Daily Dose: MHYSA, “brand nu”

Music Features MHYSA
Daily Dose: MHYSA, “brand nu”

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E.Jane of SCRAAATCH (they/them) makes quietly intimate minimal-R&B via their musical persona MHYSA (she/her). Through the prism of R&B, womanist literature and queer identity, MHYSA is a self-described “underground popstar for the cyber resistance.” In this way, much of MHYSA’s work is performative, exploring feminine tropes and slithering through musical references to create often repetitious meditations on identity and consciousness. After all, E.Jane is more than just MHYSA—they are currently artist in residence at the Studio Museum of Harlem, just published a multimedia book on critical theory and black futurism (titled Deluxe Dreams), and hold an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. MHYSA is just one manifestation of E.Jane’s core interests, a body that exists to explore theory in real time and in music. As is true of her Hyperdub labelmate Dean Blunt, you’d be a fool to think MHYSA’s thoughts start and end with the music itself.

MHYSA’s second album, NEVEAH, has been a work in progress since she put out her 2017 debut fantasii, which quivered with an experimental spirit and poetic honesty. Tuesday, she put out a video debuting her new track “brand nu.” The video also features a section of her previous single “Sanaa Lathan,” a deconstructed trap anthem dripping with enough confidence to tip the Richter scale. “Built like I’m from the South, ‘cause I’m from the south,” stomping down the street alone like a lion in the Capitol.

“brand nu” might as well be the antithesis of “Sanaa Lathan,” yet it brims and bubbles with the same strength. Over a twinkling, spare beat, MHYSA hides behind anything that glitters. On her Bandcamp, MHYSA notes the track is an homage “to the melancholic R&B her mother raised her on, updated through a queer lens.” It shows, too—”brand nu” holds the gravitas of Sade’s “Is It a Crime” with the coquettish gloss of some of Darkchild’s finest works from the ‘90s, like Brandy and Monica’s woozy “The Boy Is Mine.”

The track is fragile, like phosphophyllite, but as resplendent, as precious as the rare gem in turn. “You should be lucky that I choose to love you,” she coos. She is resolute, despite her lover’s infractions. But it’s hard for MHYSA to hide the cracks forming: “Baby, don’t you know that you don’t make this easy?”

NEVAEH is out on Valentine’s Day via Hyperdub. It’s ensured to be an eclectic release, bookended with a spoken-word skit featuring a ‘94 poem by Lucille Clifton and a reprise of spiritual staple “When The Saints.” All these disparate elements, however, are innately MHYSA—the character, the theory, the body, the human.

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