Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Photo: Courtesy of Sooper Records via Bandcamp

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

BRAT
Nnamdï

Sooper Records

3 April 2020

Nnamdï's sounds are a testament to the continual melting away of genre distinctions in the current era of (particularly Black) music. There are material and immaterial circumstances which produce the conditions for such an atmosphere of aesthetic experimentation. During times of massive political and social unrest, Black artists historically have taken these moments to flex their artistic muscles. Typically, they are remembered for their protest anthems, like Lil Baby's recent banger. Less typically are artists remembered for their less overtly political, though no less important, pushing of aesthetic boundaries. Black music should not be boxed into designations like "protest music" or "reflections of the times", but Nnamdï's work is an apt accompaniment to the shuttered COVID-19 world. Largely self-produced, BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

The album abounds with sounds from electronica, Afrobeat, acoustic, bedroom pop, and truthfully unidentifiable aesthetic mashups. At times, the listener may feel accosted. However, Nnamdï' does a great job of selecting a repeating rhythm to carry the track, even as other elements often bombard the instrumental. Take the acoustic riff on the album opener "Flowers to My Demons", which is the standout track. The bass guitar grounds the song as Nnamdï's voice moves from whispering hums to high pitched and Auto-Tuned wails, to lusty croons. The title also draws on a long history of association between fiddles/guitars and the devil.

One can also point to the measured sonic grooves on "Wasted", the prowling synths on "Gimme Gimme", or the rolling aural hills on "Perfect in My Mind". Though he's not always trying to contain his intense energy, it is apparent that the chaos is measured. These chaotic vibes are not incoherent; the album crafts a narrative of Nnamdï as a dynamic thinker with many aspirations and a will to achieve them. On "It's OK", the repeated line "There's no need to pretend / You're OK if you're not" is a simple, though not simplistic, epiphany. The song cements the dreamy, trance-like vibes of the album. As listeners, we are privy to the inner machinations of Nnamdï's psychic reflections, as he is more concerned with his inner dialogues than what is going on outside.

Nnamdï's energy pulsates throughout the album with an irregular, syncopated rhythm that makes it impossible to predict where the next song -- or even the next second -- is going. Take the manic track "Bullseye", where Nnamdï goes through more vocal registers and fluctuations than I can count on my hands. When I listen to him, I recall Lil Wayne's famous line, "Feed me rappers or feed me beats", as Nnamdï seeks to consume -- vocally, instrumentally, or often both -- every inch of space that he can.

But it is not in the battle rap mode. Instead, Nnamdï understands that his journey to self-knowledge and discovery is through the exercise of his dynamic imagination. This wide-ranging versatility reminds me of Tierra Whack, whose incredible debut album graced the world two years ago. On "Everyone I Loved", Nnamdï acts as his own chorus, one of several moments where Nnamdï plays multiple entities on the album. In this way, the experience of the album reminds us that isolation does not have to be lonely, that we have entire inner worlds just waiting to be tapped and explored.

Not everything on this album is frenzied, as the energies cover a wide range from highly animated to somber to whimsical. On "Glass Casket", Nnamdï wrestles with the difficulty of achieving one's desire. What else could I become? Will I be able to fulfill myself while still keeping my obligations to my family? The dreamy, alt R&B vibes of the song allow the listener to float easily along this river of contemplation.

BRAT is not an ironically titled response to his parents who likely were surprised when Nnamdï pivoted from an electrical engineering degree into life as a full-time musician. Instead, it's an embrace of the joy in interiority, a note that one's inner life can be louder and more bombastic than the world outside of it. The experimentations often -- though not always -- work out, but they are always well done. Everything comes together on the album's closer "Salut", an Afrobeat inflexed trip that serves as an apt culmination to warped sonic tour the album takes us on. As Nnamdï softly sings, "If it's meant to beeee, then itttt will beeee," he surrenders control to an exterior world that he cannot control, knowing that he has created a lively home for himself in his mind.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.