Nigerian/German hip-hop soul singer, Nneka, give us a dose of spirit and consciousness over acoustic, hip-hop, reggae, and soul beats in her newly released compilation album Concrete Jungle. Her singing voice is humble and sweet, reminiscent of fellow Nigerian singer, Ayo, mixed with the melodies and beats of alternative soul star, Res. Her rhyming ability is versatile yet non-braggadocios. And it is these ingredients that gives the music world a fresh yet veteran voice.
“Showin Love,” the opening track, introduces us to her vocal and rhyming ability. It’s a smooth rap over a laid back hip-hop beat. It shows that she can rhyme, sing and share meaningful content. But afterwards the album goes down a mundane preachy track with songs like “Mind vs. Heart,” “Uncomfortable Truth,” “Heartbreak,” and “Come to Me.”
Although her fellow singing colleagues like India Arie and Lauryn Hill’s music had messages in them too, they seem to overcome the preachy effect by giving us storytelling and sharing a piece of themselves. Unfortunately, Nneka neglect these elements. A listener wants to know who the singer is, what her vulnerabilities and experiences are, and what causes her joys and pain. There is none of that on this album. Nneka keeps us guessing.
However, she redeems herself a little close to the end of Concrete Jungle. In “Focus” she gives us hip-hop again with a quick yet precise cadence as she rhymes “The flesh has overcome the spirit / Eyes opened but shot sight blurred / Can not see the road / Because I am scarred of the light.” “God of Mercy” is where she sings a candid conversation she has with God over a jazzy, reggae beat. She pays an ode to Africa in “From Africa To You” with the words “Africa / You’re so beautiful” while she alternates between English and Igbo. And both “Suffri” and “Kangpe” are feel good records.
Overall Concrete Jungle is a mix of two musical genres intermingled with diverse sounds from a woman who can go back and forth. If she can balance the album’s flaws with it strengths, she will be well on her way to making an ingenious album in the days to come.