There are two things you need to know about Lupe Fiasco and his new album Food and Liquor.
Firstly he is being touted around as the next big thing in hip hop. And secondly he describes himself as a “Muslim and a Marxist”.
That should be enough for anyone who reads this paper to sit up and give Lupe and his album a hearing.
Clearly influenced by Kanye West with whom he has collaborated, Lupe’s lyrical dexterity is combined with a series of wonderful samples taking in everything from old school hip hop and Latin Jazz to soul music.
But what makes Lupe stand head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries is his rejection of sexism and the glorification of the so called “gangster life style”.
Just as important, tracks like American Terrorist and Hurt Me Soul are some of the most beautiful and sophisticated attacks on George Bush, racism and exploitation available on CD.
Put simply this is a gem of an album.
Soweto Kinch’s second album is set in the Birmingham district of B19 - better known to many readers of this paper as Lozells.
The album, a mixture of jazz, spoken word and rap follows the story of three young men. Marcus is a part time student and crook, Adrian is a 30 something bus driver trying to keep his family together, and “S” is a wannabe sax player, alone with his art.
Soweto’s passionate, sympathetic and angry portrayal of life in Lozells is a million miles away from the community sensationalised in the press as being torn apart by race riots a few months ago.
This album is an ambitious project which fuses hip hop and jazz and succeeds where so many have fallen.
You may think that you do not know the music of Estrella Morente. But if you have seen the recent Pedro Almodóvar film Volver, you would have seen Penelope Cruz mime along to her wonderful voice.
Estrella’s new album Mujeres or Women, is a tribute to a group of inspirational female cantaoras, singers and actresses.
Her music is firmly rooted in the passionate and intense flamenco tradition. But like so much of the music coming out of Spain today, it stands at a musical crossroads - sometimes looking towards the beautiful Tango music of Argentina at other times traditional Gypsy music but always with one eye on North Africa (Zambra).
This album is dedicated to working women everywhere - I can’t think of a finer tribute.