Women's Month Challenge

After asserting that we ought pay closer attention to women making music in my last post, I have decided to lead by example. Each day of this month, I aim to discover a new artist, and share my discoveries with you all. Some of these acts some of you will already be familiar with, some might be as new to you as they are to me, but the point of this challenge is to broaden my horizon, and hopefully documenting that through this post will encourage you all to do the same!

Please drop a comment or hit me on socials, if you'd like to put me on to someone special to you.

Enjoy the read and the good music!

BIA - 02.03.2020

We are definitely seeing an increase in visibility of women in the rap game, and although this change seems like a fresh occurrence, as early as 2015 shows such as Oxygen's Sisterhood of Hip Hop were putting in the work to propel women in hip hop – such as BIA – into the mainstream domain.

From her early single, "Whip It" to her debut EP, NICE GIRLS FINISH LAST: CUIDADO, BIA's discog satisfies all my trap cravings, whilst also mingling in her wide-ranging inspirations, which she attributes to her multinational roots. Her latest, "Bo$$Day" combines techno flexes with her typical self-affirmative rap bars. Assuring us that "every day a boss day" and that she "never takes a loss", BIA encourages her listeners to catch that W all day everyday – this is my new alarm tune.

Minus the Kodak Black feature, discovering BIA has been an excellent start to the month's challenge. Bump my current no.1, "SUPABIEN"

Deena Ade - 03.03.2020

Given how often I see her name (we (BRAg) actually follow her on Instagram), it came as a great surprise to me that I never actually registered that the Feminist Activist whom I began following in light of her documentary of the #SlutWalkLagos, Deena Ade, is in fact a singer too – an excellent one at that.

I really gotta PAY ATTENTION!

Starting with her 2019 EP, May Love Find You, I immediately connected to the longing Deena Ade soulfully expresses on the glittery opener, "I Want You To Change Your Mind". Singing in cursive, in the style of British neo-soul legend, Amy Winehouse, Deena Ade has pretty much got Love Songs in her back pocket. She shuffles between Yoruba and English – as millennial/Gen Z Nigerian musicians often do – to deliver passionate ballads that curse the loser who had the nerve to break up with her ("Bitter"), see her dedicate herself to her prospective partner ("Cruising At Your Altitude"), and even critically reflect on her current romantic circumstances ("Lover"). With an active Soundcloud page that dates back to 5 years ago, Deena Ade has rather an extensive soundscape of quality tunes.

The mesmeric singer is set to take the stage at Femme Africa's International Women's Day event this weekend, so anyone reading from Lagos who has, like me, been inexplicably sleeping on this talent, here's your opportunity to witness wonder! (I am green with envy)

Selecting which songs to direct you guys to was so tough, but I'll leave you with a number that speaks to me V Deep:

Kamilah – 04.03.2020

R&B/soul singer, Kamilah boasts a peaceful and calming soundscape, her mellow rhythms and soft vocals inviting us away from our world into hers, as she opens up to listeners on a wide range of subject matters. On "Beautiful Boy", Kamilah gently encourages men to stand up against the patriarchal constructs that curtail their freedom, whilst on "Dark Skin | Coconut Oil" she speaks to black women, professing our beauty and shunning the "harsh untruths" that society purports: that black women aren't up to the beauty standards of other races.

Both off her pop-leaning debut album, Learning Curve, the full length project flaunts her phenomenal pipes, especially through vocal musings on songs like "Dangerous" and the ensorcelling album opener, "Careless Thieves". With a few instrumental breaks complimenting her compelling vocal work, Kamilah does a fabulous job of stripping us out of reality; I loved every minute of this escape.

Here's one that particularly blew me away:

ICTOOICY - 05.03.2020

This feature first appeared on The NATIVE, as part of their For The Girls column.

ICTOOICY is likely to fit in amongst the "women you may know" or at least within the category of artists "you may have heard of", as her debut on Nigeria's Apple Music Charts indicates a level of popularity currently comparable with the ubiquitous Mandy & The Jungle, Billie Eilish's Grammy sweeping, WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO, and Wizkid's self-titled.

Released just last week, ICTOOICY's Sorry I Don't Like Phone Calls already boasts the number 3 spot on Apple Music's Alternative Album chart, and is ranked 75 in the top 100 Nigerian albums, of all genres. Given her newcomer status, this feat is not one to be overlooked.

ICTOOICY's achievements become even more awe-inspiring when you consider her paradoxically inaudible Do It Yourself approach to making music. ICTOOICY doesn't drown her music in technology in order to hide her beginners studio settings, but rather emphasises her circumstances in a way that celebrates the rustic energy of low-quality recordings. It is this refreshingly disruptive contribution to our widely homogenous musical landscape that immediately attracts listeners, and her dexterous versatility that keeps them.

The Poet With A Flow – self-proclaimed in her SoundCloud bio – ICTOOICY doesn't shy away from enchanting listeners with her mild-mannered singing performances ("Liberty Road"), opponent to her overconfident rap persona which we hear on songs like "Sage" and "Strep Throat Flow". Playing with echoes ("Forget About Us") and layering diverse vocal deliveries, the imaginative artist is able to bring vibrance to simpler beats, as exemplified on "Park Bench" or the Kiyo-assisted "Lights". Through her numerous creative techniques, ICTOOICY's music fashions around us a dream-like utopia in which perfection is possible, simply because imperfection is not.

Sorry I Don't Like Phone Calls, her early 2020 offering, is her fourth project within the year – ICY, as the voice messages that litter the project refer to her, is dedicated to music, her music. Throughout her first couple of years, ICY has remained equally as consistent with her sound as she is consistent with her releases, and it's payed off.

Join in the rave and stream the chart-topping drop, right now:

Bree Runway - 06.03.2020

Yesterday, one of Rihanna, Jorja Smith, Missy Elliot's faves, Bree Runway dropped her much-anticipated 2020 debut, "APESHIT" –inspired by a comment on her YouTube page: "At first when I started watching this, I thought ‘nahhh, she’s too much for me,’ but by the end of it I realised that I wasn’t enough for her".

As someone who is very often accused of being too much, this comment sat with me. It did with Bree too, who told i-D, "that right there, is the piping hot tea that has been served my whole life. People are so offended by you living your best life because they’re afraid to live theirs.”

On "APESHIT", Runway reminds all the ain't shit scaredy-cats of who the fuck she is, oozing the same incontestable confidence that one of her early role models, Lil Kim showed her. For the video, Bree takes inspiration from another one of her idols, Missy Elliot – whose already stamped her approval – entering a leopard print vortex dressed in exuberant leather clothing whilst rocking the signature dark liner + gloss lip.

A far cry from the first song she wrote ever wrote, "It's About Us" (it's about her ex), Bree Runway's music these days is made to inspire young black girls. Her message: do not to conform, be true to yourself always.

Nonconforming, Bree Runway doesn't confine herself to just one genre – although she kills it on the elctro-rap. Bree is a skillful rapper who's also got some pipes on her, and isn't afraid to flaunt both talents, even on the same song. On the lead track of her Be Runway EP, "2On" Bree raps "Who say I should turn the fuck down?//Who say I ain't this bitch when the lights go out?" letting us know that she is 100% sure of who she is and will not change that for anybody, whilst also encouraging black women to be confident in who they are and not to dim their shine so others feel more comfortable (she explains in depth via Instagram).

More overtly political, the video for the fourth track on the EP, "Big Racks" (featuring a spoken word know-your-worth outro from Brooke Candy) tackles racism in the corporate workplace. Opening the video with alarming statistics about the discrimination ethnic minorities face in the British workplace, including the colourism imbedded in wage disparities, Bree Runway proceeds to count the "Big Racks" she's made from her Be Runway Empire. However, despite her success, it's only when she conceals her blackness that the white man agrees to invest. Singing "You say I'm too rude" on the song's infectious hook, Bree highlights the 'aggressive black woman' trope that is so often used against Black Women, to stifle our voices, especially in the corporate world.

Regardless of what #they say, Bree is still making it rain:

BKTHERULA – 07.03.2020

Thanks to the ubiquity of music streaming platforms, we have access to an inconceivable amount of new music, from artists we're familiar with to emerging acts that are eager to penetrate our filter bubbles. In this climate, it is extremely difficult for new talent to stand out, but from the very first 16 on her debut project Love Santana, BKTHERULA did so, so effortlessly, to me.

Admittedly, my initial reaction was, "this is uncomfortable". With little regard for rhythm, BKTHERULA spits along to her own drum, forging an offbeat flow that, at its source, evokes discomfort. But after a few more seconds meandering through curiosity, amazement, skepticism, and wondering if I will be able to mimic one finally arrives at the mouth of BKTHERULA's turbulent flow – an undiluted appreciation for her approach to the art.

The tracks that follow – most noticeably “Official” and “He Say She Say”, the latter of which opens with ominous low register piano keys that expose the uncertainty to come from BK's bars –all put me at ease knowing that the weird flow that opened the album on "A Girl IS A GUN", wasn't by mistake, but by tried-and-tested design. Tracing back to Northern California (according to this video from the Rap Genius'), offbeat rapping is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been around since the late 80s, adopted by rap vets, such as E-40, Keak Da Sneak and Suga Free. There are, of course, a few acts who still get down with the offbeat flow, for example Blueface, but for me (an entirely biased source, who doesn't listen to much rap), no one is doing it quite like the Atlanta native, BKTHERULA. Quote me.

Dream Wife - 08.03.2020

Lately, I've been super into Vampirism. I watch at least one of the Twilight Saga movies at least once a week – although this week I've gone Cullen Free, as nostalgia took my back to my secondary school favourite, Vampire Diaries. Given my newfangled affinity for all things Vampire Fiction, it is no surprise that I have now been readily bewitched by the punk/pop rock sounds of the gritty ensemble, Dream Wife. Songs like "Let's Make Out" and "Kids" sound as if they were made to play behind one of Damon's mischievous escapades, whilst "Spend The Night" could easily replace The Features' "From Now On" during Bella and Edward's pre-calamity honeymoon montage. (I know this because I played the scene on mute whilst listening to this song, and I ended up crying like Bella because I too wished it was real :()

But beyond my Bellena complex, I was also arrested by the Immortal Children that Dream Wife's self-titled debut album bears. Reminiscent of the noughties noise I dabbled in as I explored just which type of rebellious teen I would be, their 2018 body of work pays homage to a wide variety of punk rock influences, the London-based trio configuring a soundscape with which most European Millennials and Gen-Zers would be familiar.

Starting out in Brighton University, as a "fake girl band" for their art project in 2014, Dream Wife were firmly in their twenties by the time they started taking their music seriously, but their lyrics still refer back to their angsty teenage years. On "Love Without Reason" they celebrate the youthfulness of love; with "Hey Heartbreaker" and "Act My Age", Rakel Mjöll's vocals take us through the trials of having an older (possibly married) partner; and "Taste" will probably mean something very different to the partiers who are familiar with orally ingested drugs, than it does to most others – Pitchfork said "new kiss", all I heard was Molly.

Things get a little more grizzly on the track's closing number, "F.U.U", where Rakel, aided by Icelandic rapper, Fever Dream unapologetically exclaim their violent desire to Fuck U Up! But for me, and probably every listener who runs through the album – which is their entire discography bar "Lolita"(watch this video!!) and a trilogy of remixes for the 2017 single, "Fire" – "Somebody" is the real standout number, in terms of subject matter at least. Tackling the culture of victim blaming, Dream Wife refuse objectification, professing, over an instructive chorus, "I am not my body, I am somebody."

Happy International Women's Day, Girls!

B3nya – 09.03.2020

Last November, Darkoo sent UK listeners into an deep frenzy, as she released upon us the indelible afro-swing banger, "Gangsta". Not only were listeners hooked on the unequivocally "mad jam", other artists were equally as drawn to the song, resulting in not one, but two remixes. As well convening Davido, Tion Wayne and SL on one remix, Darkoo gave fans the all female ensemble we'd been craving, inviting Ms Banks and Br3nya onto the hit single.