Editor's Note: A tradition we have here at The 5th Element is that I love knowing people's lists. Top 5, Top 10, I live for it.
At the end of every year, I ask the people I have interviewed over the years to see if they would like to participate in The 5th Element End of Year List celebrations. For this list, we go to half of my first ever interview on this site! All the way back to late 2016. Our first Friend of 5EUK, Ruinz Ason. You can follow him & his journey @ruinzason.
2019 has been a momentous year, not only in music but in this crazy beautiful world we call home. 18 months ago, I decided to change scenery and relocate to Barcelona and then Berlin for some inspiration and ended up recording a brand new album in the process...
Here’s the projects that have lived with me day in day out during this past year...
Jordan Ward - Valley Hopefuls
Now up until hearing this album this summer, I had never heard of Jordan Ward before, but I have to give a big shout out to Spotify’s algorithm. I have discovered some amazing artists by simply letting the Spotify randomly select the next song and this is how I discovered my favourite album this year!
Jordan Ward is a 24 year old former dancer turned singer from St Louis, US who currently resides in LA. “Valley Hopefuls” is a very DEEP album without being obviously deep if you get my drift. The honesty and vulnerability he displays in each song is incredibly inspiring as he navigates his quickly changing surroundings and the people currently still in it, an inevitable challenge all of us artists have to face at some point.
It’s lyrics are straight to the point which I love, but poetic in every sense and his voice is soulful with a unique slur that is so effortless it’s as if he just glides over every track especially on tracks ‘Slide‘ and “Trying things.”
Valley Hopefuls sound stays true to the current R&B/Hip-Hop landscape without losing any substance whatsoever and takes us on a real time journey though is human thoughts and and conflicted feelings. Interestingly I read in an interview that his daily routine drinking water, meditating and reading spiritual books - I can relate.
My Favourite Tracks: Okok (Hibachi), Slide, Sandiego, Holding Me back
Quotable: “Wondered if I would have learned if my father wouldn’t have left, found my manhood in a woman that i barely even met” - Holding Me back
Mereba - The Jungle Is The Only Way Out
I discovered Mereba while watching “Colors Berlin” videos on YouTube and was instantly captivated by her Fro', her voice and her Goddess energy and confidence that, lets be honest, isn’t common place on our TV Screens...
So from the first listen I was hooked! As you do, I did my googles (and watched every interview i could find lol) and discovered she isn’t new to the game and released an album back in 2013 called ‘Room for Living’ which was largely folk inspired and as the title suggests was recorded in her living room! Being as artist that prefers to record in my house I found this super dope!
“The Jungle Is The Only Way Out” is a beautiful soul touching ethereal mix of Hip-Hop, R&B, Folk and Spoken Word... Trust me you won't be able to compare this album to any other that came out recently.
Mereba’s voice is tonally healing to the soul. Her productions are warm and spacey and her lyrics literally define personal growth, while maintaining the right amount of mystery. Her Song ‘Black Truck” sounds like something from a distant planet that is so weirdly familiar to me that i doubt i will ever stop listening to it. It reminds me of many late nights walking in Berlin and without a doubt is my favourite song of the year!
The album also features members of her collective Spillage Village, 6LACK and JID.
My Favourite Tracks: Black Truck - Extended Version, (The rap at the end is FIRE!) Stay Tru, My One
Quotable: “I cut you off like my old split ends, then ascend like the phoenix again” - Black Truck - Extended Version
Van Hunt - TRIM (The Reimagined Van Hunt)
If you know me, then you will know that Van Hunt is one of my all time favourite artists. If you don’t know who Van hunt is, I suggest you go onto any streaming platform and listen to his self titled debut album ‘Van Hunt’ released back in 2004.
I remember when this album came out. My brother messaged me and was like 'yo check out this guy called Van hunt'. He has a called song ‘Down Here in hell’ which was playing on MTV Base at the time. The first time I saw the video which was him and a girl sitting on the floor while he plays guitar - I was sold! The next day on my lunch break from work I ran to HMV and bought the album, no question and listened to it religiously on my trusted blue Sony CD Walkman.
I credit Van Hunt’s music with helping me navigate manhood and my own challenges with romantic love as well as inspiring me to push my own boundaries when it comes to song writing. So fast forward 15 years - when I saw that he dropped a Re-Imagining of the original Van Hunt Album earlier this year I was ecstatic! The Instrumentals, and Vocal melodies are Re-imagined as Van himself brands it. The lyrics are still as poignant and sacred as ever when it comes to introspection.
Van was also cool enough to offer me advice and feedback on my songs when I reached out to him on Twitter while recording my last album... It's super dope when one of your idols follow you!
When I heard this album I tweeted Van saying that it brought a tear to my eye to which he replied “I’m crying with you...”
My Favourite Tracks: "Down Here in Hell (With You) - Reimagined", "Hello, Goodbye - Reimagined", "Who Will Love Me In Winter- Reimagined"
Quotable: “What would i do if we were perfect, where would i go for this dissapointment, love without pain would leave me wondering why i stay” - Down Here in Hell (With You) - Reimagined
FKA Twigs - Magdalene
What can I say about Twigs? I think most words are futile to be honest. I’ve seen her recently described as a “Sword Fighting Pole Dancer (which, if you haven't seen her do either, you should really go check it out.) I find this woman incredibly mesmerising. She is always pushing the mould visually, vocally and sonically. You really don’t know what to expect from her and for me that is the definition of an artist.
This album oozes pain! And I feel it is definitely her most vulnerable record to date. I probably would class it as a breakup record - which, for some reason, always seems to yield the best music IMO - But upon watching her interview with Zane Lowe I was surprised to learn that before recording this album she underwent very serious surgery.
Much love to her for coming back and laying her soul bare for all of us to witness. At times her voice is withered and whispery verging on the edge of crying opposed to singing most notable on songs such as “Cellophane” - which I currently listen to everyday.
Magdalene is only 9 songs but it doesn’t feel like it at all due to how the songs weave together making it feel more of an performance rather than an album. The only feature on this album is Future which is both random but perfect. (I'm a big Future fan!) I still still need more time to dive into the sonics and emotional theme of the album as it came out at the bottom of this year but I am firmly a fan of this self professed “Fallen Alien”.
My Favourite Tracks: cellophane, holy terrain, sad day
Quotable: Take a chance on all the things you can't see / Make a wish on all that lives within thee / If you're foolishly in love with me it's a fine day for sure - “sad day”
Skepta - Ignorance is Bliss
When I listen to Skepta’s bars, he says so many things that i’m thinking in my mind... It’s mad.
Lyrically he is on a another planet! And I think that people know... But sometimes I wonder if they really deep it.
You just have to listen to the intro of “Ignorance is Bliss” & “Bullet From Gun” to see that as an artist, Skepta is a man on a mission which a plan to transform the mentality of not just his peers but also the younger generation coming up - Something i personally strive to do also.
"Ignorance is Bliss" is a serious album - And should be taken that way... But the thing about Skepta is he has a dope and witty way of delivering his lyrics to the audience that doesn't come across as preachy or judgemental but instead more observational.
Listening to the themes he explores in the project, it’s evident becoming a father for the first time has given him a different outlook on life and his position and message within music and that takes some courage to break the mould.
Skepta’s brand of catchy one liners juxtaposed with philosophical streams of consciousness, relentless delivery and perfect articulation is one of the reasons why in my opinion he is of elite status in this music ting...
Oh and what a G he is to sample Sophie Ellis Bextor doe... If you know you know init!
My Favourite Tracks: Bullet From A Gun, Love Me Not, What do you Mean (feat J Hus)
Quotable: “You got to face your demons, don't matter how much money you earn / Your niggas said 4L, but the shit got real and you weren't concerned / The same old story, the world spins round and round fam / Lessons have to get learned” - Bullet From A Gun