2010 is bringing in some amazing new music. We aren't necessarily counting new and scary musical outputs like the recent Badu/Lil Wayne match-up, but new and pleasing sounds like those coming from African import Nneka on her new release, Concrete Jungle. This album is providing us with a much-needed gulp of fresh air in today's bottle-necked music world.
Seemingly outspoken and political, Nneka gives the impression (via her website and online interviews) that she is motivated to create music that resonates on many levels for her listeners, much like a modern-day Bob Marley. This new CD resonates, indeed. Nneka is trying to change the universe through bridging musical worlds, and, frankly, she might be on to something. This CD is--simply--the shit.
Yep. It's just that good.
"The daughter of a Nigerian father and a German mother, Nneka Egbuna
was born in Warri, Oil City in the Delta region of Nigeria at the
height of its new found wealth in the mid 70s," reads the bio on her
website. But, while her biracial heritage and looks that resemble Amel
Larrieux could easily cast her away as a wanna-be clone of the Groove
Theory songstress, Nneka comes strong with a sound, personality and
flavor all her own. If she reminds you of anyone, it is probably
Floetry's Natalie Stewart once she starts breaking into rhyming like on
the track "Showing Love" and her accented vocals tear into the track.
Yes, she raps. She is a musician, singer AND rhymer, and she handles all three with finesse.
The 12-track CD is an aural ride. With ease, she navigates the genres of Reggae, Rock, Acoustic Soul and Hip Hop. And, on this disc, Fela's
Afrobeat lives. Few artists can succeed at this without sounding like a
garbled mess--most have their schtick and stick to it. But,not Nneka.
She doesn't have only one thing/sound that she does well. She seems to
be mastering most genres pretty damn well.
We are taken through the trials of love, groovin to "Uncomfortable
Truth" and its refrain "Let us make a change/Why can't we turn the
page" and then dipped with ease into a smooth almost Van Hunt-like
groove named "Mind vs. Heart," which would be a stand-out if the entire album didn't have so many high points.
Instant favorites abound. "Heartbeat" followed by "Suffri" will
definitely be the dance pick off the disc with its contagious thump and
adrenaline-laced chorus that is almost panted by a vocally aerobatic
Nneka. "From Africa 2 U," her unabashed ode to Africa even works well
here, without sounding cornball sweet and hokey.
Into political waters, the CD moves with "Come With Me" and "Africans" but never sacrifices the musical substance.
The cover of Concrete Jungle has Nneka's face
covered by the continent of Africa made up of U.S. states inside of it.
This visual is a not-so-subtle clue that Nneka is trying to win the U.S.
over and represent hard for her country of Nigeria on a much larger
scale than being a hit-and-run artist. If her Concrete Jungle is a
lure to get us to help her take over the musical world, then she just
might have a chance, for this joint is worth it.