There is this awesome thing that women can do. Well..maybe I shouldn’t call it a thing. Perhaps, a..umm…talent? Yes, that sounds better. There is an awesome talent that women possess. I call it the “Feminine Duality Reverse Dichotomy”. Women just out-and-out have an uncanny ability to be feminine, graceful and sensuous; yet just as lusty, virile and powerful as any of their male counterparts. All at the same time. And woe be unto those, male or female, that cause a woman to use this powerful ability in a vengeful, spiteful manner as retaliation for their callous actions. It is one of the greatest and oldest mysteries known in this life. How can two exact opposites be embodied within one space and not spontaneously combust, taking half a city block along with it? Baffling stuff it is, yet I see and experience it daily within my home through Wifey. I also notice its presence within most of the females I either personally know or meet in passing. But regardless of how you’d like to label it, the fact remains that it is very real, very forceful and quite tangible. Women are able to convey this talent in the most overtly subtle ways and while some females are still coming into their own with mastery of this power, most of them have it down to an exact science. So I’m utterly convinced that in the right setting and from the right, level-headed woman, the combination can be utterly intoxicating and disaffected yet charming and commanding.
I became familiar with Nakia‘s distinct sound via a blog post written by my overseas connection, SoulUK. I listened to the audio snippets there while reading his excellent review and made a mental note to look deeper into her music in the near future. But as always with my mental notes, it became misplaced under some other brain cells and I didn’t come across that particular one again until writing our last “For The Free” music roundup. While laboriously searching for viable FREE music on Bandcamp, the album cover for Ms. Henry’s single “Love Letter [He Wants Me To Win]” literally jumped out at me.
It was, for lack of a better and more manly word, fierce. It had such an edge to it in a “Something Grace Jones Would Have Done” type of way that I had no choice but to click the play link. I was instantly taken by the timbre of her voice as well as the subject matter she chose for her songwriting. In this day and age, it’s impressive to hear this type of intimate dialogue about how a healthy, loving relationship should work sung and her delivery harkens back to the way Ms. Badu unleashed her neo-bohemian vibe upon the masses back in ’97. Which I guess is part of the X-Factor for this track, seeing that it samples an accelerated smattering of Badu’s “Other Side of the Game ” which she expressed her enjoyment of. That’s cool. I can dig it too.
After I wrote the Bandcamp post and I did my normal thing of following all the artists I wrote about on Twitter and sending them the link just in case they would like to read it. One of them of course, was @AfromanticNakia, which she graciously ReTweeted several times. Whenever an artist reads my writing and genuinely enjoys my musical musings, it does give one a warm fuzzy- but to clarify, I don’t go around looking for artist approval or recognition for what I do here even if it is rather nice when an artist responds back. I guess that, in essence, is one of the many reasons Social Networking tools like Twitter work for those that correctly use it.
To speed up the chronological timeline, I’ll skip descriptions of email exchanges and Twitter DM‘s by simply stating that I soon had a copy of the entire disc in my electronic hands and set about my normal routine of loading it on my storage card for perusing at my leisure. After two complete spins of the album, I began my extensive e-research on Ms. Henry (which I only do when my interest has been truly piqued by projects that hold a certain amount of relevance for me) in order to ascertain more detail as to what it takes to be the type of person to create this type of project.
My findings took me to a myriad of different sites, as Henry has quite the web presence, all giving me plenty of detail into her vast and multi-faceted origins. I found that the striking beauty hails from the Motor City and her love and passion for creating began for her, at a precocious five years of age. Starting first with dance, then a segue into the Thespian arts during her Fordham University years, causing her to trod the boards on many occasions including Hot Feet; a modern interpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s ” The Red Shoes“, set to an Earth Wind & Fire score.
She also seems to have Modeling aspirations, been photographed on numerous occasions by renowned photogs. As another point of interest, much ado about nothing has been made of certain tasteful photos of Henry in the buff as promos for The Cotton Club.
Of the photos and her stance on what persons possessing small minds may perceive as offensive or overtly sexual, Nakia states
“There is “Sexual” and there is free. There is “Sexual” and there is bold. There is “Sexual” and there is “I love myself”. All of these things can be “sexy” but… you get my point.”
Well put sentiments that I can completely agree with her on.
Moving past that, Nakia continues to hold the title of budding blogger to her achievements, writing when she sees it fit to share some of the lesser known intricacies that make up the finely woven tapestry of her life. She even manages between all of this to finish an LP and perform a set or three like the one she’ll be doing at the Best Buy in Union Square on 12/08/10 or as in this video I happened to swipe from YouTube of a live performance at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar in NY with Funk/Indie Rock outfit Kojo Modibo Sun backing her up.
With this new info in mind, I listened to the disc a third and fourth time, taking in every inflection and phrase, letting her words swirl in my brain while I continued to enjoy listening to her sometimes fortissimo; oft-times pianissimo vocals.
The LP comes in just under an hour in length and refreshingly glides from track to track in a decidedly conversational, stream of consciousness design, taking a matter of fact approach towards discussing her roots, the things that have shaped her soul up to this point and the people, places and things her spirituality is continuing to lead her to. Of note will be the polished production for each track. Not only do they create the necessary tone to anchor each of Henry’s well placed words, elongated notes and throaty vocal timbre, they ebb and wane in symmetry, intensifying the product with life of their own.
Henry begins the LP with “Fly Away Girl“, showcasing her ability to harmonize with herself over a sparsely crafted backdrop, all while describing a restless mind state and wanting get away from it all, which creates a nice setup for the tale “Lily“. Whether it is autobiographical or not remains untold to the listener. What is revealed is the story of a young woman with self-esteem issues she must overcome while Henry’s reassuring refrain of “Don’t cry Lily, Lily, it will get better Lily” echoes waves of encouragement.
The next set of tracks leave the realm of encouragement and transverse into areas of love and sexuality. “Gotta Remember Your Not Mine“, while interesting if for nothing but the O.P.P.-ish theme from the perspective of “The Other Woman” and the matter of fact tonal quality of Nakia’s voice, only slightly strays from the mark. The listener ends up waiting to hear the song title sung during the hook, but those actual words don’t get to play a part until the end of the second verse. No real harm or foul here for me, as there are a plethora of songs from other artists I could name that also follow this dogma of mis-matching song lyrics/ song titles. But to an average ear, there will be a wanting that doesn’t get fulfilled from the hook and song title not coinciding.
No matter as it doesn’t hinder the way “Nature” slides into the playlist next, drawing my attention away from the last song with its understated bass line and I allow Henry’s sensuous wordplay paint a lush floral background when describing the tender blossom of a love-making session in full bloom. In this type of track, Nakia’s husky tone works to her advantage, adding a tangible texture to the imagery she conjures throughout with each syllable, giving perfect balance and setup for “Lord Have Mercy/Transitions” to bring the story full circle as she laments upon the “love triangle” situation she’s helped to place herself in. There is a certain healing process that takes place when one is asking the Almighty for forgiveness and guidance. Nakia conveys her supplication of atonement for lustful thoughts, words and deeds in such an accessible way that either gender with faith could easily relate. It’s also quite helpful that the backing accompaniment has a slower pace, as that, coupled with the hook creates the vibe of listening to a modern hymn.
Next we come to the aptly titled “Silly Girl“, which also plays into the same theme as the previous storyline we’ve been privy to. Over more melancholy arrangement, Nakia pulls off the dual task of admonishing young women that allow themselves to make incorrect and foolish actions in relationships based on pure emotion, yet after her sisterly berratement and during the uptempo swing, she gives words of direction and guidance to her sisters.
As a whole it comes across as an honest conversation between friends during a good session of “Girl Talk”.
Further along in the disc, Henry begins to show just as much, if not more substance. “Beautiful Music” is very much a standout track with its scatty vibe and thoughtful, unabashed wordplay where she likens her relationship to how each instrument and component of a song comes together in harmonious unison to create a lovely melody. And just when you think that the narrative ends there, the equally noteworthy “Afromantic” sweeps in with heavy guitar driven riffs, giving extension and ethereal width to the path already lain by the previous track.
These songs and the last eight tracks on the other half of the disc undoubtedly make RM easy to digest in one sitting for those aren’t afraid of music that holds messages of life taught truths, sagacious relationship commentary and Afrocentric self-love. I applaud Nakia for bringing these topics to light as the world is in dire straits of more artists willing to do so, but fear that most “terrestrial radio influenced” potential listeners will bypass the rich copious waves this disc produces, heading instead for comfy, ankle-deep waters.
As a whole, “Remember Me” comes across as Nakia telling the story of her years and giving you some, but not all of the details that normally go with one to the grave. Many of the songs will appear to stem from the one before it, but more as added thoughts splayed over a different soundscape, rather than standalone concepts, though almost any of the different audios within the tracklisting could do well for Henry on a single basis. Nakia has created an honest depiction of what is real to her and most likely kindred spirits will gravitate to her sound for the subtlety in its contextual approach and the mystique of her commanding vocals but I wager, most of all for her keen ability to balance the duality of firmly planting a foot in contrasting worlds and adeptly and comfortably walk the tightrope between them, allowing the universal message of love to lead the way and making it all but impossible to not remember her.
To add to that message, Nakia would like for us to share “Smile” with you. The track is a testament to the power of positive thinking and features her powerful a capella supplying not only the lyrics but the musical accompaniment as well.
Download: Nakia Henry – “Smile“
Hit the link to grab a copy and while you’re at check these other links too for more info.