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Four Tet - Live at Alexandra Palace London, 8th and 9th May 2019 Music Album Reviews

Kieran Hebden’s new live album reminds us that he is a stellar performer, not just a producer.
The British producer Kieran Hebden has one of the most distinctive signatures in electronic music. First, a gravelly drum machine; then, some jewel-toned synth pads; and, finally, a strip of harp or chimes or wordless cooing, unspooling like wrinkled ribbon.





Haviah Mighty - 13th Floor Music Album Reviews

With hard-nosed bars and ominous beats, the Canadian rapper’s debut is her most cohesive and narratively ambitious project to date.

Midway through “In Women Colour,” the defiant empowerment anthem that kicks off Haviah Mighty’s debut album 13th Floor, the Brampton-via-Toronto rapper vividly recounts an experience with a high school bully on the basketball court. She confronts an antagonist who’s thrown the ball out of her reach, only to find herself in a chokehold, beaten up for being a tomboy. “It’s just my struggle with the power divide,” Haviah reflects over distorted synths and peals of electric guitar. She gets the last laugh, but not before laying out the challenges she’s faced as a rapper because of her gender and skin color in unapologetic detail.

Whether solo or with hip-hop trio the Sorority—formed after its members met at a widely shared Toronto International Women’s Day cypher in 2016—Mighty wears her underdog badge with pride. Although she’s put out several self-released projects, including 2017’s evocative EP Flower City, 13th Floor is her most cohesive and narratively ambitious album to date. Mighty co-executive produced the record alongside Tim “2oolman” Hill of Canadian indigenous electronic group A Tribe Called Red, and a cadre including younger brother Mighty Prynce, frequent collaborator Young Dreadz, and Somali-Canadian beatmaker OBUXUM provide genre-diverse, radio-adjacent production.

The album’s title refers to both the superstitious tradition of buildings without a 13th floor and the 13th Amendment, forming a framework for Mighty’s impassioned commentary on cultural and socio-political identity. Over 13 tracks, she recalls harrowing brushes with racism in her neighborhood and classrooms growing up, and the close-knit family who taught her the importance of independence and perseverance. On the clique-celebrating “Squad,” she pays tribute to her parents and siblings, proudly claiming “Jamaican blood, Bajan blood, Canadian blood, UK in my blood, no Aryan blood, no alien blood.” The soulful, piano-led standout “Thirteen”—which Mighty has called “the only one that actually makes me feel like crying whenever I listen to it”—is an unflinching examination of North America’s history of slavery while acknowledging the continuing struggle for equality.

Elsewhere, 13th Floor captures the spark-plug energy of her live performances with ominous, bass-heavy beats and hard-nosed bars that could go toe-to-toe with any challenger. Like “Vamonos,” the 2018 collaboration with producer Book featured on HBO’s Insecure, “Blame” and “Fugazi” are packed with gleeful flexes and instantly rewindable punchlines (“Heard you want a resolution, ironically I’m not Aaliyah”). When she occasionally cedes the mic, it’s to like-minded Toronto artists who share her multitasking DIY ethos: Sean Leon and Clairmont the Second are prolific independent MCs themselves. “Fistful of dollars, punchlines kick ass like Chris Wallace,” Leon boasts on “Waves,” while on “Smoke,” Clairmont somberly reflects on the institutional racism and violence affecting young black people in his community. Sister Omega Mighty completes the family affair, lending a patois-peppered verse to the Fugees-referencing, Caribana-ready dancehall highlight “Wishy Washy.” Both it and “You Don’t Love Me” allow Haviah Mighty to show off her melodic chops, letting down her emotional defenses ever-so-slightly while scoffing at prospective suitors foolish enough to underestimate her.

Though the other two members of the Sorority—Keysha Freshh and Lex Leosis—are absent here, 13th Floor is an opportunity for Mighty to stretch her legs, not the beginning of the end for a promising group. They’ve recently promised new music, as well as solo releases from Freshh and Leosis, a breath of fresh air in the male-dominated Canadian rap landscape. “I do think the climate is opening up a little bit more to change. You're hearing a little bit more content from people that actually want to say something—not even just the women but also some of the men,” Mighty said in a recent interview. “And there's a little bit more openness as well. We’re a little bit less okay with certain types of ignorance.” As she puts it on “In Women Colour,” “I gotta do two times more to get four times less,” but she’s not doing it alone.

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