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The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 12-2-22 – 12-8-22, Yemi Alade’s “African Baddie” Reviewed

The US has loved Yemi Alade ever since we discovered her on Beyonce’s 2019 African tributing ‘The Lion King: The Gift ‘s “Don’t Jealous Me” with the Queen Bey lead us to the Queen Of Africa Yemi Alade. Already nearing mythic proportions in Africa and the UK, Alade became a figurehead and a leader of Nigerian pop. Since then we have backtracked through her back catalog, some four albums, before jumping on Empress, in 2020, and then waiting another year with the EP Queendoncom in 2021 and a concert at Le Poisson Rouge in October 2021.

Last week there was a surprise drop single “Begging” which is very good though a little laid back, and today an epic EP, African Baddie, including “Begging” which sounds much better in context, ahead of final song, the stupendous dance hall House afrobeats explosion “Bubble It” -a song with the spark you get off her “Tumbum” from 2016.

Yemi, along with Angelique Kidjo, is ushering in the Wizkids and Burna Boys into the crossover US market where she finds the strength of Jamaican pop dance and Afrobeats to house; here the strength of the intricate Yoruba beats both on top and underneath the singing, both African dialects and English, and even a song in France (in case we forgot about West Africa under colonial boots). Alade understands dance so well (you should see her live) that you always want her to speed it up and dance it through but strictly speaking African Baddie isn’t a dance album which is not to say it isn’t a beats album, the sublime opener “Pounds And Dollars” is ear candy, slow mix, voices and beats in a dream weave, “Overload” sounds like a track before Paul Simon messed with it on Graceland, and “Get Down” echoes “Wanna Be Starting Something”‘s sample but slower and with the drums even more prevalent and a flamenco (?) solo.

What this all means is that African Baddie is a straightforward EP, half an hour of songs that don’t look forward or backwards but remains where it is, a template for pop musicians elsewhere on how much is enough. One of the best albums of the year.

Grade: A

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