Live in Portland February 20, 2018 | Wonder Ballroom There’s a part of every rapper …
Thandiwe and Niambi Sala go by OSHUN—a name adopted from the Yoruba spirit that succeeded in creating the world after the male gods failed before her in this West African faith. These two New Yorkers take on hip-hop with the assertive nature of a deity, in topic and in tone. Their first release was what they deemed a pre-album, AFAHYE in 2014, and it serves as an easy entry point to their work, sampling safe-bet beats like J Dilla an d A Tribe Called Quest while showcasing the duo’s lyrics, vocal flow, and siren-smooth rhymes in roughly 15 total minutes.
Their 2015 mixtape, ASASE YAA, presents their sound in long form, consisting of similar jazz/hip-hop infused productions, focusing largely on the conceit that they are in fact heavenly bodies, an idea that coexists with their strong self-love tracks like “Brown” (“Brown/ from my crown/ all the way down/ to the ground/ truly profound / your shade brings strength to the blues that surround you”). The newest album, bittersweet vol.1, finds the Salas’ centrifugal force gathering. There’s spoken word deliveries on “Glow Up,” piano hooks on the out-and-out pop song “Crazy 4 You” and the celestial “”Blessings on Blessings” has the two trading bars, aggressive and meek.
OSHUN is drawing on American music, and more specifically on music black populations either had a major hand in prolif-erating or are solely responsible for creating. On “Not My Pres-ident,” Niambi and Thandiwe showcase the many genres that inspire that history. It begins with trap snares, morphs into an R&B slow jam, swoons with reggae affected rapping, disintegrates out via jazz jam session, and ends with a distant trumpet in a tailspin. The song is urgent, danceable, relaxed, and somehow sexy at times, all while embodying the United States’ whirling engage-ment on topics of race and immigration (“Fuck yo’ wall!/ Fuck yo’ clan! / Not my president/ Keep the melanin”). It’s a difficult topic to juggle while keeping anger and beauty side by side, but maybe that’s not so hard for a couple of divinities.
Catch OSHUN live at Holocene on November 10