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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.


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Janet Jackson Returns With Afrobeats-Inspired Song & Video 'Made For Now' Featuring Daddy Yankee

The icon's latest is a nod to the sound, fashion and culture of the diaspora.

Ms. Jackson is back.

The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, even hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

It's obvious that Jackson has been studying and drawing inspiration from the culture for some time now. She even hit the Akwaaba dance, popularized by Mr Eazi, during her Icon Award performance at this year's Billboard Music Awards.

The bouncing video, directed by Dave Meyers, features contributions from a number of creatives from Africa and the diaspora who were involved in the creation of the video, including designer Claude Lavie Kameni and choreographer Omari Mizrahi. Ghanaian health guru, Coach Cass pointed out some of the many dancers involved in the production on Instagram, who hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad, Grenada and the US.

Ahead of the video's release, it garnered attention on social media when Jackson was spotted filming in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing what many thought was a questionable fashion ensemble. The outfit in question only makes a small appearance in the video, and we're glad to see that Janet's other looks appear, at least slightly, more coordinated.

Watch the music video for "Made for Now" below. The singer is set to perform the song with Daddy Yankee live for the first time tonight on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so be ready!

Audio

You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'


New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

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News Brief

FIFA Refuses To Meet with Nigeria's Sports Minister as Ghana Takes Steps to Avoid Ban

This could jeopardize Nigeria's qualifier against Seychelles in September, while the Ghanaian government has pledged not to dissolve its football association.

In lieu of the ultimatums Nigeria and Ghana's football associations faced from FIFA, one country is on its way to dodge the threat of being banned, while the other is not going down without a fight.

FIFA has refused a proposed meeting with Nigeria's sports minister, Solomon Dalung, to discuss problems in the country's football federation, BBC Sport reports. They say their leadership and the FIFA president is unwilling to meet during the proposed time period.

FIFA is giving the NFF until August 20 for Chris Giwa, who was acknowledged by the courts as the president of the federation, to leave the NFF offices.

Giwa's lawyer Ardzard Habilla asserts that FIFA can't ban Nigeria as the federation's issues need to be sorted out internally by the country's judiciary.

Habilla questions, "Do we take it that FIFA laws are superior to the judgment of the highest court in our land—the Supreme Court, and has FIFA elevated itself before the constitution of Nigeria?"

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