Joy Denalane: Born & Raised [IMPORT]

She has been compared to Mary J. Blige and even Aretha Franklin; pretty prestigious contrasts for someone who hasn’t really penetrated the American market. You may however be familiar with Joy Denalane stemming from her lead off single “Change,” which features Lupe Fiasco, a track that has been pretty heavy on the mixtape scene stateside for a minute. The South African/German songstress gives us an insight to her world with her sophomore project, Born & Raised (Sony/BMG). The album, put out on Nesola which she and husband producer Max Herre created to house their talent is a fresh reprieve from an abundance of young girls performing cute dances and monotonous hooks. Yeah it is music for the grown and seasoned music lover. With production credits falling predominantly on the shoulders of her husband, Joy Denalane looks to the likes of Chicago’s own No ID and New York’s Gooch to add some diversity to a rock solid album. The bulk of the production is driven by dramatic drum rolls, up tempo organs and gentle piano rifts providing Denalane with a compatible backdrop for her artistry. Soul searching and lyrics affirming the journey she has traveled are screaming out on Born & Raised. Tracks like the Raekwon assisted “Heaven and Hell,” “Stranger in this Land” and “Let Go” are all capable of touching a nerve with many and most. Lyrics like “When it feels like a cycle you just can’t break/It seems like we don’t learn from the mistakes we make/You look at the pieces that you can’t mend/Start over, it ain’t over start all over again,” may sound like an excerpt from a book in the self help section in Barnes & Nobles; but at the end of the day the content is all relevant.Proving subjects that we are all familiar with, relationships, self esteem, upbringing, can be done over and again time after time, Joy Denalane doesn’t allow us to shake our heads in disapproval; we can only nod in either agreement with her words or with the refreshing sound she provides. “I took my first steps on a spot lit stage/It was clear I was here to stay,” she sings on the title track, and with no ego apparent you can’t help but believe.