Isabelle Brown is an old soul trapped in the body of a fearless fourteen year-old; as inspired by the rich emotions of Nina Simone or the force-of-nature energy of Tina Turner as that blend of old-school R&B, jazz and hip-hop influences found in A Tribe Called Quest. Isabelle’s curious, contemporary twist on these classic sounds is explored across the seven tracks of her first mixtape, ‘Only Having A Laugh’. Largely written and recorded when she was just twelve years old, early highlights ‘Pot of Gold’ (a track effectively about finding your potential, featuring Arizona rap trio Injury Reserve) and ‘Hey Romeo’ (a blistering Eric B and Rakim bootleg, imagining a performance for someone who has no idea you exist) have been met with widespread acclaim. The remainder of the project is similarly refreshing and infectious in its exploration of growing up: from the protective, hip-hop groove of ‘Armour’ to the tender but defiant ‘I’m Just Me’, there’s a constant thread of playful experimentation throughout, confirming Isabelle Brown as a vocalist and songwriter of boundless promise.
Isabelle Brown’s story thus far is not that of your typical, potentially-precocious teen star-in-waiting: hard graft, grit and vulnerability, those core values of true Soul music, underpin even her most powerhouse vocals. Born and raised in Brighton, she wrote her first love song at the age of seven (“which when you think back,” she says now, “is an absolute laugh, as I’d never even kissed a boy but thought I was the number one romance guru”). Brought up between two creative, unconventional households – her parents separated around the same time – Brown’s irrepressible voice slowly began to draw on experiences of her own. She has spent the last couple of years singing, writing, performing or recording every weekend or school-holiday, with a close-knit circle of friends, collaborators and family protecting her (largely from her own furious ambition to “get on with it”) every step of the way.
Balancing youthful, restless innocence with innate musical maturity, ‘Only Having A Laugh’ is an in fact deadly serious introduction to Isabelle Brown, a new artist seemingly quite simply born to do it.