It feels somewhat appropriate that I’m writing an article about Mancunian hip hop artist Abnormal Sleepz at 4am in the morning, having spent most of the night tossing and turning because my brain wouldn’t have the decency to silence itself for a few hours. Luckily for me, Reece Samuels has the sort of voice with the ability to heal – introducing himself with 2015’s The Meditape – his debut mixtape demonstrated both intelligent wordplay and a love for experimental production.
It’s sequel The Meditape Two is an engaging, fearless and lovingly crafted piece of work that points to an artist of serious promise. Nearly every track on The Meditape Two has a different producer, yet it still manages to retain a cohesive atmosphere throughout… and this surely isn’t by luck. Samuels has cherry-picked and surrounded himself with some of Manchester’s most exciting new talents (G.S One, HMD, Piddy Py and Two4Kay) and brought them together to form a close-knit unit. His willingness to collaborate is by no means unusual within Mancunian circles, but by consistently pushing his ideas to new places, feelings and situations – I get the impression Samuels is not going to rest on his laurels.
It would of course be brutally unfair to compare Samuels to Kendrick Lamar, but there’s enough to be found here to connect the dots together – they certainly share a similar delivery style for instance – although my love for Samuels undeniably northern English tone and dialect is endless. The Meditape Two focuses on a person’s capacity to recover, learn and grow – it’s a refreshingly positive collection of material to enjoy and unravel, reaching deep into his personal experiences. The question remains, what direction will the Sleepz project take in the future… there’s a lot of darker subject matter out there to explore, and with everything going on in the world, we need artists like Samuels to try and make some sense of it. For now though, close your eyes, relax and discover a sleeping giant.
When modern icon Kendrick Lamar performed a surprise secret show in Manchester recently, he also found the time to cypher with local talent at a workshop organised by Brighter Sounds. Clearly inspired by the opportunity to impress K.Dot; 21 year old Layfullstop rose to the challenge, holding her own on the mic against the Grammy-award winning star. It was the kind of attention-grabbing statement that she could only have imagined making the night before… but for those in the know, it’s just a matter of time before the spotlight takes on a more permanent fixture.
Currently one of Manchester’s best kept secrets, 21 year old Lay Nathan has already been exciting audiences with her genre-defying performances; experimenting with elements of neo-soul, jazz, electronica, hip hop and grime. Living in a city which naturally encourages collaboration, it’s no surprise to discover her recorded output is equally as expressive; as a member of urban collectives Roots Raddix and Cul Dé Sac, her talent is clearly being nurtured lovingly by those around her.
As a solo artist, Lay. has continually played with her artistic identity; there’s a real sense of freedom to her work, which from a purely technical perspective, displays a high level of skill and confidence… but, it’s the emotions behind her voice that truly make her something special. Latest release Angel Halo feels like it could be breakthrough moment, a track that mixes old school soul and injects it with modern hip hop – harking back to those 90’s R’n’B halcyon days, when Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill and TLC were ruling the charts. Produced by Keziyah, the intelligently subtle and sophisticated production gives the track breathing space and allows her to reach for moments of beauty with her sultry and distinct velvet harmonies.
Stockholm’s Ji Nilsson stands out amongst the current flock of emerging female artists.. her music has a deliberate softness to it, a romanticism within her aesthetic. The production on her latest track Encore seems strongly influenced by early 2000’s r’n’b; a smoldering mid-tempo groove that would easily feel at home on a Nelly Furtado album, with it’s tribal beat and pop harmonies. There’s no attempt to hide herself behind effects and loops, no glossiness.. just faith in her own songwriting. Lyrically it deals with relationship conflict “When the song’s over, so are we”… “I’m not ready to let you go, not ready at all” and she’s an easy artist to show affinity with. There is an understated grace to what Ji Nilsson does, both vocally and emotionally.
In my humble opinion, Ménage à Trois are one of the most fascinating and beautiful acts currently in development here in Manchester. It’s been a whole year now since our three sisters first emerged with their glorious cover of ‘Islands In The Stream’ and I keep waiting for the rest of the world to truly wake up. It’s no underestimation to say I’ve already listened to first full-length release Pride nearly 50 times in the last couple of days… opener ‘Ocean Breeze’ is a brooding affair built around the sentiment “I can make you fall in love… if I wanted”, and I can’t see that being anything other than true. ‘Conditional Love’ sees them head into Ariel Pink territory, a seductive instrumental that swoons it’s way towards
‘Crazy. Sexy. Cruel’, a deliberately yearning slow jam that showcases Jonathan Flanders lush vocals. ‘Car Song’ and ‘Argentina’ both see the synth take over proceedings, we’re talking pure and unashamed 80’s vibe with a cinematic and orchestral quality, almost Vangelis at times. It’s fair to say that as a collection of work, ‘Pride’ fits perfectly together… there is no clear stand-out single in the way they out funked Daft Punk on ‘White Noise’ but it’s all the better for being this way… musically, visually and artistically, The Bogans of Life just have ‘it’.
South London based artist Brtsh Knights weave dreamy electronics around RnB melodies and subtle dub step beats to create a flawless fusion of RnB dance and electronic chill wave. As smooth and smokey as the title implies, ‘Hazed’ is the debut double A-side (with ‘If I Was To’) released June 10th on Technicolour Records.
A sprinkling of electro sampling, blips, clicks and hypnotic glowing samples complement these sleek RnB vocals and crunchy down tempo dance beats. ‘Hazed’ has an ethereal subtlety to its mix that takes down and transforms the track from full on clubbing tune to enchanting and atmospheric chillwave fusion.