HADJA BANGOURA by HAWA album Review by Stephan Boissonneault . The artist's full-length is now out via 4AD and DSPs




HAWA, a 22-year-old composer and hip-hop artist from Conakry, Guinea, has been making waves in the underground hip-hop and dub communities since she was 17. Currently, based in New York, HAWA holds the title of being the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s youngest composer and has lived and traveled the world, playing music in various forms in Berlin and other parts of Europe.

Her debut LP, HADJA BANGOURA is a chimeric concoction of dub, trap, and deconstructed R&B and soul that was ever-present during the 2000s. Many of the songs on HADJA BANGOURA have a hallucinatory edge to them, relying on heavy bass, bright Korg piano tones, and sometimes, 808 drum beats, as HAWA raps over them with her uncanny lyrical approach and unmistakable accent.

It’s unfortunate that you only get HAWA’s clean vocals a few times throughout HADJA BANGOURA, as they are a highlight on the album and separate her from other run-of-the-mill rap/soul artists, but during many of the songs, she cloaks her voice with various vocal effects. This is definitely on brand with the genres she is choosing to make her home in, but it kind of feels overdone at this point. The first few tracks don’t really stand out and it’s only until the halfway point that you get the point of the album.

There’s nothing really new or exploratory with the beats HAWA utilizes either, except maybe for maybe “7 DEADLY SINS” introducing and using looped vocals to lead into the gorgeous and minimal “PROGRESSION,” which is just a few piano chords as HAWA sings “I’m Shining, shining, shining.” “CREDITS,” could also be called a perfect example of freak trap and psychedelic rap that seems to appear more and more every day, even though it only lasts a bit over one minute.

“EATER,” featuring the multi-instrumentalist, Eartheater, is a fun club beat but has too much going on to really take it in.

HADJA BANGOURA isn’t going to change the game in terms of being a trendsetter, but as the first release for HAWA, you can only envision more potential. Based on her accolades alone, perhaps we should have expected her debut to be more attractive, though this is her first kick at the can. She’s just stepping into the limelight as a solo artist and finding her sound. HADJA BANGOURA is a bit of everything, and it would make sense if HAWA comes out with a more cohesive release down the road.



Looking for something new to listen to?

Sign up to our all-new newsletter for top-notch reviews, news, videos and playlists.