We can’t deny just how draining this month has been. As a human race, [cue Nelson Mandela accent impression] we are seeking more than the justice that is due. When the future comes around, knowing all that we do when we rebuild, what kind of foundations are we going to put down? What kind of tone are we going to set?
Anyway, enough preaching for the day. For now, we embrace art. For now, we dance. This month on the roundup, we have the best alternative R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop tracks that will set the mood for appreciating the good things in life that we so greatly deserve.
1. Thando – Satisfied
Everyone, meet Thando Ngoasheng – a 20-year-old singer/songwriter hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa. Dedicated to leaving a mark in the music industry, she released her second single ‘Satisfied‘ and this is how we’re opening the show!
Following the release of her first single ‘Be Loved’, Thando has been building a fan-base with her soulful, almost somber vocal range. She is inspired by future legends such as Sam Smith and Billie Eilish. Thando’s playlist consists of various genres of music such as pop, soulful RnB, and alternative rock which tells us that we ought to expect to hear some versatility in her future projects.
Her confidence in her voice (and the Spanish language) is evident in her music, showing her experience as a performer. In January of 2020, she decided to share her personal experiences via songwriting. The lyrics to ‘Satisfied‘ are about a toxic relationship (often called an “entanglement”) that you can’t seem to let go of which is very relatable in 2020. Keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter.
2. Pulford Avenue – You
Debuting at #2 on our list today is Pulford Avenue with their thought-provoking, alternative folk heart-breaker, ‘You‘. There are three things that make a good folk song great; soothing acoustic guitar melodies, lyrics you can dedicate to somebody, and effortless harmonies.
Because they have ticked all three boxes, their debut single has already been a Record of The Week on BBC Introducing Shropshire. But there’s something else that makes them unique: they are keeping their identities a secret. They have opted to let their music speak for itself. They’ll be releasing a new song on August 7th so keep an eye on their Instagram for that.
3. Otis Mensah – No Record Store Day
Belly flop on skies and handstand on oceans as you celebrate the remnants of a world you once knew. We miss it until we accept it – then we adapt. Produced by The Intern, ‘No Record Store Day’ is a part of the #OtisMensahExists project which includes songs like ‘The Thinks‘ which are accompanied by animated videos.
Record Store Day is one of the best days of the year. It is the one day of the year when over 200 independent record stores all across the UK come together to celebrate their unique vinyl culture. Artists, collectors and enthusiasts from all walks of life gather to buy the music that they love and get into something new. Not only is it a time to geek out all day for vinyl records. Record Store Day also features live music performances, drinks bars, and food stalls – a mini music festival of sorts.
I can’t help but think that ‘Outside The Cave‘ is an aforethought sequel to ‘No Record Store Day‘. The UK rapper, titled Sheffield’d First Poet Laureate in 2018, has more to say than most rappers of our era (like how hard it is to miss the event). OG hip-hop heads would approve, and many inspired by the culture already have. Otis Mensah has already been on tour with Mahalia, Open Mike Eagle, and KOTA The Friend – all of which are tastemakers for our generation.
4. Midnight Mystery Club – Keep A Beat
Sweeter than strawberry dreams, 80s synths mixed with classic R&B grooves and disco sprinkles from Midnight Mystery Club are real reminders of summertime vibes as the end of this horrible winter comes to an end.
A cool thing about this song is that it was actually released in 2015 under the label Ibiza’s Secret Life. They were, however, unhappy with the first release and chose to rerelease the song this year. Following the release of their album ‘Reason to Rhyme’ in 2017 is this chilled vibe which we absolutely love. They nailed this rerelease.
This chillwave tune sounds like Jungle and Seal had a nu-age baby. In 2018, Midnight Mystery Club won the Independent Music Award for being the Electronic Producers of The Year and were nominated for Album & Song of The Year That Year. Their instagram is poppin’ so be sure to give them a follow on there!
5. Lauren Norstrom – Messed Up
I hope you listened when I told you about her the first time! If not, you still have time because Lauren Norstrom is taking no breaks. She’s back with another video called ‘Messed Up‘ produced by Howard Edward, Colin Sher a.k.a DJ Cosher and Ross Rowley.
With a pop beat and lyrics, this Capetonian has filmed a make-up and fashion-centric visualiser, dressing up in different looks and using a makeup brush as a microphone. The songstress/ model/ actress filmed this video before making the bold move to hop on a plane during the pandemic.
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We hit 10k on Instagram and I’m shook 🤯 If someone came to me 4 months ago and told me about all these achievements and milestones I would have said, “I wish!” I’m starting to think that in an alternate universe I really did wish for it hard enough because these dreams of mine are coming true. && I say ‘we’ because genuinely I feel like we’ve done this thing together – I can see that this has all been built from your love and continuous support. I’m so grateful and excited for us to continue going up UP UP and away! BIG LOVE ❤️❤️❤️
This song is about having messed up so badly that you feel ugly post confession. In my opinion, the video is a depiction of various different coping mechanisms during these tough times. I may be overthinking it but a full face of make up and a change of outfit have always helped me so…
6. J Elle – Face It
With its straightforward and 90’s vibes delivered throughout,
I like this piece of relatable truth. ‘Face It‘ is about questioning what it is that you may have with somebody but trusting your judgement when it comes to making that final decision, regardless of a fear of loneliness.
Following her previous single ‘Take Me Away’, J Elle taps into her soulful side in ‘Face It‘, expanding on her vocal range. Speaking on the track she said: “I really think this is the best music I’ve released to date, I feel like it’s so relatable. I want my listeners to connect with it and feel validated in their feelings. I’m such an advocate for women’s rights and not stereotyping anyone based on race, gender, sexuality, etc. This song is just showing that women aren’t always the ‘emotional’ or ‘crazy’ ones in a relationship. Sometimes they just come to a natural end and it’s easier to just face that’s it’s over for both of you than to hold on and hurt each other more. It’s just a more mature way of looking at things I guess.“
Don’t underestimate the power of her pen game. She has written for various artists, namely ‘Lean On’ for Celina Sharma. Playlisted by Spotify and receiving praise from HIGH SNOBRIETY she’s well on her way to stardom!
7. Carly and Martina – Your Song
If you’ve never heard GORGEOUS VOCALS before, welcome, have a seat. Carly and Martina show off their voices in ‘Your Song‘ about tackling the hump in the road when moving on.
Although they look like regular teenagers, the twins’ have a superpower. They make music with a message. They have collaborated with writers such as Victoria Shaw, Big Al Anderson, and Marty Dodson, proving that they are not bound by the limitations of genre. In 2019, The duo released summertime hits ‘Block His Number’ and ‘Love Me Later’, taking the number 1 spot on Radio Disney’s Total Request Now and getting published by Girls Life and Pop Dust. `
Carly and Martina are on a mission to make a difference with their music, appearing on a TEDxTalk, partnering with United Way, helping out in songwriting workshops in their community, and have judged the Girl Scout USA Cookie Pro Contest. The twins have a large and loyal fan-base about 360 000 strong and counting.
8. Toya Delazy – Find Di Boy
Having been an activist for the LGBTQI+ community for many years, Toya Delazy releases the afro-house inspired track ‘Find Di Boy’ – about the boundlessness of love and being in it. The rhythmic, mid-tempo tune is dedicated to her lover.
Toya was born Latoya Nontokozo Buthelezi – a pianist, singer, songwriter, dancer, and performer from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa who is very much in touch with the world around her. Her love for music was inspired by classical and orchestral songs and modern artists such as Lauryn Hill, Asa, and Goldfish amongst many others.
When asked about the song, she has said “This song is about love being non-binary and the expectations society places on us as opposed to reality – without these things we would be closer to a peaceful world.” She continued, “We can’t march together for equality and then still be discriminated against when we are being authentic. These are the things that hold us all back.” Toya Delazy makes the prospect of “for now, forever” sound like a good idea in this song.
9. Asya – FWU
Aysa shows some millennial maturity when it comes to romance in ‘FWU‘. Raising the bar when it comes to the alternative R&B genre, the rising star worked with producer Patrick, recording her entire EP ‘Love Me Till I’m Me Again’ at HotMoneyStudios in London.
Inspired by strong, female artists Jhene Aiko and Dej Loaf, Aysa gained notoriety from instagram reposts of her singing cover songs. Over time, she’s accumulated more than 70 000 streams on Spotify which motivated her to work on creating a collection of songs that would be proud of. Like many artists, she writes her own story when making music in the hope to motivate others to pursue and achieve their goals.
The graphic design student’s main passion is music. Her contemporary vibe and fashion-forward image is admirable. Aysa intends to create a music that people can resonate with, and she has, creating a community of fans that can openly talk about what it is to be in their feelings and why it’s okay to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling.
10. Karen Harding & Digital Farm Animals – Undo My Heart
Early 2000’s electronic music is on the rise and we’re not talking about the Benny Benassi kind. Think YellowClaw or classic EDM group Cascada. Electronic Dance Music has evolved so much over the years – from production quality all the way through to lyrical content – and via Ultra Music, Karen Harding & Digital Farm Animals bring us ‘Undo My Heart‘ (which already has a remix by the way).
Since the release of her Platinum streaming hit ‘Say Something’, Karen has been featured on Scott Mills Radio 1 Dance Anthem, MTV Club, MistaJam Radio 1 Future Anthem and playlisted by Kiss Dance. She has aimed to be the Whitney Houston of house music and she’s well on her way. In this song, she collaborated with Digital Farm Animals who have previously worked with Dua Lipa, Becky G, Jason Derulo, and Will.I.Am amongst many others, making them a perfect fit for Karen’s sound.
She has written with MNEK, Tujamo and Purple Disco Machine, showing her expertise in song-writing. The pairing of emotional lyrics and fun-filled dance beats are the hallmarks of good EDM songs that you could take with you on road-trips and pre-games without losing their freshness and vibrancy.
11. Breantonia X Jak – Exposure
Get a drink, babes – we’re dancing and will continue dancing to this song until we’re tired. Full exposure, cards on the table, Breantonia and Jax get creative and take a joyful approach to the idea of real love. Teetering on the border of ambiguity, this duplicitous track is about vulnerability and self-sabotage when falling for somebody.
The lo-fi inspired contemporary anthem is a prelude to an upcoming EP that we’re excited to hear. This lax groove focuses on Breantonia’s somewhat deep, alluring voice and angelic Beyonce-esque harmonies, highlighting Jax production abilities especially in the breakdown/bridge bit of the song.
Loving freely can often be hindered by overthinking. This is one of those songs that’s a reminder to let go and let love in if you’re ready for that kind of thing. Exposure is one of those infectious songs that lift the mood without having to try too hard!
12. Mansa – Keep Me Alive ft. CeeLo Green
Last but not least, we have ‘Keep Me Alive’ – a reminder that the game isn’t over. Otherwise known as Joe Young, Mansa joined forces with the legendary CeeLo Green to share a powerful message produced by Grammy-nominated producers Cool and Dre.
Rebelling against the media’s overload of information, Mansa has created a song that encourages listeners to restore our drive and reconnects us to our source energy. Social distancing has more benefits than we all realise, one of them being spiritual distancing. Protecting your energy is vital. Getting caught up in the struggle and succumbing to the fear-mongering nature of the news is draining and uninspiring. Reestablishing the bond with yourself will not only keep you alive but keep you healthy.
Born and raised in Germany, Joe Young was mentored by Ghostface Killa, designing some clothing from Wu Wear and running a tech company called 3rdSpaceCommunications. This balanced work of art features CeeLo Green which is a songwriting genius. Mansa has also worked with the likes of DMX, The Game, Wiz Khalifa, Method Man, Tony Yayo and many more! He’s got a lot more in the tank and we’re ready for the rest of his journey through the music industry
A Note From The Writer:
We’ve become a generation of people that has normalised burning out because “hustle culture says that CEO’s don’t sleep.” A large fraction of the grind and the push for progress is solely based on how well you take care of yourself. Be aware of the trap that is toxic positivity, love. Your mental health matters. Black Mental Health Matters. This month’s roundup is dedicated to the recharge squad. ✌🏽