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Pity the poor hip-hop artist. Where once a little bit of talent and personality could propel an artist to success, now they have to be their own industry. Edmonton’s Esma Chmit, who makes music as Same as me, encompasses the many traits that contemporary hip-hop demands: mic skills; writing; production; music video creation; merchandise designing. Now she’s ready to show her creative passions to the world via her debut album, released late last year but now seeing an official local launch later this month.
Sweet Dreams is designed to showcase all of same as me’s talents. Listeners are treated to a sampling of her repertoire as the braggadocious diva (Mrs. Van Gogh), personal ballads (Strings), party starters (All Aboard) and social affairs commentary (Spare Change.)
It must be said — same as me shares a lot of similarities with Nicki Minaj, in particular her colourful flow and blazing personality, but it’s more of a tribute rather than a straight-up copy. Several songs on Sweet Dreams show a rare vulnerability for the rap ecosphere, such as the anxiety-spilling Pursuit of Happiness: “Today I’m feeling worthless/like what is my purpose/feels like life’s out to get me/every time I try something new/I get screwed/if I’m paying my dues/I must owe more than Tom Cruise makes in the movies.”
Most of Sweet Dreams is not so sour. Bright, poppy songs tailor-made to latch onto your brain are prevalent on the album. The best of them is Feng Shui, a song originally meant for Snoop Dogg but found its way to same as me. Produced by Roy Hamilton III, who is also an executive producer of the album, the song is sparse and catchy, with same as me finding a comfortable vocal pocket in which she warns those with bad energy to stay away.
A major standout on Sweet Dreams is the production. The beats are varied, riddled with hooks and interesting sounds. It’s also not afraid to get weird, as same as me shows an affinity for Timbaland’s unorthodox beat choices. Bollywood strings skirt over moody synths, chopped-up vocal samples gyrate over percussion tracks, and the ultimate Timbo-nod, a crying baby colour the tracks.
An official album release party will take place at 99ten on Feb. 15, which will also celebrate the release of her Sweet Dreams music video. Listen to Sweet Dreams on major streaming platforms.
D’orjay: Flashback Soundtrack
Last year filmmakers crafted Flashback, a documentary about the influential Edmonton gay bar. The club, which opened in 1975, became a popular nightspot and an important part of the city’s LGBTQS2+ history. In addition to archival footage, they also filmed re-enactments of the club, and commissioned the recording of two new songs.
The Flashback tracks glimmer and pulsate with infectious dance rhythms and synthesizers. It doesn’t matter if you wear Wranglers or bellbottoms, it’s impossible to not feel these tracks take over your body. The songs were pressed as a limited-edition 12-inch single and can be purchased online.
The Flashback documentary will be officially released in June during Pride.
Edmonton’s blues siren Ann Vriend has assembled an all-female soul/roots vocal group, AV & The Inner City, consisting of Debbie Houle, Johwanna Alleyne, Crystal Eyo, Alenka Lundell and Jenn Dahlen. The ensemble is currently recording a debut album, with a new single being released Friday. Low & Lowly is a lovely slice of gospel, lifted by the gang’s heavenly vocals. Listen to it online.
Edmonton expat Nuela Charles is getting some coveted exposure on the new Netflix series My Life with the Walter Boys. Her single, Top of the World from her 2022 s/t album, has been included in the show’s soundtrack, which also boasts tracks from Dua Lipa, Tori Amos, Alvvays and Nice Horse, to name a few.
The Canadian-Kenyan-Swiss artist will be in Edmonton Feb. 8 for a TogetherYEG Black History Month show at The Starlite Room alongside Arlo Maverick, Mouraine and K-Riz Feb.
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