City Press review: The New Era Sessions by Rouge
Johannesburg - The intro on the New Era Sessions is staggering. An epic instrumental the likes of which you won’t hear on most local releases.
A hard intro to what is a very balanced album. Rouge avoids keeping her flow at Taboo and other places where hip-hop doesn’t actually live. She touches on what she knows best, her own thoughts and emotions, and she does so without fear of her album not doing as well as it might have if it had been produced for the party audience.
The top half of her tape even boasts ... wait for this ... a smattering of boom bap.
Right there at the beginning where the radio-friendly rubbish would go, she raps a hard couple verses touching on where she hails from and what she is capable of behind the mic.
She demonstrates Rap Basics 101 on Underrated. She sticks to the fundamentals even as the record gets wavier as we listen further. She hugs the basics yet again on Let It Go, a joint with motivational undertones in which she urges you to either “go get it or let it go”. Simple sentiments that made me want to fix my life right there and then.
After the first four tracks, Rouge allows for her playful side to come out with a few club-like tracks, among them Déjà Vu. This track does come across as slightly more expected and is packaged like a single, with a catchy hook, choppy flow, you know, the usual. But even Rouge’s usual is different.
She adopts an approach to her delivery similar to Frank Casino or Asap Ferg. An animated, almost eccentric method of rapping, emphasising words she ends on in a way that teeters on the fine line between corny and cool, safely so. Using African-sounding nuances in her flow makes the overall project sound like an indigenous twist on what is coming out of the States.
The highlight of the album comes next, in the form of a song called No Pressure. Short verses and a hook that will make you want to stomp around and bang your head. The beat is monstrous. Like, drive-by music, bra. Snares going off all over the place and the fattest 808s I have heard in a minute. This track had me looking at Rouge in a different way.
There are honestly too many moments on this tape to touch on, it’s straight collectible. A couple of lines on this project might land her in hot water with a few people, but that’s rap. If anything, I wanted more of that brazen smack talk on this album, but I’m sure in time it will come. – Phumlani S Langa
Pre-order the New Era Sessions on iTunes for R49.99. The album releases on 8 September.