Ok, so those of you who follow Pop Mythology know that I’m a tremendous fan of singer-songwriter Lizabett Russo. It’s not because she’s one of my Indiegogo campaign sponsors; I was already a fan way before the fact. It’s just because she’s such an amazing artist with a unique voice (both literally and figuratively) and real soul.
Well, Liz has just released another new single that’s got me feeling extra hyped about this young artist’s continued growth and evolution. Called “Wind Down,” it’s a collaboration with UK underground rapper Abstrkt whom she met while living in London.
Now when it comes to rap—indeed when it comes to music in general—I’m nothing more than a passionate dilettante. So while I can’t claim any real knowledge or expertise, “I know what I like” (as the saying goes). And “Wind Down” brings together three things that I like a lot.
First, there’s Abstrkt’s smooth, British-accented delivery. For the small handful of British rappers I’m familiar with—Roots Manuva, Rodney P, Jam Baxter and maybe a couple others—there’s just something about the accent that adds an ineffably appealing element to the ambience and flow. It’s not the “British sophistication.” It’s something else that I can’t quite place my finger except that it seems to soothe my mind somehow. Besides, I may be wrong but based on my little exposure to it, the British hip-hop scene seems refreshingly free of that annoying “I’m the best and you’re not” ethic that characterizes so much of mainstream American hip-hop as Pop Mythology contributor Anthony Nowicke recently lamented on this site.
Then there’s the combination of male rap with sultry female vocals, a formula whose early blueprint was laid out with songs like KRS-One’s “Step Into a World” and then later honed to perfection with songs like Eminem’s “Stan” which brought bona fide stardom to the then still-emerging Dido. As of yet this is a formula that, when done well, still hooks me every time.
Finally, there’s Lizabett herself. Ever since my first listen of her debut EP The Traveller’s Song I knew that her voice was something special. Her vibrato technique and haunting, ethereal inflections reminded me of Billie Holiday and Beth Gibbons, particularly in the latter’s work with Portishead. But when her voice is taken out of its usual folksy context and situated in an atmospheric hip-hop production as it is here, it highlights that chanteuse-like quality of her voice even more. The result is seductive and intriguing and makes me hope she’ll continue to experiment with other artists of other genres to see what other subtle new dimensions of her voice she can uncover.