Album Reviews

Yo Majesty – Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid

(Domino) UK release date: 29 September 2008

It’s been 20 years since NWA released Straight Outta Compton, and hip hop has never been quite as confrontational since. Yo Majesty are not in the same league lyrically, but in terms of who the band are, it would be safe to say that they are one of the more perplexing to some at least acts around – to some at least.

Yo Majesty features rapper Shunda K and singer Jwl B, both are lesbian Christians from Florida. One of them married a man after a dalliance with Islam, and they’ve released and EP entitled Kryptonite Pussy. On stage, they’re given to preaching the word of The Lord to the audience in between hitting them with some pretty inspired rhymes and beats. If that’s not enough to confuse a fair few people, then what is?

Get past all of that and Yo Majesty are more than just a few salacious headlines waiting to happen. It just so happens they’ve got a fair few decent tunes knocking about too.

Taking their lead from the likes of Missy Elliot and M.I.A. – in terms of being up front and confrontation women at least – Yo Majesty tread their own path for the most part. There’s no room for much politics here, instead there’s an awful lot of sex spread across the album, and at times it is a bit thin on content.

But the saving grace throughout the album is the electronic wizardry that accompanies their occasionally filthy outbursts. Hip Hop always used to rely on the staple samples from the likes of James Brown and Parliament / Funkadelic, but here we find Yo Majesty exploring similar ground to that of Spank Rock or Missy with beats and bleeps that at times sound industrial and claustrophobic.

This is not to say that this makes these songs unapproachable and cold, rather, these are bonefide floor fillers designed to make your booty move. Never Be Afraid stands out as being both uncompromingly funky, and simultaneously terrifying. The beats pound as samples buzz and alarm continuously. “We will never be afraid” they repeat in something approaching a mantra, you may find yourself hiding behind the sofa by the time the track plays out.

Don’t Let Go is unapologetically funky, while Booty Klap makes a bid for track of the album. Totally stripped down, it races off in a scatter of blasts before dropping a bassline with so much bounce in it that you’d suspect it might have a coke problem.

Club Action finds us wondering when Peaches might deign to make another album before thinking “Fuck That Shit” and heading to the club. Clearly listening to Yo Majesty at home is never going to be a preferable situation. This kind of stuff needs to be pumping out of bassbins the size of a bungalow shaking the floor while you shake your thing.

Futuristicaly Speaking is by no means a perfect album, at times it seems overlong and in places too similar in tone, but it is a solid album that should see Yo Majesty making quite an impression. If the contradictions, sexuality and religious beliefs of the band are the things that make the headlines, then so be it, let those who concern themselves with such things get caught up in the fuss. For those of us who couldn’t care less about all that, Yo Majesty represent an opportunity to hear some pretty fucking great music.

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Yo Majesty – Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid