Underground Albums of the Summer

Reading the fall issue of The Muddraker (published 11/2), you will probably notice an article about the best underground albums of the summer. Here are the honorable mentions that didn’t quite make it into the paper:

Whack World by Tierra Whack:

Welcome to Whack World! The twenty-two-year-old Philadelphia native, is, well, pretty “whacky” — but in the best kind of way. She’s unconventional; her album is only fifteen minutes, each song exactly one minute long. She’s experimental; her album includes all sorts of styles — soulful ballads, catchy R&B riffs, hard raps, even a country-style rant. Her subject matter goes beyond the basics; she talks about all sorts of things, from eating healthy in one of her songs and the death or her dog in another (with metaphorical meanings beyond the literal). And she released the album alongside a music video compilation for the album that is as colorful and quirky as the songs!

Silk Canvas by VanJess:

Meet Ivana and Jessica Nwokike: the Nigerian-American soul sister duo (twenty-six and twenty-five respectively). Although they began their musical career with YouTube cover songs, their music is uniquely their own. Silk Canvas is their debut album and a wavy exploration into the ups and downs of love. Rightfully named, its a silky and eclectic canvas of soothing vocals, rich R&B rhythms/bass, and electronic infusions that give the entire project a futuristic vibe (similar to featured artists Goldlink and Masego). The most standout aspect is how utterly in sync these sisters’ vocals are. The perfect execution of their harmonies is almost unnerving; it’s that good. This fourteen-track album is definitely a summertime masterpiece, leaving VanJess set to take the R&B scene by storm.

ZZZ by Planet Giza:

This Montreal-based trio, consisting of Rami B, Dumix, and Tony Stone (all in their early 20s), have been making noise on the Soundcloud stage since 2013. I took notice of them last year with the release of their fantastical project Détour: Zayad City, after its promotion as a Kaytranada collaboration. I was struck by the diversity of their intricate production, funny skit interludes, and rich raps/singing. So when their ZZZ EP was released, I was incredibly excited. The project did not disappoint; a three-piece EP, it includes an intense spit-fire rap accompanied by two more-laid back crooning tunes. Upon its release, the trio explained that they had made the EP during the previous month and for fans to expect more music soon. So stay tuned and secure your seatbelts for more trips to Planet Giza in the future!

And the winner is:

DDD by Ama Lou:

Ama Lou’s EP DDD is a force to be reckoned with. I first heard of her when her thirteen-minute video for the EP showed up on my YouTube feed. Immediately, I was in love and have since watched the video countless times. Conclusively, I’m tempted to dub it one of the — if not the absolute — best music video I’ve come across. It’s simply superb in terms of thematic content, cinematography, engagement and depth. And the best part is that it all stems from Ama Lou’s genius. This twenty-year-old London artist wrote, sang, directed, co-produced, and starred in the short film, which explores a day in the life of a young girl in an L.A. crime ring. Upon looking her up, I found that she first stepped into the music scene in 2017 with two powerhouse singles — both politically charged and lyrically ingenious (“TBC” centering around Black Lives Matter and “Not Always” challenging gender constructs/roles). She’s co-signed by Drake (who claims her style to have heavily influenced Scorpion) and Jorja Smith (who she’s opened for on tour) and recently performed on the YouTube channel COLORS. Her genre is R&B/Soul but she pulls from Alternative, Jazz, and Hip-Hop elements, even citing Hannah Montana and High School Musical as inspirations. Her powerful yet lofty voice invokes strong emotional feelings; for me, the opener, “Tied Up”, is particularly empowering. The best part: she’s verified her own lyrics on Genius and added commentary about the meaning behind her words so you can see just how layered her work is. Be sure to give this gem a listen.

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