Ego is available at:
3rd November, 2016
Pop; Hip-Hop; Rap
Lola Coca, Neil Ormandy and Stefan Skarbek
THE reason I keep coming back to Lola Coca is due to an undeniable…
individuality, quality and verve on her part. I shall investigate our featured act soon, but it is true – she has a beguiling and honest quality about her. She is an artist I have followed closely and am excited to see just how far she can go. Thinking about her and I have to look at the solo artists emerging in London right now – those that go against the grain of chart-led, committee-approved trends and forge something unique and credible; looking at musical influences and various forms of British Rap/Hip-Hop – finishing by putting a spotlight on the ‘complete artist’. In my last review – where I write about Alternative-Rock hopefuls Emnibis – I talked of the scarcity of great, genuine bands – those that recall past masters and have their own sound and way of working. I have been looking at solo artists more and fascinated by how instant and memorable they are – a little cold by some of the newer groups we are seeing. That will all change – Emnibis are a strong and worthy band to watch closely – but there is something about a solo artist that is hard to put your finger on. London is spawning some of the most varied and multi-talented musicians I have seen in my lifetime. In terms of the sole acts of 2016: there is such a variegation and sense of meaning; purposefulness and direction. It is something I bring up often: I was a little disappointed by last year’s mainstream music and some of the newer artists of that time. This year, certainly when we think of the solo artist, that has all changed. I cannot get enough of all the different sounds and personalities; the cracking songs and awesome albums – truly, something quite astonishing. I have theorised – and shall not spend time going back into it – as to the reason behind this transformation. It could be all manner of things: we are enjoying a real fine crop of artists. London is a city that has always been prolific and fertile: this year, it is proving just how true that is. I am not sure whether venue closures or a communal togetherness is fostering this growth and expansion. Whatever the reason behind this; I cannot really say. It is delightful finding so many treasures and the city’s buzz is clearly having an effect.
London has always been a cultural hub and place for inspired minds to be fostered, compelled and nourished. The last few years has seen a real rise in talent and quality. Not just a place for great Pop and Indie – there was a time when the city was more limited with regards genres and sounds – there are so many different sub-genres and little nooks of music. Artists are becoming bravery and more experimental; alchemy and discoveries are being made; there is hopefulness and vibrancy in the capital’s air. How this will continue (into 2017) will be fascinating. I am sure bands will come back strong and go toe-to-toe with solo artists. London, unlike a lot of areas, has so many great duos in their ranks – truly, a city that never sleeps and keeps on surpassing expectations. Before I continue onto new points, it is time I introduce – for those unfamiliar – the wonderful Lola Coca:
“Portsmouth underdog Lola Coca bowls through our speakers with an unapologetic stride, carrying her love for 90’s Hip-Hop and Ska along for the journey. London situated, the lyrically poignant Popstress has a way with words, simultaneously both playful, frank and nonchalant. Her smooth vocal tone spans between the goal posts of disinterest and a swan provoked. Her background blending genre is somewhat reminiscent of British cult classics; The Streets, Gorillaz, and Basement Jaxx, only this time presented as a stand alone “one-(wo)man-band”. Lola Coca has been working alongside London’s own multi-instrumentalist, writer-producer Stefan Skarbek (Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse) and legendary mixing engineer, Tony Maserati (Beyonce, Notorious B.I.G.)”.
I looked at London and how prestigious and glowing the city is right now. Whilst I am impressed by the raft of solo artists, it is the females of music that are compelling me most. Lola Coca has been in my thoughts since Bad Girlfriend – a song that continues to gain love and respect. She has attitude, sassiness and confidence: a woman that will not be made a fool of but has a vulnerable side. In previous reviews, I have lauded the female solo artists and just how magical they are. More assured and defiant than their male peers: their music is wider-ranging and more consistent it seems. I am, like other theories I have mooted, not sure as to the explanation but it just seems to be the way. Knowing Lola Coca, she is not someone who is ever going to be moulded by a record label or told what to do. I get exhausted by the raft of solo artists – male and female – that seem to be following every direction and demand of a label. In terms of what to wear, record and what to say (in interviews): it is depressing finding so many plastic, manipulated musicians. It is not just a fate reserved for Pop artists: so many other genres are seeing its newcomers instantly designed, conceived and played in accordance with company directives. What is refreshing about Lola Coca is her realness and soul. She has a fragile and emotional side – someone who feels the struggles of life and is open – but has wit, spirit and enough panache to sink an armada. An history of her music lets you into a very colourful, engaging and hypnotic world where no-gooders and shallow types are given the thumbs-down. From sleazy, sex-obsessed boyfriends (Bad Girlfriend’s discourse aimed at a boyfriend looking for oral gratification on his birthday) to suit-smothered, sleek-haired city-boys (GQ) – another step forward has been made with Ego. Again, it plays on the worst traits of the psyche and the natural inclinations of some people. I will get more into the song’s meanings anon, but for now, expanding on the proliferation and rise of certain genres – specifically casting a gaze on British Rap and Hip-Hop. Once upon a time, that sentiment – Britain having a great Hip-Hop scene – would have provoked derisive laughs and general scorn.
It is only the last decade of so it has really developed and exploded. Whether you see the likes of Dizzee Rascal and The Streets as figureheads of that spur – around 2003/2004 onwards – or date it back to the late-‘90s – it is a relatively new movement. Not only is British Hip-Hop and Rap so varied: it nestles with Grime and Urban; so many sides and contours to that established, core sound. Lola Coca is someone I will be interviewing soon and posed the question (or something similar): Were Missy Elliot and Neneh Cherry idols of your growing up? I know Missy Elliot is someone heavy in her consciousness – not too sure about Cherry. The Swedish-born, British-based, Buffalo Stance author is one of the most influential and impressive artists we have seen in this country. Whether you label her as Rap/Hip-Hop artists or Pop – you cannot deny the influence she has had on female artists. I feel Lola Coca is a singer that can have that same effect and is stepping into a fairly under-sourced market. There are a lot of female artists that perform blends of Pop, Hip-Hop and Rap. To my ears, there are very few like her. Anyone comparing Lola Coca to Lilly Allen – I love Allen but just because they have London accents and similar voices does not make them alike – would do good to dig deeper and discover greater richness and depth. Lola Coca is someone who has been inspired by U.S. Hip-Hop queens but has a lot of love for the fresh and vibrant sounds of the street – always crushing on London and the people she meets. You only have to look at her fashion and looks to know how important people and home is – inspired by the scents, sights and fabrics of the capital. Throw in a personality that can only be described as ‘infectious’ – instantly loveable and (someone you) want to hug; quick with a comeback and a really decent human. This might sound like all the ingredients for a future star and you’d be right. Never (is she) someone who is going to be appearing on reality T.V. shows and sell her soul – a true musician that has an army of fans behind her. All of these facets and assets unite into a singular artist and one of Britain’s names to watch. If Lola Coca is not on the lists of ones to watch for 2017 then I will be sorely disappointed. The likes of Jack Garratt and Izzy Bizu have appeared on those lists, but in my view, have not made big statements worthy of their billing. Lola Coca has released a series of singles and already sounded more primed and critically-safe – someone who has not put a foot wrong and is much more original and appealing than the aforementioned.
For a full impression of an artist’s worth; it is important to view their entire catalogue and see how they have grown and evolved. In terms of Lola Coca’s music; it is evident she becomes more inspired and strong with every song. I have long listened to tracks like Bad Girlfriend and am hooked and seduced by its themes and hooks. It is a song that boasts an addictive chorus that sticks in the brain and will not budge. Mutating between scatted delivery and low-down sway – a song that (naturally) impressed fans and was played by a range of D.J.s. GQ followed and is one of this year’s most impressive singles. Not an identikit of Bad Girlfriend: resolutely Lola Coca but addressing new concerns and taking down fresh villains. If Bad Girlfriend put the studs into a wannabe stud – the amorous boyfriend with little dignity – then GQ cast to a type of man that irks a lot of women. Ego takes the focus and introverts it: putting some of the attention on the heroine and containing the same rhythms, rhymes and confidence as her previous cuts. You can see a progression through each number. Every track that comes along sees the heroine more confident and assured. She is not free from nerves and knows exactly what she wants from the music world. Bringing in producers and collaborators has not dampened her direction and made her lose focus – perfect partners that help bring the songs to life and making them as sharp and attacking as can be. There is something about the vocals that lure you in and gets the tongue all tied. That blend of coolness and sweetness is a spicy vixen that brings fire and candour to every song. Ego is a song that will work hard to topple Bad Girlfriend’s legacy and acclaim. I feel (in time) Ego could surpass that benchmark and be regarded as Lola Coca’s finest number. It is a tough call but there is not a lot to separate them. Quality-wise, there is such a thin slither of light between them but sound-wise they differ – in terms of the lyrical ideas, there are distinctions, too. I am glad the London-based star is growing strong and remaining consistent, agile and divine.
“I’m an animal, fully flammable” are the opening words and arrive after no pomp and circumstance. The vocal is straight in and underlines the urgency and instancy of the song. Ego wastes no time getting off the blocks and sees the heroine in viper-like, snaking mood. Her voice is striking and firm but has an underlying seductiveness and coolness. Those words paint a picture of someone sexualised and comfortable with whom they are. Maybe there is some tongue-in-cheek but you get the picture of a young woman who is “like a summer breeze”. She can fly and burn; roll and rock: a veritable mythical creature that can rule men and the world. The song has little accompaniment and composition early on. The emphasis is on the vocal and because of this bare presentation; you hear that voice and allow it to steal focus and lead by example. The song’s title might not be an exaggeration as Lola Coca shows no modesty when it comes to extolling her virtues and benefits. It is not a specific run-down of qualities and benefits: an overriding confident and comfort in her skin; somebody that is shrugging off the bad vibes and getting on with things. In a sense; Ego is a continuation of GQ and Bad Girlfriend. On both occasions, Lola has had to fight off unwanted affection and tackle oppressive, egotistical men. In this case, the tables are turned and she relies on nobody – just riding out front and being The Boss. A sturdy and precise piano punctuation gives energy and propulsion to the words which take a new diversion and turn the daggers on a particular man. The crap he has been spewing finds the heroine in need of ventilation and fresh air. It is a typically humourous and cutting observation from a woman that has encountered far too many shady, boy-like men.
You wonder what the attraction is or whether they feed her lies and then break her heart. Whether there is culpability on the man alone or there are faults on either side – the hero is not trying to assuage his indiscretions and hot air. In fact, he is making things worse and enraging the (otherwise relaxed) heroine. Some days she only pleases herself – a cavalcade of steamy and rather X-rated images flood to mind. Just as you allow something lurid and prurient to stalk the mind: the piano is superseded by swaggering beats and an instant sense of cool. Whereas the listener was affected and hooked by the vocal-piano combination of before – there is now a rambunctious and delightful composition coda that takes the honours now. Lola Coca does not need anyone to pay her pension or take care of her. You wonder whether, when looking at independence and sufficiency, there are not underlying nods to sex and affection. Maybe the mind gets into the realm of double-meaning and innuendo but that controlling confidence and ego are there. It seems, perhaps, the man is the one with the attitude problem and getting rather big-headed. It would not be a Lola Coca song without a cock getting their testicles crushed under a stiletto; their pretentiousness flattened with an atomic blast. Whether sex-obsessed or cocky: Lola is always there to suture that bullsh** and show who is in charge. Ego keeps the body and soul flexing and winding with its slinking beats and Camden-meets-Jamaica-via-L.A. concoctions infuse the senses and create something wonderful and heady. Forgetting all the promises and arrogance: the heroine wants the stereo cranked up and bodies meshed. Maybe directed at her at-once-at-fault man; she is not imploring silence and a submission to the music. One imagines a low-light room late at night: there is a banging tune playing an assortment of revelers filling the floor – in various states of de-evolved inebriation and slurred ‘wit’.
Lola gets the guy by the scruff and brings him into her body: shutting his stupidity with a scintillating display of Bambi-like moves (a little clumsy but adorable) and raw beauty. Like all Lola Coca’s songs: the chorus is instantly memorable but has its own charms. If GQ and Bad Girlfriend were more charged and funky – Ego is more low-down and composed; a calmed version and transposition of Bad Girlfriend; one where the sweethearts might actually enjoy something sensual and pure. There are maturity and level-headed words but some mystique to be found. The heroine never wants to come down and is submissive to the music. That feeling of not wanting to come down could either ascribe a natural ecstasy or certain recklessness. As the nature of ego is being assessed; one feels like the heroine is having a great time and does not want to be sober and calm tonight. On the other hand, you get the sense of someone with underlying vulnerability and emotions – the music and night acting as a temporary tonic and elixir to balm her wounds. If you see the song as a bromide, maxim or self-fulfilling prophecy: you are helpless to resist its ice-cool beats and red-hot vocals. The resultant warm water is one you swim in as the song gets into the head and takes you away with it. Rub-a-dub-a-dub and “mechanical”; a “solo symphony” and warrior queen – all manner of images and characteristic descriptions are being laid out. Whilst the words are tumbling and leaving the (sweat-tinged) tongue; you get fully buckled by the alluring delivery and the fascinating story. The story seems to assess someone who needs attention and is rather sure of themselves. Not lacking any demure or coquettishness: a cocky and self-assured human that is in a self-absorbed state of delirium. Although the heroine has confidence and knows her own mind – is she talking about herself? The man is someone who lacks necessary digression and has been rather impure. You feel Ego is a little dig at him but embracing the virtues and merits of the self. Botanical and magical; all the “flowers in the park” are blooming and a variegated garden of pleasure is in view.
“I’m in love with my charm” is delivered with a sly grin and luxuriated. You get the sense Lola is comfortable in her own skin floating on the breeze but putting the guy down. Songs like GQ have exposed those types that are all about sex and have no soul and depth to them – unwilling and unable to nurture Lola and get to know her. As you imagine the origins of the lyrics and the sweetheart in focus: you get captivated by the fairytale images. It is almost like a Disney song, in a way. Botanical, anatomical and zoological images and sounds and suggested. The casual listener will be struck and transport their mind into the song: looking at all the smells, colours and possibilities there are. The more studied listener will appreciate the depths of the beats and the nuanced lines; the smooth and sweet vocals. There are little embers of Amy Winehouse’s soulfulness and a spoonful of U.S. Hip-Hop divas. Lola Coca keeps her accent true – raised in Portsmouth but based in London – and shows herself as one of the most impressive and varied singers in the country. Always able to run a gauntlet of emotions whilst keeping it together and disciplined – a feat few can match with such aplomb. If Ego’s chorus is not quite as chant-able and dancing as Bad Girlfriend: it has a slow-burning charm and is more developed and seductive. The beats are big and pounding but do not encroach on the foreground. There are lovely details and instrumental notes that create something full, vivid and evocative. It is almost like you are there with the heroine – partying in a flat with all manner of smells and conversations; in a garden enraptured by the scents and plants – and that is no small compliment. A composition that draws you in and provokes such imagery should be applauded: Lola Coca is masterful when it comes to those big but intelligent deliveries.
Past the half-way point, and as has become traditional for Lola, there is a Rap interlude that accelerates the song and brings an edginess that sees the heroine threatening to rain on the parade. One feels, when hearing the new parable, a room full of chauvinistic chaps who all have their balls swinging and cockiness sharp. She is sharpening her wit and pricking their balloons of pomposity and ego – giving this attitude no quarter and circling the room like a lioness. The “Suited and booted…” fellas are those that seem unattractive and nauseating to Lola – she does not want to sit with them and give any of her time up. A “contextual dreamer” with “no plans” seems like a drifter and social outcast – someone who seems comfortable and thinks he’s all that but is a bit deluded. I was impressed by Lola’s slick and clever lyrics that never seem lazy or filler. She looks at the monster fame; one that is hard to maintain: like a Great Dane let loose in the park; something you struggle to control. Maybe the guy(s) are intimidated by the heroine and unable to handle her. “I know you wanna free me” is the declaration – the guy sees her on the T.V. and a wave goes to his brain – and the heroine seems comfortable letting that happen. At various points, you get that dichotomy of reluctance and distain – someone teasing the guy in. Whether purely depicting a (ill-fated) romantic attempt or a general assessment of those luring after Lola Coca – she is making sure they are put in their place. The two-and-a-half-minute chorus introduction seems the perfect spot and the prime example of Lola’s gifts. It gains new light and meaning at this point and pushes the song in new directions. To start, I was wondering whose ego was being checked and examined – there was a little bit of vanity from Lola at times – but, here, there is some clarity and revelation. The chorus is the most unifying sentiment and one that will be echoed and embraced by listeners and fans. Simple and catchy; never sloganeering or trite; it is a singular moment that swims in the bloodstream and compels the voice to sing loud.
As the chorus styles itself down to land – “E-G-O” always sounding fresh and cutting each time it is sung – you get a final burst of ripe, House-infused pianos that are both grand and drunken. The beats patter and strike to the last and the song comes down to land. Ego is another stunning song from Lola Coca and one that could only originate from her. The Internet was abuzz when the single dropped and many were relieved to see it arrive. Not that there has been a big gap since GQ – that was released a few months back – such is the desire and demand for new Lola Coca music. The prayers have been answers and Ego is another step forward from an artist who seems ready to take that leap to the mainstream. She has a great team behind her – manager and producers – but is someone who resonates and shines on her own merits. She is not an artist like Beyoncé – not taking shots as I love her music – that has a plethora of writers and producers to get the music out there. Those words and ideas are all Lola’s and one feels a big hand in the production direction was down to the heroine – ensuring they were as she heard them and not tampered with. Following the song’s release: immediately, people have flooded to social media to share the song and lay down their mini-reviews. Ego has garnered a huge reaction so far and many are starting to realise just how huge and impressive Lola Coca is. I am not sure whether any new material will come before 2017 but the spotlight is definitely on her. Ego reinforces just how incredible Lola is as a songwriter and what a sensational performer she is. Ego is simple and complex; colourful and witty; adventurous and emotive – all of the elements one could want from a song! Huge congratulations to the London-based artist; she is going to own 2017. Not only will she be releasing new music but performing across some wonderful venues. Ego is mind-blowing business-as-usual.
It must only be a matter of time before Lola Coca is releasing an album or E.P. I hear rumblings and suggestions but nothing concrete yet – hopefully more will be released in the (forthcoming) interview. What we have now is another incredibly confident and addictive song from a true one-off. Many suspected a single was afoot – knowing the impact GQ has before – but few could predict when it would drop and how it would sound. Lola Coca keeps her song titles short and her opinions shorter still – each pf her previous songs have been focused, concise and filled with personality. Bad Girlfriend blew the boy off – not the way he had hoped – and put him in his place. GQ poured scorn on those city types that letch and cat-call in their over-priced suits. Ego flows, jumps and struts its stuff. The heroine has that need for attention and wants eyes on her – cool and commanding from start to finish. More luscious, Reggae-tinged and seductive than anything she has put her name to so far – it has that unmistakable Lola Coca vibe. Experimental, tropical beats with electronic interceptions; an authoritative, beautiful vocal and sticks-in-the-memory lyrics. All of these fuse with seductiveness and ease: a songwriter who is able to impress upon the first listen and keep the listener coming back time again. There are not many that have that biblical sense of hook and nuance. Each time you hear Ego you get something new and delightful – a song for those who love their music funky, deep and sexy. Between the release of GQ and Ego there was a gap that suggests Lola Coca could have been studio-bound or taking a breather. One assumes there is new material afoot. I have not heard Lola Coca in the form she is in – inspired, ready and completely in charge. If you thought Bad Girlfriend was a fluke – a song that must have been a rare flick of inspiration – then Ego proves that assumption is foolhardy. It is hard to say just how far she can go and when the next move will be. Make sure you listen carefully and take the time to seek her out – one of our finest and most interesting young artists.
Before I close this down, I wanted to come back to my early points and sum up Ego/Lola Coca. There are a lot of new singers and new musicians making their way into the public consciousness. As part of my reviewing, I get to see some fantastic acts start their careers and make their first impressions. A lot of them impress – but you feel more could be done – whilst a few build on early promise and hit their stride a few months down the tracks. It is worth hooking onto the social media feeds of Lola Coca, for a few reasons. To start, that bright and intoxicating personality comes to shine and shows just what she is all about. Even in her most strident and confident moments (Ego); she is someone that yearns for love and has that sensitive side. A mixture of outright bullishness and accessibility: you do not get that combination with many people, let alone musicians. With Love Songs, Bad Girlfriend; GQ and Ego out in the atmosphere – it seems like an E.P. must be around. The track order I have just listed sounds right and you can imagine a cool title: something that sticks in the brain and an awesome cover shot. I will not get ahead of myself – the future is very much down to Lola. I am always bowled away by London music and the sheer vitality and energy that emanates from our capital city. Other cities/towns have ample talent and ammunition – I have not seen any that match that of London. The Hip-Hop/Rap acts being created are among the finest in the world. If you though the U.S. was the natural leader with regards those genres, then think again. Britain is on the offensive and providing so many leaders: from Grime hustlers to Rap heroines. Those musicians that strike out and let their personalities onto the page are those we should proffer and commend. Everyone gets a bit tired of the roster of chart acts that follow the whistles of record bosses and committees. There are enough fake tinsel and vanity in music: encouraging more artists like that is insane. Luckily, many are feeling this annoyance and rebellion against it. I am unearthing some genuine musicians that play their own way and want to make a lasting impression in music. Lola Coca is a brave and exceptional artist that has overcome some niggling doubts but continues to press and impress.
Even though Ego has been out a few days: the reception, love and response have been magnificent. The magnitude of positivity is not down to social media bias or any hyperbole. Those who have heard the song have responded to its instancy, colourful layers and hypnotising sounds. Whether affected by the dope-sweet grooves or alluring vocal playfulness; the sharp edges and the charming, brassy lyrics – a song that demands a lot of affection and repeated assaults. Let us hope Lola Coca has a Christmas treat in store for us or else a New Year’s resolution – that something full and E.P.-shaped will be under the stocking. Who knows where she will go from here – but knowing her – it is going to be stunning. I have mentioned the wonderful London acts and the inspiring Hip-Hop-cum-Rap blends: the women of music and how solo artists are ruling the roost. Lola Coca fits into all these categories and in a world of her own. I cannot think of any that have the same charisma, passion and sound. A truly unique talent that has a long time left in music. Over the course of her career, she will go to the U.S. and perform around the world; own venues and festivals and release a series of E.P.s, albums and singles. The sights, faces and joys she will meet will not be forgotten – she will have her world rocked and heart broken before her career is complete. As of now, the young heroine has a lot on her mind and has laid it into the infectious, staggering Ego. If you have a problem with Ego then you have an issue with music. If Lola Coca’s ego is proud and undeterred; it should not be temporised…
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