Inspired by her great-grandmother who passed away earlier this year, this debut album from classically trained musician, rapper and singer Hawa is short, a little flawed, but inspired. Produced by Tony Seltzer, who has worked with the likes of Ski Mask The Slump God and Princess Nokia, it blurs drill, ambient, and RnB to dizzying effect.
Hawa’s voice is beautiful, as evinced by the febrile and atmospheric ‘INDYA’, and ‘EN ROUTE’ is both melancholic and sharp, blending 70s keyboard with beats. Unfortunately, the brevity of the tracks is a little frustrating – one or two minutes isn’t long enough to let songs develop, leaving some feeling like demos. As with most talented artists, the obligatory use of autotune becomes a little tiresome when it’s clear that Hawa has real vocal chops.
Saying that, the studio trickery can also work well at times: the brilliantly titled ‘MMMM’ has chopped-up ambient sounds, ‘TRADE’ is glitchy, jittery, and full of attitude, and the 90s-influenced ‘AIN’T U’ beautifully bridges the gap between Aphex Twin and Aaliyah, finding warm soul within cold electronica.
So, there is huge potential in this debut, full of shape-shifting ideas, interesting, enigmatic samples which add to the mystique, and zesty production. It works particularly well when it cuts loose and really experiments with genre, as on the aforementioned ‘AIN’T U’. But less is sometimes not more, and at 18 minutes long, it makes The Strokes’ Is This It feel like a rock epic.
HADJA BANGOURA is out now via 4AD