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The ONE Michael Appouh , March 24th, 2020 08:49

Dreamy and carnal, teenage rapper-singer HAWA, makes love in all its consuming, confusing and inconsistent states

It would be a poor turn of phrase to say HAWA wears her heart on her sleeve. Instead she declares her intimacies with enough boldness and swagger that what could have been interpreted as a show of vulnerability becomes a shield, something that precedes her before she ever enters a room. Despite only releasing her first song a little over a year ago, the German-born musician writes with an assuredness that speaks to her years in the New York Philharmonic, serving as their youngest ever composer before leaving at fifteen, citing the stifling expectations of classical music narrowing her creativity. On the ONE she finds equilibrium, balancing her mature sound with lyrics about figuring yourself out, and sometimes trying to find yourself in other people.

Beginning with the short, breathy ‘INTRO’, the New York-based creator brings us into her world of primal desires. She circles around the track, feeling out its lyrics, seeing how they buckle under the weight of altered meanings; “It’s brand new…. so brand new…. acting brand new”. Despite the titles of tracks ‘MY LOVE’ and ‘AROUND ME’, it’s not possession she equates with love; she grapples with the possibility of rejected advances, opening herself up to it with just as much aplomb as she does the possibility of fleshy fulfilment. The former uses a poppy, buoyant gloss to paint over her anxieties about her interest’s reciprocation, asking “where you wanna go with my love?”. Whilst on the former she proclaims “she told me that she always fucking love me’ with the confidence and certainty of fated devotion.The whole EP isn’t as cliched or as ultimate as the ride-or-die trope, but maintains its core edifice of relying on love in the face of danger.

Resisting the all-too-common RnB trope that Edward Alexander calls the use of “sexual partners as a memory board of achieved release”, Hawa queers her sound as a testament to her commitment to evading binaries. She easily finds comfort in the liminal space between genres and the larger structures of masculine/feminine coded performance. She plays with her own perceived opacity, saying in a Gender Diaries interview with MILK, “I don’t care about society's expectations, I’m not here to fit in – I’m here to stand out.” On the fantastic ‘FRICK’, a proto-trap love song, akin to her previous singles ‘Might Be’ and ‘Kill Some’, she injects the dreamy EP with a shot of carnality, twisting her declarations of desire into demands where velocity and sensuality are a given. The only disappointment is that it’s over almost as soon as it starts, but I suppose that’s too often true in life. Single ‘IPHONE’, vies for affection in the attention-scarce economy of the digital age – “I just wanna know if you’ll be all mine” – considering the short lived and intense nature of relationships built through constant communication and shallow connections. Again the bright, almost-chirpiness of the beat deflects against the direction of her lyrical storytelling, beginning with a plea to hold on to each other and ending with missed calls and miscommunication.

Throughout the record she constantly swings between unflappable infatuation and alarming indifference, attempting to protect herself from her own sensitivity with dramatised bravado. She plays her game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” well, but it’s the pensive, moody ‘GET FAMOUS’ and ‘OUTRO’ – when the budding star is left reeling from one fleeting love to another – where she shines the brightest.

For all her self-aggrandising, it’s clear she wants to give herself over, to submit to love so completely even without guarantee of its reciprocity. it’s foolish, vulnerable, arrogant and decidedly adolescent all at once. But it's those consuming, confusing and inconsistent truths that make finding ‘the ONE’ so exciting.