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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

South African Rapper Rouge Delivers the Perfect Concept Album With Her Debut ‘The New Era Sessions’

Rouge, the SA rapper of Congolese heritage, flexes really hard on her debut offering.

On her first attempt, South African rapper Rouge brought through the same quality your favorite South African rapper took three albums to achieve.


Her ability to rap rings around her peers and hold a note—without laying on the auto tune too thick—makes her a worthy contender for the throne. Equally adept at weaving catchy hooks and piecing intricate rhyme schemes at speed, the rapper of Congolese heritage flexes really hard on her debut offering, The New Era Sessions.

On The New Era Sessions, Rouge traverses over four themes. We begin our sojourn with the rapper's take on old-school rap before she floats over trap-infused beats. The middle of the album is more intimate as "Simon Says" and "The Break Up" deal with the theme of love. The final stretch of the record sees Rouge's braggadocios side make an appearance in celebration of both women's empowerment and the album's near-perfection.

It maintains its presentation as a therapeutic piece of work that places us in the past before guiding us into the future. The cover artwork is a perfect representation of Rouge as a futuristic South African rapper, and perfectly matched by her sister's robotic narration throughout the album.

In a refreshing move, the structured approach doesn't stifle the project's sonic versatility. The New Era Sessions proves that lyricism doesn't have to be sacrificed when riding over dope 808s. It joins Reason's Love Girls and Stogies T's self titled album as works that try to deal with current issues without losing their listenability.

What the album also proves is that Rouge deserves to be named alongside these two stalwarts. She stakes a claim as one of the most technically adept rappers out in South African hip-hop right now. She's proven her skills before, serving fire flames on Ms Cosmo's "Connect," AKA's "Baddest" remix and DJ Switch's "Now Or Never" remix.

What this album shows is an ability to craft more than just great guest verses though. It's clear that she puts good songs together, but it's their relationship to her larger themes that makes this offering truly stand out.

Throughout these themes, Rouge doesn't relent with catchy hooks constantly accompanied by tightly packed rhymes. The album gives us insights into her anxieties, ambitions and musical journey. The bass lines, her intonation and subject matter are all well thought out, but it doesn't ever feel like the album takes itself too seriously. Perhaps this is most apparent with the album's closing act.

Rouge's decision to close off her debut project with her three biggest singles is a brave one. From a demand for our attention on "Sheba Ngwan'O", to getting your doe up on "Mbongo Zaka" and carefree relationships on "No Strings," these cuts are meant to celebrate the autonomy Rouge lives by. It also proves the strength of the album and creates a triumphant ending. All three songs tie into the theme of being empowered and precede the gorgeous accappella "Mabele" which is a Lingala hymn symbolizing our beginnings from, and eventual return to "the soil".

The New Era Sessions is a great listen and succeeds on so many levels. It's a strong idea backed by a technically flawless performance and has tons of replay value. It's amazing as a debut, and a sign that better is to come. As "Sheba Ngwan'O" encourages us, we'll be keeping a lookout for bigger things from Rouge.

Stream The New Era Sessions below, and download it here.


Photo courtesy of 1-54/SUTTON.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Landing in Marrakech is 2018's Most Anticipated Art Event

The leading art fair dedicated to contemporary African art makes its mark on the continent for the first time this weekend.

This weekend, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading art fair devoted to contemporary African art, will debut in Marrakech, Morocco. The announcement of the Fair's expansion to the continent last year has left aficionados of contemporary African art in eager anticipation of this "homecoming"—this author included.

1-54 debuted in London in 2013. Although an expansion to New York followed, a presence on the continent was always part of the long-term vision of the founder Touria El Glaoui. Finally, the time has now arrived.

Here are five reasons why we're looking forward to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakech.

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This Olympic Figure Skater Blew Us Away Again By Pulling Off a Costume Change Mid-Routine

First Maé-Bérénice Méité performed to Beyoncé, now she's effortlessly slaying outfit changes mid-routine. What can't she do?

French-Congolese and Ivorian figure skater, Maé-Bérénice Méité, has pretty much been the life of the Winter Olympic figure skating competition.

Earlier this month, the athlete had the internet shook when she performed her opening routine to two Beyoncé songs. Now she's back with even more black girl magic.

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Video still via YouTube.

10 Stand Out Moments From Janelle Monáe's Powerful Music Videos

Janelle Monae came back making a statement—and we're just as obsessed as you are.

We've got to talk about Janelle Monáe.

Over the past half decade, she's embarked on a profound journey that's solidified her as an artist, creator and activist who isn't afraid to shoot down the stars—or shoot with them.

After having roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight—two Oscar nominated movies where one won an Oscar, a stellar speech at the Grammy's and a stunning presence at the Black Panther red carpet, she's ready to grace us with "Dirty Computer," the latest musical venture in her Afrofuturistic saga.

To whet our appetites before the album, which is set to release on April 27, Janelle dropped not one but two music videos yesterday. Both are distinctly entertaining: one is a black, intersectional feminist anthem and the other a psychedelic soundtrack of sexual fluidity.

Watch both, then read some of the highlights we gathered from the hypnotizing visuals and powerful wordplay.

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