With every track, Hamzaa breaks down the barriers between herself and her listeners, reminding them that they are not alone in their struggles.
By Hope Ibiale
Hamzaa has carved a lane for herself in the music industry. Her vulnerable lyrics, with a backlog of good music, as British-Nigerian broadcaster, Julie Adenuga, has described, are “songs that make you feel emotions that you didn’t even realise you were feeling.” The Kenyan-Zambian singer and songwriter started learning to play the piano at age four and began singing when she was nine. Halfway through university, she dropped out and decided to properly pursue music. Since her debut in 2011, Hamzaa has released projects like First Signs of Me, Full Circle, and Phases. She has also collaborated with Nigerian singer, Odunsi. Hamzaa is back with Rush, a five-track collaborative project with American producer, 1SREAL. In the EP, Hamazaa bares her soul to her listeners. Hamzaa does not use elaborate words and complex language in her songwriting. Instead, she offers a haven for those grappling with mental struggles.
Rush shows that she is no longer a toddler learning to play her piano. She is now an artiste with a captivating voice who is not afraid to sing about love and her struggles with anxiety and depression.
The project opener, “Believe It,” features British singer, Kali Claire. This song sees Hamzaa sing about the human lack of control over life’s events and the daily unfurling of its many disappointments. “Even when I feel aligned, life always seems to let me know, can’t always be in control,” she sings over the slow tempo beat. Despite these struggles, Hamzaa still reminds listeners of God’s ever-present nature with words like “bet you don’t see it, but God gat his hands on you.” Kali Claire comes in to reiterate Hamzaa’s message on the song. On “Believe It,” Hamzaa and Kali attempt to demystify the fairytale representation of life portrayed by the media. Here, listeners are reintroduced to Hamzaa’s ability to craft vulnerable songs.
Hamzaa’s skill in creating emotionally raw songs reaches a tangible peak across the EP, with this openness shining notably through in the next track, “Rush.” Over piano keys, backup vocals, and sleek production, Hamzaa rips the bandage off the scars from a fresh heartbreak. On “Rush,” she accepts the pain that accompanies a failed love affair. Here, the melodies are structured. Hamzaa doesn’t just sing; she gives herself to the song. With no tears left to cry, the artiste says goodbye to her love interest. She sings, “I don’t even got a lotta strength in my lungs.” In the second verse, the pace slightly increases, and Hamzaa becomes more confident in her resolution to accept her loss and move on.
Hamzaa’s playful side emerges in “Borderline.” “So, who are you now to get involved with my fortune calling? So who are you now to keep on putting me down?” Hamzaa sings, as she confronts those who try to put her down. The upbeat production, the trumpet, and the electric guitar used in the song heighten the song’s excitement. Here, Hamzaa confidently finds solace and independence. The catchy hook at the end closes the song on a good note.
“Miracle” brings back the solemn introspection heard in “Rush” and “Believe It.” Here, Hamzaa asks to be saved by a miracle. She sings, “And the tears in my eyes might just save me. I need something to conceal my shame.” As the song progresses, Hamzaa asks for help with her anxieties and, most importantly, asks for a certain kind of love that heals deep scars. Hamzaa abandons the temporary pleasure of transient things in search of a permanent fix that would take away the years of pain. On “Miracle,” Hamzaa wears her insecurities on her sleeves. With its smooth harmonies and backup vocals, “Miracle” is an easy listen.
“So we’re just friends?” are the first words we hear when “Doing Time” begins. This song encapsulates the theme of longing just as in “Miracle.” Here, Hamzaa is letting go of a one-sided love affair. With the help of rebound sex and alcohol, she hopes to bury her feelings and move on. She sings, “Cause if I’m gonna get over it, I need someone under me. And I know that ain’t my nature. You drive me to a place where I’m forced to find some clarity.” There appears to be a conscious decision to always be vulnerable and expressive with her lyrics, even on songs where Hamzaa glides gracefully over the song’s production.
From “Believe it,” where she grapples with life’s uncertainty, to “Rush,” where she embraces the pain of heartbreak, Hamzaa wears her pain like a badge of honour. A more playful and confident side emerges on “Borderline,” and with “Miracle” and “Doing Time,” Hamzaa admits the longing she feels. Overall, Rush stands out as a testament to the power of music to connect, heal, and to remind us of our vulnerabilities. With every track, Hamzaa breaks down the barriers between herself and the listeners, reminding them they are not alone in their struggles. As the EP ends, it is clear that Hamzaa has not just released a collection of songs. She is bringing her fans up to date with her journey to battling anxieties and healing.
With five songs, Rush feels somewhat rushed. When the project ends, it feels unbelievable because of its potential to have more impact as a longer project. But the abruptness does not diminish the quality of the EP, it only increases its replay value. Hamzaa leaves listeners with an imprint of her emotions, and at the end of the project, it feels like she is not done expressing herself. Perhaps, it is a strategy to build listeners’ excitement for her next project. Regardless of the reason behind the project’s shortness, it is still an easy listen, and it serves its purpose of reacquainting listeners with Hamzaa’s artistry and authenticity.
Lyricism – 1.9
Tracklisting – 0.8
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 1.3
Listening Experience – 1
Rating – 6/10
Hope Ibiale is a writer and book lover.