A world traveler of Senegalese ancestry, vocalist/producer Zakee is currently based in Philadelphia. He launched his 2011 debut album Assimilations from that perch but it sounds like it could have come from anywhere, and, in some ways, it’s coming from a lot of places.
Assimilations starts out with “The Dark Crystal,” a downtempo electronic track featuring the vocals of The Very Best’s Essau Mwamweya and the spoken words of the late Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes. It’s clear this artist has thoroughly assimilated a lot of influences in his time on Earth.
Hip hop beats often morph into complex polyrhythms in his compositions, but it all stays within the realm of pop and, while TV on The Radio and Maximum Balloon are close musical cousins, Zakee is definitely staking out his own left-of-center territory somewhere between chillwave and Afropop.
The Renaissance man played most of the instruments his album and deftly produced most of it –in addition to rapping and crooning like a streetwise Tunde Adebimpe. The former high school math teacher is a painter too, and his appreciation for the visual world shows in imaginative videos like the one for “Glory,” shot in Rio de Janeiro.
Zakee started out messing with kuduro and remixing M.I.A and he can still throw out some dirty, git-er-done dance tracks — in case you thought he was just some art school guy — so make sure you get those bonus tracks.
Photo by Soohang Lee