Nneka is kind of like the perfect cross between Lauryn Hill and M.I.A.; she sings and raps with ease, and writes wonderfully empowering songs, while also speaking for a people largely ignored and invisible in mainstream Western culture (you know: that massive, ridiculously diverse group of people we Westerners refer to as, simply, “Africans”) . As her brilliant album cover suggests, Nneka fashions herself as the voice of the African Diasporic experience, recalling everyone from Ms. Hill and Erykah Badu to Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. Born and raised in Warri, Nigeria before leaving at the age of 18 to live with her German mother in Hamburg, it could be said that her very existence embodies a clashing of African and Western cultures, and so she’ll surely fascinate Afrocentrics and NPR listeners in the coming months. But I can guarantee you that no amount of intellectual masturbation and hype can outshine Nneka’s brilliant, and downright moving American debut album, Concrete Jungle. Basically a collection of songs taken from Nneka’s two previous albums (both unavailable in the US), the album is an eclectic and freewheeling, yet somehow 100% cohesive mixture of hip hop, soul, rock, pop, reggae, afrobeat, funk, and trip hop.
Concrete Jungle stuns, inspires and enthralls from beginning to end, and confirms without question that Nneka has the potential to be among the most vital and fascinating voices of pop music in the years to come. Believe the hype.