V V Brown’s return to the music industry has been a monumental event, but it is easy to see why. The artist had huge success in the early 2010’s, performing with the likes of Damon Albarn, Maroon 5, and Little Dragon, as well as playing major festivals, all off the back of her debut release. After three records, however, she decided to take a six year break to focus on her family, as well as other pursuits. Now, she has returned with hard-hitting new album Am I British Yet?
Break Of The Night begins the album with hefty drums and Vanessa’s abrasive but powerful spoken word delivery. The tight choral vocals that interact with the lead add a gravitas, especially around the chorus where they harmonise and lift the song to another level. It leads perfectly into followup Marginalised, continuing the sampled drums and catchy choral melodies, but leans further into the political aspects of the record. These feelings are brought to a head on I Will Always Be Black, a beautiful poem read by Derome and backed by an atmospheric instrumental, and single Black British. The latter is a well addressed portray of what it means to be Black in the UK, with Vanessa sounding vocally like a more riled up Beverly Glenn-Copeland.
A variety of spoken word interludes litter the record, featuring passages read by the likes of Liam Bailey, Veronica E Banks, Myrle E Roach, and Ron Frater. The former also appears on No Fear, Liam’s almost mournful vocals leading the majority the track, surrounded by marimba and guitar. Twisted is a gorgeous slice of soulful R&B, while History takes on a poppier approach, beginning with a recording of a traditional song before transitioning into a piano heavy shuffle. The album concludes of double-hitter Mission and Be It, the former being a call to keep going against adversity, while the latter takes a more relaxed approach instrumentally, incorporating the elements that have come before it and providing a fitting conclusion both musically and thematically.
Am I British Yet? is a deliberately stripped back record, allowing the stories of black Brits to shine unencumbered whilst being surrounded by interesting and well-produced instrumentals. The musical sections of the album are standouts in themselves, but are elevated exponentially by the poetry between.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.