Nneka “Soul Is Heavy”

I played Nneka several times on my show, but this is the first record of hers I’ve reviewed. She’s what comes on when I’m in an R&B mood that errs on the calypso/reggae/island side. So Lauryn Hill with an edge.
The first track is outstanding. In “Lucifer (No Doubt),” the Nigerian scams my heart away. And for those who think soul means deep, passionate voices, well, you’re wrong, but you get proof with “My Home,” which has hints of JoJo McDuffie, Diana Ross, and Tina Turner.
“Restless” is a piano ballad at first, but during the chorus it turns into a song with the same beat as John Mellencamp’s “Wild Night.” Considering Meshell Ndegeocello is the guest vocalist in that one, you can’t help but wonder whether it was inspirational. Nneka’s voice also occasionally hints at Macy Gray on this track as well. If there were a single, this would be it.
A more accessible sound is also found on “J.” The upbeat pop tempo and horns provide the perfect background while comparing outfits for a girls’ night out. Natasha Bedingfield will particularly like this.
You can hear Nneka rap on the title track. The choruses on this record are all well-developed on this album, but on this track it goes a step further. Another song that starts as a piano ballad can be found with “Valley.” This one builds into a complete song with a Carlos Santana wannabe on guitar at the end. Great stuff.
“Camouflage” is the other track that has a rap focus. Musically it reminds me of Lionrock. The last number is “Still I Rise” and also a good one to listen. Lots to explore on this release.

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