Pheno S - Kani (4 stars)

Pheno S - Kani

Promising debut of fusion of contemporary hip-hop and Malian pop

(Sahel Sounds)

In a fabulously garish homage to hip-hop artists Pen & Pixel, Prinsco Fatal Bass's cover for Kani depicts Malian rapper Pheno S standing against a backgrop of flaming skyscrapers and Apache helicopters. A hybrid of contemporary club-oriented hip-hop and Malian pop Kani is distinguished by Pheno S's autotuned melodies, which flex and glitch over rattling snare hits and moderate bass pressure.

A viral success in Mali, 'Waihidjo' rails against corruption and sexual exploitation in the schools of Pheno's hometown Gao. On 'Alazalika' Pheno S sings a sweetly romantic autotune melody over a beat that combines gentle bass pressure with claves and syncopated hand drum patterns, punctuated every few bars by a distorted karate-chop 'hai!'. These eccentric flourishes, seemingly sampled from cartoons and old-school videogames, are dotted throughout the album; the banging posse-cut 'Bomber' is full of demented cartoon cackles, bit-crushed beat-em-up thwacks, offset by a rippling kora. A promising debut.