listen tracks from September

PHOTOGRAPHY BY NELLY SKOUFATOGLO AND HANA SCHLESINGE 

WORDS BY ELIZA SHOLLY

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How does one reconcile enjoying great music when it comes at the cost of your own personal politics? Particularly when you’re a political person. Many smarter than I have tried to ascertain a nuanced answer, and I hate to say it but there still isn’t really one.

Let’s talk about Kanye West. It feels like a complete paradox of personality when I defend this man; his overtness continuing to objectify many fibres of my being. On Donda, the first thing that stood out to me was his problematic, lazy choice of features.


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For a man that is known for discovering and popularising the next generation of talent, his selection feels like a clout-chasing attempt at polarisation. Chris Brown is a yawn. DaBaby? Marilyn Manson? This has to be a joke.

Post-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it became blatantly clear that the industry wanted to forgive Kanye. He proved that if his musical execution was excellent, then he would be granted a cultural clean slate. Not only was he given the opportunity to marry into America’s first celebrity family, but he also became a billionaire and is widely celebrated as one of contemporary street fashion’s pioneers.

As far as the world was concerned, Donda could have been his second reset. The music itself was on par with that message – a theatrical return to Ye at his artistic best. Post-Trump, post-Jesus, post-TMZ comments. Disappointingly, Kanye the artist chose not to let the music speak for itself, instead shrouding his return in useless, meme-worthy melodrama that couldn’t be left on the stage.

As someone who considers the work of Kanye West their foray into the relevant lexicon of music, it’s deeply upsetting to see this trajectory from him. I could write my thesis on his career, which would cite 15 commercially working, celebrated musicians that would not exist if it weren’t for him. Drake is just one of many.

Drake is a student of Kanye West, both blatantly and inadvertently. The rap/sing style that Drake has since popularised was a learned technique from the pioneering thematic of Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak. What has since evolved into a mainstream trap sound (enjoyed by the likes of Lil Baby, The Weeknd and Travis Scott) was only made acceptable due to the commercial prowess of Drake’s success before them. He created a proof of concept and sold it in individual droves to A&R.

This is a very, very short summation of 10 plus years of industry happenings. Certified Lover Boy and Donda bring them both back to the forefront in ridiculously problematic ways. They are boring in their chaotic executions, harming marginalised communities in pretty much every way possible.

Drake has minuscule female vocal presence on the project, yet thinks it’s acceptable to rap about converting lesbians on one of the standout tracks. He gave convicted paedophile and industry smear R Kelly a writing credit and no doubt thousands in financial royalties. The album cover, created by artist Damien Hirst, depicts emoji of 12 pregnant women. 2021 Drake, seemingly as unstoppable as ever, feels more than happy to profit off of a woman’s likeness – in aesthetics, lyric and subject matter – yet refuses to include our experience in any meaningful way.

To quote Ashley Reese in Jezebel, “The girls and the gays are dominating hip-hop, but where is the respect?” Certainly nowhere on the attitude-clad, entitled Kanye and Drake executions. I know they both enjoy creating music about being cancelled, so 2021 should make for some good material. Onto the good stuff.

Tom Misch quarantine sessions

Tom Misch is every alt musicians king. Find me a tote bag selling, milk-displaying cafe without Tom Misch on the playlist and I’ll show you a liar. Early fans (flex) will remember the bedroom sessions he used to create and post to Instagram; he jammed in front of an iconic lime-green wall alongside friends like Loyle Carner and Zak Abel. The executions served as blueprints for his first two albums.

Last year he used the UK lockdown to settle in and create some more bedroom musical stylings. While unfortunately sans the green wall, all are beautiful. Please pay extra attention to the ‘Parabéns’ cover, released in recorded collaboration with Marcos Valle. Tom in his home studio in London, and Marcos in Rio.

Chaos In The CBD – Brainstorm EP

These two have been releasing EPs like it’s going out of fashion. Absolutely zero complaints, apart from the fact they have flown the ditch from New Zealand to London with relatively no timeframe as to when I will next be able to see them live.

IMHO, Chaos In The CBD are about as good as local dance music gets. They are at the top of their game, consistently producing tracks with dreamy synths and unwavering nostalgia. It sounds like the sunrise; like hugging your mates on a couch at Meredith; like securing Big Day Out tickets in 2009 after violently refreshing your browser. Pure orgasmic adrenaline. If I ever get to interview them, I’ll ask them how it feels to never fucking miss.

Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert

If you’ve been reading this column for the last couple of months, you’ll know I could singlehandedly front the Little Simz fan club. This album is an A+, and a valiant follow up to 2019’s coming-of-age release, Grey Area.

There is no right way to rap about the African diaspora, but Simz does so in a way that feels unparalleled right now. Accessible to masses but an intricate examination to those in the know. She draws on children’s voices to reflect on past experiences and pens a number of lyrical open letters that feel poetically personal. AOTY contender, for sure.

Everybody Knows – A podcast by Schwartz Media

A quick podcast recommendation. Everybody Knows. Super-journalist and host, Ruby Jones, investigates the rise, stalling and eventual fall of the Me Too movement in Australia. Over five episodes, listen to her examine the culture of cover-ups and complicity in the local music industry, with special attention paid to the inner workings of Sony Music’s Sydney office.

Baby Keem – The Melodic Blue

Many introduce Hykeem Carter by his familial link to Kendrick Lamar; they’re cousins, yes, but this album proves that Baby Keem can very much stand on his own two feet.

In his Pitchfork review, Dylan Green describes him as an enigma. The once-private rapper has only now begun to embrace the limelight. On The Melodic Blue, he brings his inner-workings to the forefront, relying on the enigmatic flow and trap melodies to deliver some experimental sound.

‘Rebel Time’ – Moonga. K, Sampa The Great

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This song proves that we have well and truly lost Sampa The Great to the world stage. She is no longer Australia’s secret anymore – she’s using her diasporic talent to collaborate with the best African musicians in the game right now.

First it was ‘Free & Equal’ with Beninese singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo, and now with Zambian-born, Botswana-raised and South African-based Moonga. K. The song is the second single release from his upcoming EP, and a great introduction to his futuristic stylings.

Mirrors – DJ Seinfeld

It pains me to write about dance music in a time when I can’t integrate with it properly. But the day will soon come, and this release from DJ Seinfeld makes the post-lockdown daydreaming easier.

On his sophomore album, Mirrors, the Swedish producer expands his production prowess through 10 tracks. The vocals, while sometimes superficial, are an upbeat highlight. I can imagine Mirrors being lapped up by teenagers soundtracking their first foray into electronic music; the same way Disclosure’s Settle did mine.

Ruby Gill – ‘You Should Do This For A Living’

Ruby Gill is a lyrical mastermind. The kind that muses about slight anguish but evokes feelings of triumph. Naarm-based, her latest single ‘You Should Do This For A Living’ is a little left-of for my personal taste – but gritty, tender and relatable are all thematic notes that I can get around. And you should too.

Backed-up by a choir of fellow angels (Angie McMahon and Maple Glider), this song is what happens when women come together in the pursuit of recognising similarities in difference.

Tems – If Orange Was A Place

Tems!! I have been waiting to write about the breakout Nigerian star for a while now. She has landed huge features on Drake and WizKid’s records, and recently rubbed shoulders with Rihanna at the Fenty show.

Her second EP, If Orange Was A Place, is definitely vibrant, featuring jazzy-horns and swirling percussion. The subject matter however, is introspective. Returning to familial roots, she wrestles with the ideas of home, loneliness, comfort and heartbreak.

Nao – And Then Life Was Beautiful 

Nao offers precisely the textured, dreamy sound we love at FJ. Her third studio album And Then Life Was Beautiful shows how she’s grown as an artist and as a person.

After a year tackling chronic fatigue (as well as a global pandemic, mind you), Nao has come out the other side stronger than ever and this release is a sonic exploration of her past year. It chronicles all the ups and downs with all the tactile sonics, shimmering basslines, gossamer-light guitars we wanted from the artist.

Notable mentions:

‘Before You Gotta Go’ – Courtney Barnett

‘1 Way’ – DMA’s

‘Jgl’ – IAMDDB

‘Colors and Shapes’ – Mac Miller

‘I Still Have Faith In You’ – Abba

‘Oh!’ – The Linda Lindas

‘G Flip/Renforshort ‘ – Waiting Game

Teenage Dreams – Native Soul

‘Joseph’ – Christine and the Queens

You can keep up with Eliza here.

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