The dearth of a genuinely great female MC in hip hop is beyond a joke now – there appears to be little reason or rhyme behind it. OK, if major records labels can’t see profitability within them, then fine, but that shouldn’t stop them from appearing more and more on the underground. The fact of the matter is there remains a woman-shaped hole in the game, and female MC’s (aside from Lil Mama, who is frankly too young right now) from America are struggling to break through in any meaningful way – most of them have to consistently sexualize everything they say, whilst referring to themselves as a male MC’s fantasy, a bitch or a ho. It is quite ridiculous, but at least other parts of the world seems to be intent on producing some female role models who can make great music without prostituting themselves or their beliefs: if you’re getting a stiff neck from looking up at me on my high horse, I’m unashamedly unapologetic. The UK is producing a few genuine contenders: while Estelle’s debut was somewhat average, her new LP looks like it could be outstanding; Baby Blu is consistently excellent; and, of course, M.I.A. is clearly the real queen bee. These ladies know how to combine aggression with subtlety, skill with coyness, and incredible beats with stunning melody. They might not be multi-platinum, but they are getting bucketloads of critical acclaim – and thank goodness I’ve never heard any of them refer to themselves as “the baddest bitch in town.”
The debut from Australian rapper A Love takes on importance, whether she wants it or not, simply due to the fact that she is a she. That is obviously not to say that you should or shouldn’t buy it simply because an MC has a uterus, but in relation to the competition in the music business right now, there is a definite and considerable opportunity for her. Whilst not having the rock-solid confidence of an M.I.A. all the way through, A Love is still the sound of any early-20’s girl around the world, and displays considerable nous in summing up the life of one so young, struggling to make it through a crappy job, admonishing wannabe playas and the like. Born in Rome but relocated to Australia, and having already run and lost a record label, A Love has clearly been through much in her short time on Earth – and she uses the album as a cathartic shop-window for her experiences, literally getting issues off her chest. Whatever your gender, it is easy to relate to much of what she spits – in particular, songs such as the excellent “Used” and “Friday.”
The album opens solidly, with the first three tracks being pretty much standard fare in up-and-coming hip hop today: “Love Is” displays some witty skill with lines such as “The name is A Love, not ‘Hey love show me your tits’/I’ll slap it right back for such ridiculous shit/Were you lacking in some discipline when you was a kid?/I’ll call your name on out stage you male chauvinist pig!” A couple of tracks later, the first guest checks in: A Love and UK rapper Yungun trade witty barbs in a solid shit-talking opus about how amazing they are; Yungun’s flow isn’t all too impressive (he sounds jet-lagged) but his strong punchlines land without fail. One of my favourite tracks of the year follows – the absolutely awesome Latin Jazz of “The Main Ingredient” finds A Love getting her Lupe on, taking an idea and running with it way beyond expectations. Gordon Ramsey would probably curse at guest rapper Raph for failing to cook up that hot sauce in the kitchen – the first 4 bars of his rap should have been looped for a chorus, it would have been perfect. Still, nitpicking aside, the song is a resounding success. The charming “Girls Night” does exactly what it says on the tin, whilst “Play It Cool” shows off her softer side.
The aforementioned track of the album “Used” describes the myriad of ways in which all of us get used and abused so much of our lives, even if we don’t realise it. The strange funk of “Freddy’s Revenge” is perhaps the first skippable track of a comparatively weaker stretch of the album – the beats are simply alright, even if the subject matter is mildly diverting. But the album finishes superbly with “Friday” giving inspiration to all those aiming to release from a “tough day at work” with A Love nigh on yelling a chorus of “Thank God it’s Friday/Fuck your rules, I’ll unwind my way!” The closer “Bittersweet” chronicles her tumultuous relationship with music, and ends the album on an uplifting if understated note. The album is over, and you should find your finger reaching for the repeat button without your authority – always a good sign.
There is something special about A Love – I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard anyone quite like her. It helps that the music is superbly chosen and well executed throughout the album – with only a slight dip near the end. With regards to her flow, it is a truly inconsistent affair – at times her flow is impeccable, other times infuriatingly staccato. This is somewhat forgivable, however, simply because her lyrics are more or less on point throughout the album. Given her relatively young age, her flow should improve and mature soon enough. Lest we not forget, this is the debut of a youngster swimming against the stream in almost every conceivable way – and ask anyone, I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog. But praise wouldn’t be directed at someone without obvious talent, so don’t get it twisted – A Love is one to watch. In a perfect world, someone big would grab a hold of her career and mould it in the ways the she can’t, allowing her to free up and concentrate on the music side. She also needs to improve elements of her vocal delivery and express herself more, but if she could get it right, she could be an international star. This album suggests there is a storm brewing down underâ€¦