We wrote a short, belated piece about Mal Devisa’s 4U back in November, figuring it was better late than never, though it actually ended up as pretty good timing. Deju Carr is back with her debut full-length, Kiid, as well as a self-titled compilation cassette on DZ Tapes which collects her previous releases with some unreleased tracks.
As we wrote in our previous review, Mal Devisa’s music defies any one genre, instead favouring an organic oscillation between folk, pop, soul and hip-hop, and Kiid is a case in point. ‘Fire’ opens with gentle strummed guitar, Devisa’s vocals carrying things along with thoughts on anxieties and hopes for relief. As the track progresses the vocals grow in fervour, the instrumentation creaking at the seams before unravelling into noise.
“Fire in my brain
will you make it okay?
Does it kill you to know that we’re all dying?
It kills me to know”.
In an album that switches between genre so readily, it is Carr’s lyrics which act as the binding force. ‘In My Neighbourhood’ sees the first hip-hop crossed with pop to create something like tUnE-yArdS, ‘Everyone Knows’ is a near-jazzy number where Carr’s voice takes centre stage, and ‘Live Again’ is an indie folk croon akin to the older Cold Specks releases, though all are linked by the sincere, probing writing and startling vocal range. ‘FAT’ opens with heavy bass and descends into urgent, frenzied verses, only to segue into the sombre, soulful ‘Sea of Limbs’ tracks. Both the intro and the main track see Devisa stretch her vocals to their limits, flickering from breathy whispers to wide, top-of-the-lungs gospel songs that would fill any room. The open heart is matched in the lyrics too, with the main message stated with stirring forthrightness.
“You were solid,
you’re everything they told you could not be and more.
You were solid”
‘Daisy’ is a short, evocative pop song that smoulders along with a solid beat (“Oh Daisy, Daisy, I have seen too much of you / You’re driving me crazy with that bad attitude”), while ‘Forget That I’ is a slow piano ballad which ebbs and flows, falling somewhere between Sharon van Etten and Nina Simone. Closer ‘Dominatrix’ switches the mood again, a frenetic hip-hop song like performance poetry where the mood has been condensed into loops and played behind. The track finds Devisa at her most angry and assured, confident in the truth behind her attack on the white, patriarchal grip on culture.
“Messing around I wrote a masterpiece
enough apologies I got caught up in my dreams.
Now I go by Mal Devisa,
avid rapper she’s a preacher
a non-conformist, non-believer”
Kiid is a personal record and plays like condensed version of life, reaching high and falling low, crackling and bursting and simmering under the surface, at times exploding in urgent streams of consciousness as if the words and thoughts can no longer be held in. This is an album that refuses to be reduced to something easily describable, persevering in it’s complexity against the binarizing forces of anxiety or genre or gender or race. Kiid isn’t a self-doubt record or political record, nor a sad record or a happy record. It’s not jazz or gospel or indie rock. Kiid is everything. Kiid is whatever it wants to be.