Nneka: Concrete Jungle
Pride, but no prejudice
This 28-year-old’s U.S. debut could hardly be more appropriately titled. Concrete Jungle captures Nneka’s steely resolve and desire to flourish in an unforgiving world. The album is both affirmative and entertaining, addressing themes of political upheaval, reconciliation and the ignorance that so often comes with privilege. Her velvety voice is backed by smooth horns and fierce drum beats; “Mind vs. Heart,” a plea for self-awareness and compassion (“What is the mind without the heart? / What am I without my shadow?”), stands in stark contrast to the exuberant “From Africa 2 U,” which builds its chorus on staccato repetitions of “Af-ri-ca! Af-ri-ca!” The other 10 songs fall somewhere between these extremes, artfully melding the richness of Nneka’s voice with lush musical soundscapes and hard-hitting lyrics.