.

Breaking: Nneka

February 24, 2010 12:00 AM ET

Who: Nigerian-German artist whose raspy voice, deft rapping and soulful grooves helped her land a Euro club hit with "Heartbeat" last year. Her skills have made fans of Lenny Kravitz and the Roots, who backed her at a New York show.

Sounds Like: Nneka's U.S. debut Concrete Jungle pits hip-hop beats and Afro-funk grooves against lyrics about racism, colonial powers and slavery. On the roots-reggae cut "Africans" she sings "We use the same hatreds to oppress our own brothers." "Heartbeat" is a pulsing tribal-funk anthem that doubles as a plea for the world not to ignore Africa's problems.

Vital Stats:
• Nneka, 29, grew up listening to her dad's Fela Kuti records in Warri, Nigeria, where "there was a lot of corruption and poverty." As a result, she's always been drawn to social-conscience music rather than love songs. "I like songs with a message," she says. "I'm conscious about making change in this world."
• At 19, she moved to Hamburg, Germany, to study anthropology and started rapping at open-mike nights. "I wasn't courageous enough to sing," she said. "But the German mentality was different than what I was used to, and I felt isolated. Singing became my therapy."
• This summer Nneka will hit the road with the revamped Lilith Fair alongside artists like Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow and Tegan and Sara. "I'm bringing the African vibe, man," she says.
Get It Now: Check out Nneka's video for "Heartbeat" up top and more from Concrete Jungle on her MySpace.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com