Boomkat Product Review:
Avant R&B star Mhysa follows her acclaimed debut ‘fantasii’ - one of the definitive underground albums of 2017 - with its sister side, ‘Neveah’ for Hyperdub; a sprawling mosaic of raw, introspective R&B ballads, including a haunting take on a Nas classic in ‘breaker of chains’.
“MHYSA started NEVAEH in the fall of 2017, shortly after the release of her debut album 'fantasii,' honing the albums sentiments while touring, recording audio notes and writing lyrics on her iPhone to de-stress. All of the tracks were then recorded in her flat in West Philadelphia, some with the input of lawd knows, a frequent collaborator on their Scraaatch project.
NEVAEH is MHYSA’s intimate reflection on the black femme experience from multiple vantage points ranging from sex and sexuality, self-love and self-discovery, black empowerment and lineage, pleasure and lack of it. She describe the album as “a prayer for Black women and femmes to be taken to or find a new and better world away from the apocalypse…NEVAEH is a safe space, a sort of negro heaven.” These ideas are declared from the opening skit where MHYSA reads out Lucille Clifton’s 1994 poem “won’t you celebrate with me”.
The album is deeply personal but easily relatable. The intimacy is heightened by scattered acapella moments, covers of classics such as Nas’ - 'If I Ruled the World' and a reprise of 'When the Saints'; songs that reference black pop culture, interludes and drifts, where MHYSA’s delicate voice is laid bare and enhanced by spacious instrumentals. She describes tracks like 'Brand Nu' and 'w_me' as throwbacks to the melancholic R&B her mother raised her on, updated through a queer lens. “I wanted to really get into the form of R&B on this album which is also why it ends with a gospel track which I feel is quintessential R&B. "
However it’s not all melancholic, the lead track, plus the mischievous 'Sanaa Lathan', and the skeletal 'w_me', where MHYSA uses her breath and vocals with a live druml, have found themselves in Kode9's sets recently. MHYSA also explores sensuality in the build up to the apocalypse, on tracks like 'before the world ends.'
On NEVAEH’s progression from fantasii, MHYSA says, “I wanted to be more vulnerable with my tracks and experiment with vocal range…I wanted to write more complicated vocal melodies that would be harder for me to do.” What's more MHYSA's production experiments with new techniques, live sounding digital instrumentation, playing keys, using her voice in new ways - much of which was self taught, in the tradition of the musicians in her family who came before her.”