Manasseh divulges the euphoric highs and depressing lows that come with relationships in Love/Hate Pt.1. She explores the different stages of romantic relationships with raw and vulnerable lyrics…
By Hope Ibiale
In 2019, Xenia Manasseh burst into the music scene with her single, “Niambie”. The Kenyan RnB artiste initially feared that the record would receive a low reception in her home country, but somehow, “Niambie” came to be accepted by Kenyan listeners, captivating music lovers and bringing Manasseh to the limelight. Four years later, “Niambie” makes its way into her debut album, Love/Hate Pt.1. With the 11-track project, Manasseh introduces listeners to the first instalment of the Love/Hate series.
Born and raised in Kenya, Xenia Manasseh grew up in an artistic and music-loving environment. Her mother is also a singer, while her grandfather and granduncles play different instruments. The talented Berklee College of Music alumnus has worked with International artistes such as Teyana Taylor, Big Sean, Mr. Eazi, Tay Iwar, Sauti Sol, and Gloria Estefan. After her debut in 2019, Manasseh’s confidence in her artistry grew, releasing multiple singles and two EPs, the 2019 Fallin’ Apart and the 2022 Maybe with Ukweli. In her latest offering, Love/Hate Pt.1, Manasseh collaborates with Nigerian Neo-Soul singer, Tay Iwar, her grandfather, Edgar Manasseh, American-Nigerian rapper, Shalom Dubas, and Kenyan R&B artiste, Karun. Manasseh once shared that her life story is personified in her music, and this is evident in Love/Hate Pt.1, as the artiste draws from her experiences with navigating the highs and lows of romantic relationships.
The album opens with “G.I’s Intro”, a soulful Swahili song. Here, Manassah gives a heartwarming performance alongside her grandfather, Edgar Manasseh. They both sing a cover of Luka Tutulu’s “Zilizopendwa”. The intro opens up Manasseh’s rich musical background and sets the tone and pace for the album.
“Soul Lovers” kicks in next. In the R&B track, Manasseh yearns for connection and balance in her love affair. Written and recorded in 2018, “Soul Lovers” is a brief dive into the artiste’s love expectations. With Sangria and AVB helming the production, the song is the perfect buildup for “G.I’s Intro.”
Shalom Dubas joins Manasseh on “Late Night Check Up”. Here, both artistes sing about recollecting the feeling of being loved. Manasseh sings, “I forgot what it feels like to stay up for the late night check-up”. Dubas matches Manasseh’s energy as she raps about her experience with unexpected romantic relationships and embraces the hazy feeling of being in love. “Late Night Check Up” is a beautiful marriage of R&B and Hip-Hop. This is evident in the obvious chemistry between the artistes and the deliberate mixture of different sounds that is guaranteed to leave listeners bobbing their heads.
Manasseh and Tay Iwar unveil another layer of love in “Southwards”. Here, piano keys, heavy bass drums, and the artistes’ vocals set the sensual tone of the song. With “Southwards”, the artistes explore their sensualities. At a closer inspection, one notices the narrative Manasseh explores in this project. From yearning for connection in “Soulful Lovers” she moves to experiencing the early stages of love in “Late Night Check Up”, and then she moves onward to intimacy, exploring her and her lover’s sexuality in “Southwards.” With each song, Manasseh reaches for the different stages of a budding relationship, and at this stage, the lovers enjoy their physical explorations.
Listeners are ushered into another stage of a love affair in “Anticipate”. This song mirrors the heart-wrenching low point in a relationship. For this record, Manasseh partners with fellow RnB artiste, Karun. The drums, bass, and percussion in the first part of the track and the orchestral feel in the second half merge perfectly with Manasseh and Karun’s raw lyricism. Manasseh’s life journey is evident in “Anticipate” as she sings from a place of experience. Karun also holds nothing back as she delves into past emotions.
Manasseh goes solo on the next song, “Temporary Love”. Here Manasseh admits to being afraid of love. At the same time, she boldly takes a stand against fleeting love affairs. Written in 2019, Manasseh’s “Temporary Love” was selected for Mr. Eazi’s emPawa Africa programme for aspiring artistes. With “Temporary Love”, the artiste moves from the uncertainty in “Anticipate” to quitting a transient love affair in “Temporary Love.”
In an interview with Native Magazine, Manasseh spoke about including the 2020 single, “Cheza Chini” to the album because she wanted to add a new element to the next song on the tracklist, “Lowkey”. The artiste intended to create a new experience for her listeners with “Cheza Chini” – which translates to “play it down” or “keep it lowkey”. Here, she transports listeners to a different realm with her calm vocals, the sounds of chirping birds, and an orchestra. The song would fit in perfectly as a film score or as the intro of a nature documentary.
After taking on a sonorous journey in “Cheza Chini”, Manasseh pulls listeners into another dimension on the upbeat love song, “Lowkey”. In the MOMBRU-produced song, the artiste admits to being in love but wants to keep the newfound affair under the radar. Manasseh moves from being sceptical of love to falling head over heels, and then, trying to keep the relationship hushed. Although “Lowkey” was written in 2019, the song lives to the present in terms of its meaning, relatability, and sonic arrangement.
“Niambie” makes a grand appearance next on Love/Hate Pt.1. The song, which is also Manasseh’s first-ever track sung in Swahili, is a smooth R&B rendering. Here, the artiste explores arranged marriages and their effect on individuals, in this case, a person in love with someone else. On the record, Manasseh asks to be loved and expresses her desire to fight for love. The bass drums become prominent as she sings, “Niambie ni mimi” which translates to “Tell me I am the one.”
“Better learn to treat me right, you don’t want to mess with my kind” are the first words listeners hear on “Precious.” In this penultimate song, Manasseh moves from seeking love from others to advocating for self-love. With “Precious”, the artiste positions herself as her own eulogist. Throughout the song, Manasseh shows that self-love can be the foundation for other forms of love. After all, one cannot give what they do not have. The production chops here match Manasseh’s energy, and as she becomes more expressive about loving herself, the tempo rises to meet her at the peak.
The album closes off with the titular “Love/Hate”. On the last track, Manasseh draws from her experience with being in a love/hate relationship. Here, she repeatedly admits to returning to a toxic relationship but lacks the heart to end it altogether. She sings, “I don’t wanna be the one that is losing. Love and then we hate it’s so confusing.”
Manasseh divulges the euphoric highs and depressing lows that come with relationships in Love/Hate Pt.1. She explores different stages of romantic relationships with raw and vulnerable lyrics. Each song serves its purpose of unveiling a different layer of love that helps mould the album into one wholesome collection. The artiste has created an album that invites listeners to resonate with the emotions and stories she shares through her music.
Love/Hate Pt.1 is a commendable introduction to Xenia Manasseh’s artistry. With the 11-track project, Manasseh leaves listeners eagerly anticipating what could come next from the Love/Hate series. From the cohesiveness evident in the project to the well-chosen features, intricate songwriting, and relatable lyrics, this debut is unarguably one of the best R&B projects released this year. With Love/Hate Pt.1, Manasseh has added an impressive collection to her discography.
Lyricism – 1.3
Tracklisting – 1.3
Sound Engineering –1
Vocalisation – 1.3
Listening Experience – 1.6
Rating – 6.5/10
Hope Ibiale is a writer and book lover.