Nigeria’s Lauren Hill Doppleganger Spits Soul Over Unstable Beat

Nneka

Concrete Jungle

Yo Mama’s Recording Co.

Given her soulful, conscious vocals and her ability to spit a rhyme or two, it’s easy to write off neo-soul/ hip-hop artist Nneka Egbuna as a Lauryn Hill copycat, even if she’s emerging from the concrete jungle a decade after the miseducated Fugees member made it big. But a couple listens to the Nigerian-born artist’s U.S. debut album Concrete Jungle will reveal that — at key moments — Nneka’s delivery can reach past Hill’s.

While Hill was the queen of versatility, perfecting soul, R&B, hip-hop and jazz in her own modern combo, Nneka blends these musical categories and adds a touch of her African roots on each track. Nevertheless, she manages the task with a lot less finesse than Hill.

The album kicks off with one of the few tracks Nneka spits on — her sing-song fluid flow shines on “Showin’ Love,” topping a haunting organ production from fellow German musician DJ Farhot. From the start, Jungle screams lessons at us: “Repentance, acceptance, this is what I plead/ To practice the things we say and tell others in need.”

In ultra-intimate “Mind vs. Heart,” Nneka replicates the wiry pipes of Erykah Badu. But her voice gets twisted on single “The Uncomfortable Truth.” The singer’s raspy vocals cut through fat horns and a highly percussive beat through handclaps, shakers and an extremely present drum set.

DJ Farhot and Nneka fuse together effortlessly on breakout, “Heartbeat,” where a tinkering piano fades in atop a steady kick. Nneka stutters a catchy hook to the beat of bass drum, playing heartbeat to the track’s contemplative message.

Nneka’s clearly got vocal chops, but she’s nowhere near as polished as Hill in her heyday. On heartfelt acoustic ballad “Come With Me,” the 28-year-old takes the loosely structured track and runs with it, flirting with some off-key detours along the way. And while her few smooth raps help give Jungle variety, they lack raw passion.

Still, it’s not hard to see why Nneka is racking up fans in Africa and Europe. If her recent collaboration with the Roots is any indication, America’s about to take a trip down memory Hill real soon.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$210
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$210
$500
Contributed
Our Goal