There is a new generation of jazz musicians that have been reshaping and remoulding a genre that was once perceived as being reserved exclusively for the elitist listener. Of-course jazz has always been available for anyone to enjoy, however, with the breaking down of these imagined barriers, in recent years, UK jazz has exploded on to the map and into our ears (and not to mention our hearts). The latest to contribute to the ever-growing cohort of artists is Millicent B James who just released her debut EP Moyo, Vol. 1 – and it is beautiful.
Moyo, Vol. 1 is Millicent B James’ debut EP. In just 4 tracks she takes us on a journey that is wholly relatable, one of personal growth and determination which ultimately resides in a place of hope and possibility.
“Moyo is definitely a collection of me becoming more comfortable with my identity as a black woman, and not being afraid to just make music that is about these things that I have experienced.” – Millicent B James
From the opening, Moyo/Ancestors (Moyo meaning “heart” in Swahili), James’ enigmatic vocals are emotive and powerfully captivating. It feels like a reconnection with the past – a calling home. She has seamlessly interwoven a myriad of sounds, drawing inspiration from gospel, jazz, soul, contemporary classical, ambient and afro music, and the result is truly outstanding. Each track explores a different theme, providing a different piece of the puzzle, which when combined has created a beautiful mosaic – a space of pure transformation and healing.
Millicent B James, who currently attends The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, is clearly a very talented composer, cellist and vocalist. We look forward to what she has in store next!
NeONE The Wonderer initially appeared on our radar after releasing his first single Headphones Onearlier this year. Since then we have been eagerly awaiting what this Wolverhampton based artist would have for us next. Today that wait has ended with the release of his latest track Never Die – and we love everything about it.
NeONE The Wonderer incorporates a variety of styles into his music enabling him to traverse a multitude of genres whilst still maintaining firm roots in hip-hop. Never Die is the second single from this singer/songwriter/rapper/producer (yes, he does it all!). On this track, he blends trap and drill beats that carry jazz-inspired undertones creating a truly dark and mysterious hip-hop fusion sound that falls somewhere between a dream and a nightmare.
He does not compromise on the integrity of the piece for even a moment. Every aspect of the track is of high-quality. With an impressive production element, he maintains the standard with his lyrical content too. NeONE handles all the vocals himself on the track, switching from the melodic chorus to his grittily conscious bars, where he comments on the disparities that black people experience throughout life. With the prevalence of police brutality and Black Lives Matter on all of our minds, Never Die has not ever been more fitting as it explores the themes of struggle, death, and the ongoing murder of black people from the perspective of “The Ferryman of The Hood” (a character who also features in the must-watch music video, that parties in peoples dreams, whilst he ferries the souls of the dead to the other side).
It is evident that NeONE’s skillset reaches further than just musical spheres as he both created and directed this seriously incredible music video to accompany Never Die using GTA 5’s Rockstar Editor. Here we follow “The Ferryman of The Hood” as he collects the souls of those that have died from across the hood LA. It is dark, it is powerful and it is important – fitting the song perfectly.
NeONE’s talent and potential are not going unnoticed as he was announced as a Y5 Future Bubbler which is a collaborative project between Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings and Arts Council England. With previous Future Bubblers including the likes of Yasmin Lacey, Skinny Pelembe, and Kinkai, we are excited to see what NeONE The Wonderer has in store next.
After generating quite a buzz with his 2019 debut Chapters, this Birmingham born, music video producer turned artist continues to release some of the UK’s finest R&B with the latest addition to his discography – The Sunset EP. With a sound that is most definitely influenced by our cousins across the pond, his smooth vocals glide effortlessly over some really chilled out beats – making LANDEL seriously enjoyable to sit back and vibe to.
His second and latest video off of The Sunset EP, Somethin’ New, fits the feel of the project entirely. We see him donning a bright red Carhartt Tee (it’s dope) gathering the mandatory supplies (food, snacks & drinks) and hitting the park to enjoy the sunshine – demonstrating the perfect way to spend summer days.
His consistency and work rate are producing some real gems right now. We expect to see big things. LANDEL is most definitely one to keep eyes on.
I’m going to go right ahead and say it, after the release of Retrofuturism (2019) it is abundantly clear that KY’ORiON is Birmingham’s most underrated and understated artist. Self-described as “the greatest that ain’t never been heard” – and I have to admit that I agree. He is a raw talent with the potential to seriously readjust the landscape of rap music not just in Birmingham, but across the UK.
When considering rap and Birmingham, similarly to other UK cities, it is the notable grime MC’s that instantly come to mind. The likes of MIST, Jaykae & Lady Leshurr have been spearheading the rap scene in the second city for some years now. However, a shift has been brewing and is starting to reveal itself. There is a new wave of artists that are stretching the constraints of what we know and understand UK rap to be. KY’ORiAN is doing exactly that. He has been slowly simmering a different type of UK rap – and it sounds incredible.
2019 saw KY’ORiON release Retrofuturism, his fourth full-length project, following Goldsoul (2018),Lightwork (2017), and Steppin’ Stones (2015), and it is truly something special. The album perfectly sets the tone by introducing itself as 1147th Biological Appreciation Awards (BAA) winner and proceeds to spend the following 45 minutes beautifully demonstrating exactly why that is the case over some of the freshest beats to come out of the city in some time. On tracks like 1 Take and Gone With the WindKY’ORiON effortlessly displays his prowess as a wordsmith, subtly educating the masses whilst delivering bars that are riddled with knowledge and punchlines for those savvy enough to catch them. Nothing is by chance. It has been so beautifully crafted and constructed that the deliberation of every word and every syllable can be felt throughout. This is a true hip-hop album.
Retrofuturism is where we witness KY’ORiON seriously establish himself as not only a top-shelf lyricist but also a first-class songwriter – a skill that is often undervalued in this social media era of music. With each song, he gifts a piece of himself. Whether he is talking about his second-to-none work ethic, opening up about hustling, or contemplating whether to take music seriously, it grants the listener the ability to understand the world and life from his perspective.
Despite the official release being just over a year ago, new music videos are still being released in 2020 – the latest being for What You Know. KY’ORiON references Birmingham throughout the album and the visuals reflect that. They provide a view of the city through the eyes of KY’ORiON himself. With muted tones, graffiti-covered walls, and city skylines we see glimpses of a world that is far from perfect, yet full of possibilities for those who know how to navigate it. This may be a grittier depiction of Birmingham than many may be used to, but it is definitely an honest one.
The album as a whole is truly un-skippable. Every song has its place and serves a purpose creating a perfect combination of bangers like Take No Shit and more chilled out jams like Nostalgia. It is the type of project that grows with you allowing for new favourites to be discovered with every listen. Retrofuturism is definitely the epitome of his discography to date and the best place to start to get to know what this artist is about.
The question that now remains is, what’s next? When will we have our next injection of KY’ORiON? Since Retrofuturism he has released a single clean hearted/ hands dirty a collaboration with Brum Town MC’s Dirtz and Malik Md7. But we want more. In the meantime, KY’ORiON’s older works are definitely worth digging through to better get to grips with him as an artist, with highlight tracks New Bitchand HAF KY’ORiON has been quietly cruising in his own lane seemingly operating under the radar. Now is the time to make some noise as we welcome and encourage him to take his place on center stage – definitely one to watch!