Artist Obsession: Laura Mvula

(Image: MOBO.com)

(Image: MOBO.com)

When fashion, art and music come together, a truly revolutionary force is begging to be reckoned with and considered a valuable result of human ingenuity. This revolutionary force comes in the form of Laura Mvula, a British songstress with the genius of a style maven and the creative spirit of a visual artist. Simultaneously occupying the space of visual and musical artist expressively makes Mvula a particularly innovative cultural producer. Black Girl Magic shines through the reaffirming power of her lyrics and the style in which she appears aesthetically. Her alternative, neo-soul vibe infuses melodic riffs with subtle call to action (or inaction as in “Can’t Live with the World”) amongst the cleverly written words of her lyrics. The unique blend of soul, pop, jazz and R&B makes Mvula’s music appear an unexpected creation of sonic power and talent. It also strengthens her expression of Black excellence to the highest of all standards. This playlist of curated tracks will take you on a journey toward Laura Mvula fandom and into a universe of human ingenuity.

“Overcome”

Essentially a freedom song of sorts, “Overcome” exists as a message of joyousness in spite of oppression. It is a perfect complement to Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”. Our modern answer to “We Shall Overcome” is the basis of this song.

 “Sing to the Moon”

If ever there were a non-obvious lullaby, “Sing to the Moon” would be it. Seemingly an epilogue to the uplifting “Overcome”, the melody breathes power into the acknowledgement of something bigger than this earthly life.

“Can’t Live with the World”

The self-care anthem, “Can’t Live with the World” is basically expressing the obvious truth that you can’t live with the world on your shoulders.

“She”

The song that brought Laura Mvula into existence for me through a Discover Weekly playlist, “She” brings resiliency into a soothing light. The calm nature of the song allows you to connect with Mvula’s musical spirit at the same time as giving you the feeling of invincibility.

“That’s Alright”

“Cause my skin ain’t light…” echoes subtly throughout Mvula’s poetic lyrics about identity politics. The song is fundamentally defining the characteristics of being comfortable in your own skin. It also touches upon the theme of understanding that Blackness, especially Black womanhood, is at the center of the universe and rejecting opposing forces that believe their position at the center of the universe gives them license to police others. 

Charity Gates, Digital Content Editor 

VIBES

A new generation of trans-genre artists are making moves on the music scene. Many of these young Black creative are moving beyond traditional characteristics of R&B, Soul, Funk or Hip-Hop music. Instead, they are developing their own sample of beats that take stylistic inspiration from various musical genres. Artists like SZA, LION BABE, The Internet, Jacob Banks, and Lianne La Havas, among others, are redefining what it means to be a Black music maker. Inspired by their immense innovation and creativity, I created a playlist sampling all the vibes that these artists produce. Their smooth rhythms, alternative beats, and feel good melodies will get your mind right for getting into the study zone. 

Charity Gates, Digital Content Director

 

The Islah Tour: Wassup With It?

Photo by: Tenia Miles

Photo by: Tenia Miles

Hearing music live, in its true form is, for me, a moving and connecting experience. The artist performs your favorite songs with emotion that you just can't feel when listening to the track at home. The words and the beat sound familiar, but the essence of the music is transformed. This was true of Kevin Gates' recent concert. His Islah tour made a stop at the Tabernacle in Atlanta on Saturday, November 14th, and the venue was packed. Long before the show, there was a line around the building, which is to be expected of any good artist.

Like other rappers, Gates puts up a gangster front, but his music reveals dark conflicts and pain he's experienced by growing up in the hood; something I'm not sure that some of his "fans" understand. In “Perfect Imperfection” he says, “They say my life is amazing; Funny been a question kinda wonder how I made it.” Growing up in a neighborhood in Baton Rouge often called Bloody Sticks, bullets, drugs, and gangs were just a part of everyday life that Gates managed to surpass. Behind all the tattoos and the glitz, he's just a man trying to provide for his family (all of which were on stage with him throughout the show), and I think he does that, as well as rap, very well. Songs like “Paper Chasers” are Gates’ way of expressing the hustle that is his life. He prides himself on doing that as co-owner of the recording label, Breadwinners Association, which features OG Boobie Black, who opened the show. After him, Gates gave an amazing show by performing hit singles like “2 Phones” and “Really Really” as well as some older songs like “Thinking with My Dick” and “Satellites” and other throwbacks for the day one fans. When he performed another crowd favorite, “Out The Mud,” one of the kids on stage with him took the mic and sung, melting everyone’s hearts. Gates was engaging with the crowd and at one point, borrowed someone's phone to take a selfie, which can be seen on his Instagram (@iamkevingates).

Photo by: Tenia Miles

Photo by: Tenia Miles

Anyone at the show could see the love Gates has for his family, his team, and his fans and the motivation they create for him. I realized that “I Don’t Get Tired” is more than just a song to him. As his signature anthem, he’s made it a lifestyle and a motto. Between songs, you could often hear his voice through the speakers saying those four words that drive him. Everything I saw and heard at the show gave me the context for the music and the life of the man that made it. The concert was definitely an experience both and the perfect precursor to the release of his upcoming album, Islah.

 

Tenia Miles, Social Media Manager


Black Ears

 

 “You got some n**** ears,” Nikki, (Kerry Washington) teases as she thumbs through her friend, Richard’s iPod. Confused, Richard (Chris Rock) replies, “N**** what?”

“Some old a** n**** ears . . .” Nikki continues, “You know, white people make music, too.”

This is one of my favorite scenes from I Think I Love my Wife. It is funny and the dialogue is very witty, but it stands out among other scenes to me because it makes me question how diverse my music interests are. At some point in most Black/African Americans’ lives, there has or will come a time when someone accuses them of only listening to Black artists and/or they confront someone else of doing it.  I once went to a frat party with friends. When “Gives you Hell” by the All-American Rejects played over the speaker, one of my friends exclaimed, “I want to hear some Black music, not this White stuff.” Then, we left instead of waiting for the next song. I understand that there is a lot of genres of music and most people do not listen to all of them. There is a difference between not listening to a certain genre because it is not appealing and not listening to certain artist because friends and family have ridiculed me for liking white artists. Even a stranger once gave me the side eye for singing along to “Love Story” by Taylor Swift in public.

Others would make me feel as if something was wrong with me for wanting to listen to artists who were not black. I thought that it made me less of an African American, as if I were betraying my culture. It took years for me to realize that everyone did not feel the way that my family and friends did. The mentality that they displayed through their judgment was a commonality in my hometown, a very small town in the southwest of Mississippi where the majority of the population is black and old ideas are still taught. There is not much room for expansion of ideas and new perspectives, so people are not very accepting or open-minded. 

Being at Emory University and meeting people from many different cultures, I know that there is nothing wrong with having diverse interests in music. I encourage everyone, myself included, to shuffle up his or her playlist choice, and listen to stations on Pandora that they would normally avoid. For example, sometimes, instead of listening to my Beyoncé station, I will pick a random artist that I have never heard of and listen to his or her station. I think music is an important part of culture and to try and understand another culture, you have to make an attempt to learn about every aspect of the lifestyle. After understanding this, I am able to listen to artists from all backgrounds without being insecure about my identity as an African American.

 

Markeisha Pollard, Staff Writer