Pulling in many elements of style and context, Nico & Vinz’ debut may be the most cultural pop album this side of Peter Gabriel’s So.
A main attraction to their music is being able to incorporate traditional African musical elements into modernized pop and R&B. The album offers a unique perspective between the past and the present. So with that in mind, who the hell is Nico, and who the hell if Vinz? Nico is really Nico Sereba of Ivorian origin and Vinz is really Vincent Dery of Ghanaian origin. Both developed their career as a Norwegian duo formulating as the band Envy. Their debut came in 2011 and they won first place at the Taubertal Open Air Festival for new emerging artist. Soon after they released the mixtape Dreamworks: Why Not Me.
It eventually captured the eye of Warner Bros. and when they released their song “Am I Wrong” back in 2013, the group changed their name from Envy to Nico & Vinz. The song immediately became an eye opener, not only for its powerful heritage, but for its subtleness and for its humbleness. The song is a well-deserved addition to the Top 40 roster, filled with hope and honesty; a transparency that needed to break the mold of typical Top 40 fodder.
It may be the standout song Nico & Vinz will enjoy the limelight form, but fortunately for Black Star Elephant, it’s not the only song that makes this album worth it. Bouncing around from soul, R&B, Hip Hop and traditional world music techniques, as hard as it tries it does not convince me that taking out the world music elements of this album would continue to make it solid. The Hip Hop may not be as esoteric as Arrested Development’s coolness and more a personal poetic slam. As enduring as it may feel and the struggle is certainly real, it’s not enough to gauge my interest to listen to “Another Day” as I would “Miracles,” which feels more like a celebration than the intense struggle “Another Day” gives us. Both is motivational indeed, but the latter tends to lend to the overall energy of the album. Even with “Am I Wrong,” the song leans more toward celebratory pop.
Indeed Black Star Elephant is a celebration to the pop community, it’s a celebration to the world community, and it’s a celebration to personal perseverance. Am I wrong to think this is a great album? I think not.