The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Seguridad Michael Appouh , August 3rd, 2020 08:01

Working with Mexico City collective NAAFI, Brixton-born Gaika takes the listener to strange and fantastic places on new record Seguridad, finds Michael Appouh

Gaika has been a unique voice since his 2015 EP Machine, a record that introduced him to the British music scene as somewhat of an iconoclast, completely disregarding the landscape and expectations of an industry that profits from divorcing, and exploiting artists’ imagination for their own capitalist gains. Five years later with Seguridad, he’s just as opaque and abrasive as he was then. Influenced as much by Caribbean bass and soundsystem culture as he is by its British offspring in the form of grime, post-punk, electronica and gothic dancehall, Gaika has remained a north star for the futurist possibilities of Black music.

Some things have changed since then though. The Brixton-born artist has had a string of critically-lauded records, exhibited ‘SYSTEM’, a major exhibition on the emancipatory potential of Carnival at Somerset House, and become Dazed’s political editor-at-large. He has seemingly also found the perfect partner to match both his political and musical ambitions in NAAFI, the dance music collective at the forefront of Mexican club culture who care more about picking apart traditional Latin American genres than selling out massive venues (although they manage to do that too).

It should come as no surprise then that Seguridad is somewhat of a romantic record. Where Gaika would typically use his delivery as the exclamation point on his radical lyrics, on tracks like ‘Lord Zemel’ he sings in hushed tones, whispering like a too-close body trying to find another’s ear in a crowded club.

Fittingly described as Late Night Romance, the record is pointedly balladic, delighting in the chemistry between the South London MC and his many guest producers – like on ‘Maria’ featuring OMAAR, where Gaika cries, “fall into me, like I fell into you.” Still it resists the completely hedonistic narrative that much dance music has succumbed to, remembering enough bodies in one place can be a party or a protest, and is sometimes both.

‘Iron Cut’ is the hardest-hitting of all the tracks, with Gaika himself creating a soundscape somehow both industrial and gothic to match similarly mercurial lyrics, like “Hard from we born, it’s the London way”. It manages to be both a celebration and indictment of the city that has brought together the cultures he experiments with. Opener, ‘Of Saints’, is sombre and angelic and unique in the ways not typically associated with the artist, whilst still remaining as politically potent as his other works.

All in all, it’s an impressive and transportive listen, with Gaika and NAAFI taking us from Mexico’s underground to London’s city streets, to some more fantastical musical arenas where dancehall, dub, cumbia and reggaeton are home to Saints, Lords and Kingdoms.