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Noga Erez
KIDS Neil Kulkarni , March 29th, 2021 07:53

Tel Aviv's Noga Erez boasts razor sharp beats and a heart of pure pop, finds Neil Kulkarni

You won’t hear a better pop album this year. I doubt you’ll hear a better rap album this year. Like you, I’m confused, deliciously confused about the relationship between rap and pop right now – rap is less a genre of strictures and confinements than a promise of sonic and lyrical freedom that is universally applicable right now to the entire fabric of pop.

Five tracks into this new masterpiece by Tel Aviv-based singer/rapper/musician/producer Noga Erez, you will have stomped your living room to dust with more frenzy than you’ve felt since Missy dropped Under Construction. It’s that addictive, that essential, that demanding of immediate and endless rewind, and it’s definitive and emblematic of how rap – so long seen as a fad that pop could utilise – has now swallowed pop whole.

Noga has several things in her favour. Her voice is a wonderfully malleable device that can slip from spitting fire to intimate croon to melodic whisper mid-line, mid-syllable. In an album that comes out of lockdown this ability of her voice to match the schizophrenic shifting of identities of a pent-up soul – to relate boredom, political fury, ennui, frustration, desire, and joy without needing to shift the musical material around it, is key. You feel like she’s your guide through Kids, and her voice can conjure the multitudes within her.

Musically, you’ve not heard sharper more addictive beats, rhymes and loops in 2021 – music Erez makes with her creative and life partner Ori Rousso, sometimes with a lovely melodic touch of Arabic/Israeli influences always neatly, never earnestly, reflecting her locale. ‘Cipi’ is a stunning introduction – hooks that get you hollering, a stop-start dynamic that has you lunging at the drops and the builds, above it all Erez watching you dance your ass off with a smile. ‘Views’ is a funny-as-fuck snarl of provocation (“You ain’t getting views and I KNOW you’re jealous”) that somehow also manages to be as instantaneously moreish as crack-laced baklava. As with the gorgeous hypnotic funk of ‘Bark Loud’, oddly the act I’m most reminded of throughout Kids is OutKast – there's a similar sense of playfulness, of simultaneous grittiness and narcosis, of using hip hop not to prove anything authentic but as a collage-method of crafting the most compelling pop.

The title track, perhaps mindful that seven tracks in you’re actually heavy-breathing cos you’ve not stopped dancing, slows things a little, gets serious, intercuts between Mourning A BLKStar-style avant-funk chorales and Erez’ ever-engrossing rhymes, and there’s a wonderful sense of increasing sparseness, lockdown consciousness getting increasingly frayed (check the hilariously on-point ‘Knockout’ and ‘No News On TV’) as you push on to the album’s glorious coda, the sublimely strung-out ‘Switch Me Off’. Irony being once you’ve heard Kids you won’t be able to switch Noga Erez’ off or out of your life ever again. I promise you, Kids will become a fix you need daily, hourly. My album of the year thus far.