There are some albums that become so popular and well-accepted that they define entire time periods. I’m not talking about the over-played songs on the radio that dominate entire summers, leaving us wishing that certain songs would be shot into space so that we never hear them again. I’m talking about the albums that transcend genres: the rock album that ends up being played on the hip-hop lovers car stereo, the rap disc that somehow finds its way onto top 40 charts and the country song that gets played at frat parties. There’s a collective sigh every time one of these game-changers comes along, like everyone is relieved there is still something out there that we can all agree on.
One of my very favorite albums that defines the above is ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill‘. Do you remember how much everyone loved that album when it came out? It was on every TV show, in everyones CD player, on every airwave, and nobody was wishing for it to get shot into space. I don’t think I can know one person who didn’t like some aspect of that album, it was one of those rare gems that was both critically acclaimed and adored by the public. But the public and Lauryn didn’t live in harmony for long. Soon after she dropped out of the music scene and public eye, save for a few sporadic & erratic songs and appearances.
The way that album popped into my life and settled into a permanent spot in my collection and then abruptly departed left a hole in my musical life for smart, well produced, soulful female hip hop. Not that there haven’t been the occasional good song and artist out there whose lyrics transcend beyond gratuitous drug use and being called someones ‘main girl’, but I haven’t found one that can pull out all the stops consistently like Lauryn did.
Enter Nneka. She’s a Nigerian/German hip-hop and R&B singer and she is masterful in a way that reminds me of a young Lauryn. Her lyrics are empowering, not degrading and just listening to her sandpaper voice wax poetic over snappy beats makes me feel stronger. A great mix between soulful singing and speaking a message of truth about tough subjects like poverty and morality, this girl right here has quenched all my cravings for a smart and sassy girl. I don’t know if you’ve had the same void in your musical collection as I have, but I promise that no matter what you’re looking for today, Nneka will make you feel better about it.