Sing It, Sister
With her powerful voice and Afrocentric style, Nigerian-German hip hop and soul artist Nneka offers a strong, culturally outspoken album that appeals to both the mind and soul. Released in September 2011, Soul Is Heavy stays true to Nneka’s African and Western European roots with a successful fusion of reggae, dub, dancehall, hip hop, and soul. Nneka’s musical influences include artists like Mos Def and Lauryn Hill, and it’s clear that the work of these iconic musicians has contributed to Nneka’s own unique style.
What stands out most in Soul Is Heavy is Nneka’s ability to blend her rich, beautiful voice with lyrics about the ugly truths and societal struggles overlooked around the world. In the album’s title track, Nneka passionately sings, “I am the voice of Isaac Boro, I speak Ken Saro Wiwa, I am the spirit of Jaja Opobo, fight for right, for our freedom.” She sings this chorus in an upper register that almost seems to push the politically charged lyrics directly from her soul. Soul Is Heavy also takes the time to touch on Nneka’s more personal and spiritual sentiments, which she addresses in songs like “Do You Love Me Now,” “My Home,” and “God Knows Why” featuring Roots rapper Black Thought.
Nneka doesn’t waste her breath on trivial matters in this album as virtually every lyric is packed with a call to cultural, social, or political activism. Overall, it’s refreshing to hear a powerful female voice backed by well-written lyrics that avoid the typical swoon of romantic love. Defying the norm of contemporary music, Nneka takes the heaviness of social injustices and wraps it with a beautiful—yet raw—presentation on which listeners are expected to reflect.