Stream Amaarae’s great debut LP ‘The Angel You Don’t Know’ ft. Cruel Santino, Kojey Radical, more
Amaarae is currently based in Ghana, which is just one of the many places the 26-year-old artist has lived -- including the Bronx, New Jersey, and Atlanta -- and her music sounds as well-traveled as she is. As she discussed with Pitchfork, her heroes are artists who have broken down boundaries like Missy Elliott, Kelis, Grace Jones, and Dolly Parton. She's influenced by punk's DGAF mentality, even if her music veers in other directions, and she's influenced by her home country's Afrobeats, even if she sounds too experimental to fit in with Ghana's mainstream. Her new album opens up with a blaring noise track (which I hope she does more of in the future), and it settles into a kind of electronic art pop that kinda sounds like if Grimes or M.I.A. went Afrobeats, all while boasting a diverse cast of guests including UK rapper Kojey Radical, Nigerian Afro-fusionist Cruel Santino, French producer Kyu Steed, US indie-soul singer/rapper Maesu, and more. Her goal, as she said in that Pitchfork interview, is to get Americans to embrace Afropopp the way the UK has. "I think it’s going to be a bit more difficult to get Americans into that mind space," she says, but maybe an album like The Angel You Don’t Know -- which really has more in common with America's mainstream music than Africa's -- will start to open those doors.