Just about every element of contemporary American popular music – the rhythms, the harmonies, the scales, the compositional structure of the songs – derives from the folk forms of Western Africa. That’s probably why current Western African sounds fit so well into modern pop songs.
FATi’s “QUEEN” is an audacious production: it fuses hip-hop and R&B with drums, brass, and lead guitar suggestive of Afropop, and matches it with a sparkling, warm-weather vibe suitable for any Tropical playlist. From another angle, it’s all perfectly consistent. The track feels less like a balancing act and more like a homecoming.
Chances are, a talent as audacious as FATi would find an audience anywhere on earth. Right now, she’s tearing up the music scene in Kenya, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast, and she’s established herself as an exciting new voice in one of the undisputed centers of musical culture in the world. She’s absorbed and synthesized all of the traditions of Liberia and Abidjan – the local heritage, the colonial influences, the fascination with American pop – and she’s making sounds that are wholly her own.
“QUEEN” is both a statement of African pride and international feminist solidarity: it entreats women to recognize their self-worth. FATi raps and sings with the confidence of a warrior who has been through the fire and is tougher for her travails. When she decides that she needs to adjust her crown, you won’t doubt it for a second.
Director (and producer) Wafeeq’s clip for “QUEEN” is a perfect expression of the song’s startling union of influences. FATi appears in African dress, but she approaches the microphone with the swagger of an American rapper. Her dancers, too, stomp and twirl in clothes that suggest a powerful tribal heritage – but many of the moves they execute will be familiar to fans of hip-hop videos. All of this is integrated seamlessly: it feels like the expression of a single unified aesthetic vision. And of course it is – as FATi would be the first to tell you, she’s just bringing it all back to where it came from.