Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Silvana Imam – Zon

We return from our smoke break to give you rap from Sweden.


Thomas Inskeep: Imam is a queer, feminist, immigrant, Swedish social justice warrior of Syrian and Lithuanian parentage, and “Zon” sounds like no other hip-hop single I’ve heard this year or in some time. It sounds like she’s rapping over exhaust pipes, releasing steam and getting hit with sticks. This is a remarkable activist love song, with lines (according to translation) like “She goes all in/You are lethal/And I’m dangerous/We fantastique.” This ain’t a jam, but it’s awesome.

Alfred Soto: Silvana Imam doesn’t belong in the usual taxonomy; neither does the dusty, scratchy track indebted as much to Dizzee Rascal in 2003 as PJ Harvey in 1998. The track, the violin and stop-start dynamics in particular, grabbed my ear more than Imam.

Iain Mew: Sometimes something that scours and scowls its way into your attention hits the spot, and the combination of Silvana Imam’s terse demands and beats like heavy machinery does just that. Then, screaming and lurching, it comes to a standstill, the violins come out, and she goes into eerie peace. It’s like she’s been digging away and found exactly what she was fearing, and found it both a horror and a relief.

Katherine St Asaph: If only the language barrier didn’t make people incurious, because there’s so much that’s surefire: the industrial-rap Angel Haze and Kanye (among others) are enamored of; verses that explode through The Matrix, The Hulk and a half-century of pop-cult badassery; and a delivery that’s like chewing up the shrapnel.

Jonathan Bogart: One of the interesting things about the way, and the era, in which hip-hop has spread around the world is that the signifiers for toughness and seriousness fluctuate from place to place; that dry-as-bones hard-rock production that means Take Me Seriously in Europe is fin-de-siècle rap-rock’s most audible legacy. Her percussive use of the Swedish language’s glottals and plosives is exemplary, and puts me in mind of a lot of great Arabic and Central Asian rapping I’ve been trying to catch up on lately.

Brad Shoup: Since my internet’s rebelling, I can’t research my hunch that Drake and Noah Shebib are having a Marley-level impact on non-Anglophonic hip-hop. Some of “Zon”‘s sonic touches — the erasures forcing white space on the beat, the two-note sleaze-guitar trill — don’t really have an OVO analogue. But the dread minimalism’s close, and the hollering dude in the background is straight out of a Kanye guest production, or maybe Moby’s Play. And Imam’s rope-a-dope delivery is vintage Aubrey, even if she allows herself some anger.

Micha Cavaseno: The further rap gets along to the “old world,” the more it loses me. “Zon” bears some obvious hallmarks to the sort of clunk-thud that Yeezus embodied but was never actually reciprocated by the American rap scene. The production here works well at taking Imam’s voice and weaving it into a particularly ugly chorus of support to her grunts and shrieks that gives her an edge. That said, her delivery as a rapper is impossible to gauge thanks to the rockish plod here that sounds more Stadium Rock than anything, leaving the intensity of her delivery a disproportionate showcase (it’s not an old gimmick; that show-stealer verse on “Players Anthem,” for example, probably would’ve been ass if André had been forced to work that around a beat). “Zon” is cool as a standalone record but idealistically something that shouldn’t linger around to become a thing for Imam to return to.

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