Music I’m Obsessing Over (A Series)

5th September 2021

Discovering and rediscovering new and old music I like is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. It feels like making a new friend or reconnecting with a long-lost one. More often than not, my first instinct when I discover new sounds is to share them with people I think will appreciate them. I try as much as possible to properly gauge my friends’ individual listening tastes so I’m not sending them music I don’t think they will be open to. It takes a lot of observation, as well as trial and error, but it’s always worth it when they tell me how much they love the music, when I see them post a song I recommended, when they become huge fans of an artist I introduced them to. In times when I was feeling low, these were some of the little things that kept me going.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I love sharing music with people, it’s one of my favourite things to do, and I really hope you find something you love from what I share in this series.

So what am I obsessing over this week?

I really didn’t know what to expect when my friend sent me a link to Pixel Bath. The cover art is brightly colored, which, similarly to Dummy, evokes feelings of nostalgia and naivete. Listening to this track, I felt like I was a high school senior at homecoming, watching the star of the varsity football team make the game-winning home run (Which is weird because I never attended an American high school and I have never been to homecoming before, must've been all those Disney movies I watched as a kid).

Sonically, this track, and the album as a whole, is really interesting. It mixes some elements of modern hip-hop with very heavy influences from early 2000s pop-rock, the kind you’d hear in a teen-focused Disney mov…oh, that’s where that’s from.

The song sounds like a mix of triumphant defiance with a hint of somber acceptance, feelings that directly contradict, but the lyrics seem to lean more towards a darker interpretation:

I’m not going to sleep to wait if I die
I’m not living a dream awake at night
This isn’t a nightmare
This isn’t a nightmare

I see those lyrics as Jean saying he doesn’t want to let life decide where he’ll go, he wants to take things into his own hands and forge his own path, he won’t “go to sleep” because he may be scared he might never wake up, but he also says he doesn’t want to “live a dream”, which, to me, sounds like he doesn’t want to hide away from his problems. The line “This isn’t a nightmare”, comes directly after “living a dream”, which I took to mean that he would make his life whatever he wants to make it. He won’t shy away from his problems and drift into fantasy, but he refuses to accept his life is a nightmare either. Jean repeating the line over and over as the instrumental swells and becomes more wild and complex gives it this mantra-like feel, like a child trying to ward away the monsters under his bed.

Definitely check this one out, and if you don’t feel like listening to the whole album, at least check out Triple Double (with ASAP Rocky).

I’m of the firm belief that everyone should listen to Process by Sampha at least once in their lifetime. It is, without a doubt, one of my favourite albums of the 2010s. Sampha has one of the most beautiful and distinct voices in the industry, a talent matched just as equally by his penmanship and his ear for melody, and on Plastic 100 °C, all of this meshes perfectly into a track I think is as close to flawless as one could hope for.

The track, which also serves as the opener to Process, starts with mesmerizing strings (from an instrument I later learned is called a kora) layered beautifully over Sampha’s ad-libs, and a NASA recording of some of Neil Armstrong’s first words after landing on the moon.

I’ll work my way over into the sunlight here without looking directly into the sun

It’s a perfect opener. A reflection of Sampha’s mindstate upon reaching new levels of fame while also tackling family and health issues. Before this album, his last project, Dual, came in 2013. Between that time and the release of Process, Sampha had gained attention from and collaborated with several notable names in the industry including Drake, Lil Wayne, Solange, and Kanye West. Sampha recognizes that there are more eyes on him now than ever before, that he is stepping into uncharted territory, but he tries to take it all step-by-step, trying not to be overwhelmed by it all.

It’s so hot I’ve been melting out here
I’m made out of plastic out here

Sampha lays out his feelings in a masterful way on the chorus, he views his newfound fame and the public eye as the sun, and he views himself as fragile plastic that will inevitably melt away from the heat of it all, as he points out once again with his last lines on the track:

I’m melting from the light
One drip, one drip at a time

It’s clear Sampha doesn't enjoy being in the public eye all that much, he’s been notably quiet since Process, only appearing on one or two features in the last four years. He expresses anxiety over people getting to know more and more about him as he grows more famous.

And the more it grows
The closer I think you are, the closer I think you are
To seeing me whole
What if you don’t like what you see, silhouettes inside a dream

He thinks maybe they will find that he isn’t much like the person the public has formed an image of in their heads. He’s fearful that maybe they will find out about the ugly parts of his life, that there are dark “silhouettes” inside the “dream” they’ve made him out to be.

It’s simply an amazing track by an amazing artist, and I genuinely hope you give it, and the rest of Process a listen. If you don’t feel like listening to the whole album (please do though…please), you could also listen to (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.

Discovering Injury Reserve over the summer was a bittersweet experience. I’d been hearing a lot about them over the years and decided to finally give them a chance, starting with Jailbreak the Tesla from their self-titled album. It turns out that was a perfect entry point for me since it appealed heavily to my EDM roots whilst simultaneously being a straight trap banger. I immediately dove into everything else they had to offer, and eventually landed on their 2015 album, Live from the Dentist Office, with Ttktv being the 10th track. Unfortunately, I later learned that Steppa T Groggs, one of the three members of Injury Reserve, passed away last year, which, in a way, only made this track and other similar-sounding tracks by them hit even harder.

The best way to describe how I view this song is that it sounds and feels like the warm embrace of a mother to her child, or like soft cotton pillows in a warmly lit room. Ritchie with a T takes the hook and verse on this and doesn’t overcomplicate it. His performance over the very laid-back xylophonic sounds and drums, blended with the somewhat haunting, muffled wails in the background, all combine to complete this extremely comforting piece of art.

Here’s a tip, if you ever get high on weed, definitely play this song with headphones on. If you don’t feel like listening to all of Live from the Dentist Office, but want similar-sounding Injury Reserve tracks, definitely check out New Hawaii from their self-titled album.

One of the most exciting chapters in my musical journey has been discovering and watching the growth of the West-African alternative scene. Alté, as it’s locally referred to, is a major point of contention in the industry. Some of the front-runners say it’s more than a music genre, that it’s a lifestyle. Afrobeat traditionalists say it’s a classist genre, dominated by rich kids (ajebo), and not grounded in reality (lol). Others just scroll through odunsi the engine’s Instagram page with reactions ranging from intrigue to bewilderment and confusion. Personally, I feel the genre (don’t eat me please) has produced some of the most talented and forward-thinking artists the continent has to offer, including Tay and Suté Iwar.

Tay Iwar’s Gemini was one of the first projects I listened to from the genre, and it remains one of my favourite albums. I probably should do a write-up on what I think of the album as a whole one of these days as I honestly have a lot to say about it.

DON’T KNOW, within the context of the album, seems to be the breaking point for Tay’s relationship with his love interest, a downfall which Suté helps illustrate with his stellar verse. Taking the role of the male protagonist, Suté maps out the issues they both had, he paints their relationship out as one with significant cracks. He wouldn’t open up to her, and she had low self-esteem so didn’t see herself as good enough for him, even after all the time they had spent together:

But I don’t know what you see in me
Can’t believe that’s what you said to me
After all the moments that you shared with me
You were too scared to believe

Suté also expresses his frustration at how she has let outside opinion change the way she looks at him, she’s heartbroken and buries her emotions, focusing on getting money and partying all day, no longer having room for love, and as Suté indicates, he’s doing the exact same thing.

Waking up late get to work at 8
All the love can wait
She don’t want it if it doesn’t put no food up on her plate
Or some shoes up in the closet will it ever numb the pain?
I’m just on my grind in gidi
Killing love and getting paid

The track is entirely produced by Tay Iwar himself, much like the majority of Gemini. I’d definitely recommend giving it and the whole album a listen, but if not, you could listen to MONICA or SUGARDADDY (ft odunsi the engine).

These are other tracks I’m also in love with this week:

Girl Like You - Toro y Moi

Money- Shrine VIP - Riton, Kah-Lo ft Mr Eazi, Davido

Disco Shit- 03 Greedo, Kenny Beats, Freddie Gibbs

Red - IDK ft Westside Gunn, Jay Electronica & MF DOOM (how on earth did he manage that??)

Without - Sampha

ROCKY - Bari

party - adé, Orinayo

Till next time, maybe I’ll do a breakdown on The Cavemen…

Mer

I think the most important thing is to write for yourself