Blak Matriarchy (Bad Apples/UMA)
There’s a lot to like here in the Malyangapa Barkindji rapper’s debut EP. More than enough, if you had missed her batch of attention-grabbing 2020 singles (search out Our Lives Matter to start), to quickly lift her from “backed by Briggs whose label has signed her and who appears on the final track here” to “get her on air right now”.
Barkaa’s directness is bracing, her intent is impressive, her power of language thrilling. The personal story of not just survival (“I am strong and powerful,” Mi-kaisha sings in Come Back, a song where Barkaa details the travails, some of them self-inflicted, in her life before this) but reclamation of pride (“They used to look down on me/Look who’s looking up now”) is enough on its own to fill this space.
And that’s before even discussing the strength and character behind being a mother of three in a system which punishes poverty and crushes, if it can, independence.
But Barkaa – 26-year-old Chloe Quale – expands this to a broader culture (“Couldn’t kill my ancestors, I’m the proof”) and drives this from the strength of the women around her and all those who have come before (“This for my sisters who carry our past on their shoulders/This is for Blak matriachs”).
The messages can arrive in almost buoyant frames too, courtesy of producer jayteehazard. The universal revenge-on-a-shit-of-a-man King Brown pitches up somewhere west of Cuba, a dance track for people with hips and the ability to dance without counting their steps, while Godz is more your jacked-up ride rhythm for decent bounce; Groovy Remix (where John Cusack gets an unexpected call out) puts some strut down, while the light tuned percussion in Come Back almost sparkles, and when Mi-kaisha brings the church to the table, that sparkle turns into something shining.
Celebration should not be confused with pleasantries though. Oh no. Barkaa’s potency comes in part from the fuel of anger personal and historical. “I’m pent up with aggression bigger than your comprehension,” she says. And that packs a punch or three (even if she is only joking – probably – about killing all her husbands in Groovy Remix) because she builds on the anger, rather than just throwing it out there to smack our complacent heads.
There’s depth here in other words, righteousness paired with flexibility. And heaps of potential. As she makes clear in Godz, it’s best we learn that quickly. “If you think I’m a pussy, I’m a mad cunt … So before you go throw dirt on my name/Make sure you say my name with respect, bitch.”