Stream Mapei's three-year-old album, "Hey Hey" below.
In retrospect, Mapei’s 2014 album release didn’t seem to get the mainstream attention or push it could have received in my opinion, so I decided to review it—three years later. Why? If history repeats itself, the Swedish-Liberian intermix musician will release something new in 2019-2020. After listening to the debut LP a few times, I think I understand why it didn’t take off the way I thought it would when I heard “Don’t Wait”.
Yes, “Hey Hey” keeps a consistent drive, conceptual cadence and rhythmic flow, but it doesn’t challenge the landscape of music now, or three years ago, when it surfaced. To be frank, it is so safe that it hurts. As a music connoisseur who enjoys different styles of music from various kinds of people, I anticipated more for a debut—rap or otherwise. I expected cutting-edge material. In fairness, simplicity and minimalism have worked for the Providence, Rhode Island-born musician in the past (on her four-track debut EP), but I wish she would have brought it on her first studio album. What is ‘it’? That swagged-out travelled woman pizazz spewing robust storytelling amid memorable melodies—effortlessly produced.
What would have made “Hey Hey” better? I think there’s an exhaustive list of what could have happened. Unfortunately, I am not interested in listing them. What I will share is I wanted more: “Don’t Wait” and more “Baby It’s You.” In Mapei’s raps, she created an urgency and natural desire for listeners to want to invest in her. I think her demographic, changed drastically, too fast. It would have been nice to hear go back-and-forth through genres. I think she would have been able to connect with multiple cultures and multicultural people, alike.
It isn’t too late to connect with a large audience on a new album, but is that a goal? Maybe. She has disclosed she intended “to make epic pop songs.” Epic music isn’t made to fall on deaf ears.
Most importantly, if this is your first time seeing her or hearing her music, you should know she made her musical debut as a rapper. According to an interview with W, the rapper scrapped an entire rap-centric album with French Electronic duo, Justice. She had a change of heart. After returning from vacationing in several places (Tunisia, Portugal, and Brazil), she decided to sing. I’d like to hear the Justice-produced throwaway project one of these days. I know it is forward. What was she as a rapper? I’d say as “woke” as they come, but entertaining. Stream “Leader of the Pack” via this link.
“Don’t Wait” is the standout track from the twelve-track effort. That’s why it is the first single, and worthy of a visual. Aside from its subtly beautiful melody and its talk-singing or Sprechgesang in modern pop form, it is a catchy tune that is about a business-pleasure partner. The lyrics give the lover the ultimate credit for taking her to another level or building her up. By the sounds of it, she doesn’t want the relationship to end. Laughing and crying until they die, so like a lifetime commitment—with or without marriage. Loyalty and love don’t always have to be solidified by paperwork, but don’t let me speak for you. You know what your love language is and what you need to function in a union.
Also, watch Mapei’s official video for “Don’t Wait” now.
“Change” has a revolutionary message. It isn’t what I like to listen to, sonically, but I appreciate its songwriting. On a personal note, I am not one to wait for change, so the hook is irritating.
In my opinion, her somewhat signature electronic sound comes back into play on “Blame It On Me.” It continues to show her vulnerability, fairness in love, and strength. Allowing anyone to place the blame on you is one of the most selfless things you can do. By the end of this project, you’ll see that its who she is. Also, it starts off as an old Jadakiss record.
“The Cocoa Butter Diaries” Hip-Hop/Rap Mapei returns with a rap verse on the funky composition for “Things You Know Nothing About.” On it, she makes it clear that she wants to be a bride. Marry her already.
“As 1” is a piano-laden song that mentions interracial dating and wanting to remain “colour blind” and to be free. Free of what? Perhaps, it is to be free from judgement. If you don’t know, Mapei comes from a multiracial family. Her mother is Liberian, and her father and stepfather are of Swedish descent. On the track, her vocals remind me of Mary J Blige.
“Second to None” is flat rap, at its best, vocally. It is monotone, in a way that is not good. It’s puzzling because I’ve heard what she can do, with the same levelled range of vocal, and it’s not the same.
“Hey Hey” picks up again on “Believe.” Without a doubt, Mapei seems to be the most supportive partner. On every track, she reassures her partner that they are worthy, valuable, and capable of succeeding. If she doesn’t have any children, she will be a good mother.
“Step Up” sounds like the continuation of “Things You Know Nothing About.”
“Keept It Cool” and “What’s Innit 4 Me” faded into the back of my mind. The first of the track sounded like holiday music, production wise. I am not a fan of new age holiday music. I like the classics.
“Baby It’s You” showcases the “21st-century gospel doo-wop” that Pitchfork talked about in their coverage. There are parts of the track I can do without, but overall, it is my third favourite track of the entire LP. I wonder who was the A&R for this “Hey Hey” album.
In conclusion, I’d like to hear more Mapei on the sort of production used for “Don’t Wait.” I think it complements her well.