I’ve wanted to write this article for months. It’s not a surprise to anybody that bilingual or polyglot artists are not a recent phenomenon. In this globalized and multicultural world, a major part of human kind is able to speak or have notions of several languages. Through this article, I want to affirm the matters of sociolinguistics and celebrate this particularity which tends to come back in the new generation : from pidgin (a mix between different languages with no commonly links) with International Nigerian artists like Burna Boy or Wizkid to Spanglish (a mix between Latin American Spanish and english) with Shakira or Pitbull and even through Konglish (a mix of Korean and English), used in KPOP groups with primer examples artists such as EXO-K to BLACKPINK. Today more than ever, singing in multiple languages is more than an asset, it’s original and complex and demands a lot of grammar and vocabulary resources to reach people. But in this article, I want to focus on 4 brilliant and talented artists. Four artists that think themselves as multi polar individuals and communicators of different cultures. Coming from New York or Bruxelles, I had the pleasure to fall on their music recently, every time by chance and they deserve more recognition for their music and the complexity that came out of their songs. Let me present you : Gabe Nandez, Ibekelia, Xenia Rubinos and Zwangere Guy.
THE NEW YORKERS AND PARTNERS IN CRIME : GABE NANDEZ AND IBEKELIA
Gabe Nandez and Ibekelia‘s discovery was surprising and delightful. The two artists are from New Yorkers and friends. They are musically active circa 2017 and they have their own entitled visual and artistic identities. They both balance between French and English, in a second. Most of their projects are joint but we can clearly distinguish them.
Gabe Nandez‘s musical ID is a bit dark and twisted. The artist is Malian from his mother side and Argentinian from his father side. His instrumentals vary with a touch of 90’s and actual trap. The special thing about him is the switching of his personality and tone in his voice as he changes language. It’s through the song « Comets » that I was immediately conquered by his music. Since 2017, Gabe Nandez musical evolution is clear and progressive. Each of his projects is a part of his personality. « Plaques », which came out in September 2017 is esoteric and mysterious, it sounds like a dedication to old school hip hop. « Cliquetape » is the « go crazy » project. Accompanied by promising rappers such as Ibekelia and Noah Chase, this project smells like freedom and fun and it’s musically eclectic (the songs « Conneries » and « Magie Johnson » are the bomb). Then, Gabe Nandez‘s last album « Diplomacy » released in 2019, is the stone that was missing. « Diplomacy » is strange, musically diverse and rich. In terms of flow, Gabe Nandez is reaching a new level and he is more confident than ever. Many songs are already classics like « Scroll » ft Ibekelia or « Riot ». Gabe Nandez has found his musical ipseity. Here is a preview of Gabe Nandez visual world with the video of « Sharks ».
Ibékélia‘s bilingualism is particular and got so much authenticity. With Gabonese origins, Ibékélia conjugates different worlds into one : his. When he raps in French, Ibékélia is dangerous, impolite and fun. His flow and lyrics confer him a philosophical spectrum. His single « La » is the proof : the boom bap and threatening sound is one part of his oneness. Ibékélia‘s music universe is grown and cold, his voice and flow comes to heat this musical world. One of the beautiful particularity of Ibékélia is the transformation of his accent through the years. It sounds like english and New York are graciously growing in him. It’s known that New York is one of the most cosmopolite city in the world with more than 100 languages, and Ibékélia represents this tricky yet incredible cultural intersections. His last single « 1999 Prado » is a light but tonic ballad with a samba touch and is clearly here to prove this : Ibékélia‘s music is on his way to succeed and shine. I let you with his beautiful video of the song « Tempête »:
THE UNTAMED XENIA RUBINOS
Xenia Rubinos discovery was through the Netflix show « Gentefied » which debuted in spring 2020. The song « Mexican chef » was well found and edgy for the instant. The song clearly denounces the white supremacy in all the industries in America, Xenia Rubinos affirms with conviction her political statement with this song, defending the value of the lives of brown and black people. The Connecticut native melodic identity turns around r’n’b, jazz, pop-rock. Her first album « Magic Trix » is colorful and electric. The uniqueness of Xenia Rubinos is a Spanish and English singing. Xenia Rubinos keeps the same spirit in the both language but in Spanish, she feels more free and eccentric. Above all, Xenia Rubinos is a poetic, passionate and great activist. The distance between both of her albums « Magic Trix » and « Black Terry Cat » is flagrant. « Magic Trix » is in the way of mid 2010 era acid pop-rock and folk synergy, reminding me some Lily Allen but more vibrant sometimes satiric and comical. It’s a theatrical musical project (the songs « Pan y Cafe » and « Los Mangopaunos » are the climax of this mix) with some tender and slow songs. And of course, the singer and musician is obviously attached to her Latin heritage, with the use of Central America melodies such as Salsa or Merengue. Her last album » Black Terry Cat » released in June 2016, signs itself in a jazzy and mellow atmosphere. Songs like « Don’t Wanna Be » or « Right? » are terrific and groovy. Xenia Rubinos has this special rocky voice which bestows her to dominate each of her songs. But at the same time, she can smooth the atmosphere with the double voice switching. Her vocal vibes sometimes sounds like arabic chants. Her album « Black Terry Cat » is clearly a blink to jazz and blues, it’s full of emotions, lively and a mix of ethnicities. Xenia Rubinos is reviving and exploring the past in her way. Xenia Rubinos incarnates a feminist musical artist so well, proud of her mixed heritage, proud of her voice and of her creativity.
I advise you to listen to her music and follow her on Instagram : Xenia Rubinos.
THE BRUTAL ZWANGERE GUY
Zwangere Guy‘s music’s encounter happened in my weekly Spotify playlist and the playlist had the marvelous pleasure of making me listen to « Wrap remix ». Zwangere Guy, which means « the speaker man » in English, is a Belgian and Flemish rapper. He has the finesse to rap and sing in French and in Dutch. I have to be honest, I don’t understand Dutch at all, but an emotion can be universally sensed. Zwangere Guy is evidently a hip hop lover. His first album called « Zwangerschapsverlof vol.3 », which came out in April 2017, is subtil and sounds like it was really composed in the 90’s, a Large Professor vibe for sure. This first project sets the tone and the artist shares it with some famous francophones rappers such as Roméo Elvis. Zwangere Guy has a true sound universe and he evolves without losing his singular spirit. His second opus « Wie Is Gy » which was released in March 2019, is in this continuity but the project is more aggressive and musically more current. Some songs as « Probleem » and « R.À.F) really embody this anger, maybe the anger to achieve, exist and succeed. Zwangere Guy represents a large forgotten of this era of Europe : Dutch language is very commonly talked from Luxembourg to Switzerland. But more importantly, Zwangere Guy as many other artists proves that rap and hip hop music are more inclusive and important than ever in this international music scene. It all shows that Bruxelles, capital of Belgium and its suburban eras, is a cosmopolitan place, divided culturally and in terms of language. Zwangere Guy surfs in his songs may it be in French, English or Dutch. He signs his name in a new generation of European rappers who value their cultural mixed heritage with no doubt. Finally, I urge you to listen to his discography, more precisely his last album « BRUTAAL » and I also advise you to follow him on Instagram : zwangere.guy.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and the link between those 4 artists which is : cosmopolitanism. Language is a human value, it will always be a bearer of sharing, comprehension and community.
Pictures credit : Google Images.
Follow me on Instagram : @pointzeroworld – POINT ZERO WORLD.