Release Date: Sep 11, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock
Bermondsey-born chanteur Kwabs has been on the cusp of greatness for well over a year. Everything’s in place - all that’s needed is this push onto to the main stage. Kwabs has all the building blocks for success — a stint as the leading vocalist in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, education at the Royal Academy Of Music, a viral vid under his belt — so it’s no wonder at all that his debut LP Love + War is a rollicking one.
Picking one genre and sticking to it increasingly feels old-hat in pop music. With this debut, velvet-voiced singer-songwriter Kwabs joins the likes of Georgia and Lianne La Havas in the ranks of young Brits who don’t conform to making albums containing 12 stylistically uniform songs. He stretches his malleable baritone over music so variable that it has picked up comparisons to James Blake, Seal and – perhaps as a result of the three years he spent in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra – Ella Fitzgerald.
With predictions of a future Mercury Prize and praise from the likes of Joss Stone and Jessie Ware, it's safe to say that anticipation is strong for Kwabs' debut full-length. The question is, can the long-awaited debut full-length from the 25-year-old South London-based artist born Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong live up to expectations? The satisfying answer is Love + War.Is it a game-changing masterpiece? It is not. It is, however, a fully realized and cohesive artistic statement that fulfills the promise of Kwabs' three 2014 EPs.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's near impossible to talk about Kwabs without waxing lyrical about that voice. Our first real introduction to Kwabs came in the form of a Corinne Bailey Rae cover back in 2011 which, understandably, went viral. Even then, you could see the makings of a star.
Walk – the calling-card single by R&B singer Kwabs – has been a huge hit across mainland Europe, hitting Number 1 in Germany and garnering over 200 million streams. In his native UK, however, Walk stalled at Number 45 back in September 2014. Yet Kwabs (whose full name is Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong) is currently enjoying enviable career momentum. At the start of the year, the 24-year-old south Londoner was included on the BBC’s highly coveted – if not always reliable – Sound Of 2015 longlist; he’s set to appear on Disclosure’s forthcoming second album; and a show at London’s 3,000-capacity Roundhouse is slated for October.
Led by his subtly agile, smokily rich voice, heavily tipped south London soul singer Kwabs’s debut slinks a fine line between commercial clout and a trickier, heavy-bassed, sharp-beated, high-drama-in-the-small hours production akin to Sampha or Frank Ocean. So while his chiming, propulsive hit Walk may have popped up on the Fifa 2015 soundtrack, and Fight for Love is a little on the staidly poppy side, the more complex likes of Look Over Your Shoulder’s thrillerish build-and-hush tension, My Own’s dark and shifty Timbalandish textures and the moody, dubstep blues ballad of Forgiven, with its sunburst of a chorus, keep this lusciously atmospheric album well on the right side of smooth. .
That voice. The rich, baritone voice that could cut through a thousand hearts. Both powerful and vulnerable, it’s an instrument that can be intimate and confessional but also helps songs soar. And if there’s one thing reviewers talk about when they talk about Kwabena Adjepong it’s that voice ….