If Nappy Nina were a comic book character, her thought bubbles would fill entire panels. In her music, the Oakland-raised, Brooklyn-based rapper’s thoughts flow in running arcs that leap from sentences to confessions to flexions. Her last album bereavement due, adds sighs to this scary mix, reckoning with unspecified losses that haunt Nina’s writing and performances like a shadow. Though it never completes this looming backstory, the strong features and beats keep the music engaging.
Nina has a pianissimo timbre that recalls your “inner voice”, to use a phrase from elementary school. Her almost whispery, poetic lyricism is somewhat reminiscent of Ladybug Mecca and Noname, but her love of double-time cadences and assonant rhyme schemes brings her closer to the Homeboy Sandman and fellow Oaklander Suga Free. Unlike all those rappers, though, Nina rarely writes catchphrases or jokes, instead recounting her life as a queer black woman in Brooklyn. She’s too cautious to be considered a diarist, but her lyrics are rooted in everyday concerns, especially survival. “I mean, lately I stay / Tied to territories where I get sanctioned,” she raps on “Amen,” highlighting her tense relationship with public spaces.
Its frequent allusions to pain suggest that private spaces don’t offer much sanctuary either, though the writing never relies on these brief revelations. “My loss lists are long,” he says in “Sorrel Sip,” a typical gloss. To cope, he turns to grass and sleep, but sleep offers little comfort. She either wakes up feeling unrefreshed, or is unable to wrap herself up and quiet her mind, a vicious cycle captured both by the cheeky album artwork and a vivid line from “Amen”: “I woke up in a fire, so tired I I was still sleeping. ”
The production often taps into that conflicting feeling of sleepy edginess, blending nocturnal lethargy with restless movement. New York producers dane.zone (Sonnymoon, Quelle Chris), JWords (Maassai, MIKE) and Nelson Bandela (Terence Etc., Nick Hakim) provide almost all the beats. They prefer a one-two punch of wacky keys and hard, slurred percussion, a combo that suits Nina’s quiet but fast-paced raps. “Peddles” exemplifies the album’s sound, as Nina and guest OHMi glide over wobbly drums and airy chords.
In her verse, Nina uses the phrase “hyperlink type beats”, a funny and apt description of bereavement dueThe electro boom bap sound and that of other upbeat, electronica-inspired production styles seen on H3IR speedWiki and NAH Telephone boxand they hate changes Finally, New. These albums eschew the drunken soul loops that have dominated underground rap for the past few years, popularized by Earl Sweatshirt, Roc Marciano, and Griselda Records. The departure from that approach suggests it may be losing its appeal in some corners, though no particular spirit seems to be driving the change. Whatever the cause, there’s clearly a growing interest among producers and rappers in the textures and cadences of noise, ambient, and trip-hop, as seen on recent albums like Moor Mother and Billy Woods. BRASS, as well as JPEGMAFIA All my heroes are cornballs—the strongest records this turn has produced. production in bereavement due It’s not as adventurous as anything on those records, but its bubbly digital textures animate Nina’s flows.
The album loses steam when the rhythms take inspiration from R&B, becoming more leisurely and atmospheric. Those instruments are strong on their own, but they don’t suit Nina’s timid style, a mismatch underscored by the magnetic presence of the many featured artists, who basically hit home runs. Moor Mother’s verse on “Stone Soup” is the best on the album: In the span of a minute, she coolly interpolates Nas’ “Ether” and references time travel, Kara Walker paintings, and “Bennie and the Jets.” “, a mixture of wit, personal touchstones and precise imagery that eludes Nina for 14 songs. bereavement due it’s his strongest pitch, but he still hasn’t figured out how to turn stray thoughts into developed ideas.