FIVE FAVOURITES: GRAMN.

Blending soulful vocals with lush synths and trip-hop inspired beats, GRAMN. is the new project of Hackney-based Awks. She transforms her experiences as a woman of colour in both the music industry and wider society into catchy, slickly produced tunes.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with GRAMN. to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to listen to GRAMN.’s latest single ‘Mini Milk’ at the end of this post.

1. Earth, Wind & Fire – ‘September’
They’re my heroes – look how big the band is, they play perfectly, I’ve never not heard it. I remember being really small in my cot, and my dad singing this song bare close to my face. But he’s dead now.

2. Kendrick Lamar – ‘These Walls’
This is my go to Kendrick tune. It’s a revenge story about how he seduced the girlfriend of the man who killed his friend Dave. I’m like, that’s like something I would do. ‘These walls’ works on so many levels; the walls of a vagina, prison walls, city walls, the walls put up by systemic racism in America. At the same time it’s such a tune. Bilal’s vocals are so nice, you can listen to it any time, in the shower, in your car, when you’re happy or sad. It just works.

3. Stevie Wonder – ‘Living For The City’
He’s such a G, he writes stuff that you always wanna listen to. It’s so well crafted, someone’s actually gone, “wait how am I gonna make this a banger?”, and he’s done that on every track. The break downs are everything and this song is a perfect example. It’s 7 and a half minutes long and I always play it twice.

4. Tierra Whack – ‘Unemployed’
Her flow, her diction, I can understand every word she’s saying. her flow switches up at the drop of a hat, she’s just like aaaaaand switch. She uses all these different voices like I try to do to bring different characters into the stories I’m telling. Plus there’s a massive potato in the video and potatoes are my favourite absolute motherfucking favourite vegetable. But more than anything she’s just so unapologetically herself – I have so much respect for that, especially when there’s so much pressure to get in the mould.

5. CHIKA – ‘industry Games’
So good. I mean everybody knows that crazy things happen in the music industry but no one really seems to speak about it, so it’s great that’s she’s just like – there you go. And she’s rude, just the perfect amount of rude – her lyricism is incredible. But tiny desk is what really made me fall in love with her – it’s perfect.

Thanks to GRAMN. for sharing her favourites with us. Listen to her track ‘Mini Milk’ below.

Follow GRAMN. on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Five Favourites: MEI

South London-based vocalist, bassist and producer MEI, is on our radar. MEI recently released her double a-side project ‘No Dim Lights’, the second installment in her Antonio Vivaldi-inspired seasonal trilogy. The project expresses the “fight to not give up, even on my gloomy days, my light still shines and nothing can dim it.”

We asked MEI to name her ‘Five Favourites’ – five artists or albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques, and we let her chuck an extra one too! Check out her choices below, and make sure you give ‘No Dim Lights’ a listen out now.

Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
This album really changed my life. I studied it like it was a school project! I learnt so much about singing, songwriting and rapping from it, and it was the first time I’d heard all three be done so incredibly well. She definitely put the fire inside me to rap as well as sing, and it wasn’t until years later I actually had the confidence to do it. The honesty in every lyric also made it impossible not to connect to it. The album really had a profound impact on me personally and my songwriting.

Coldplay – Parachutes
I still remember clearly hearing ‘Trouble’ on the radio for the first time and feeling such a strong wave of emotion. I don’t think I even took in the lyrics because I was too young but sonically it was just so moving. When I revisited the album in my teens I was so gripped by how talkative they were and how they hit you so deep. The chord progressions too!

Laura Mvula – ‘Show Me Love’
I truly believe this is outstanding songwriting. It inspires me so much. It’s so honest and tragically beautiful. Wow. The vocal is mesmerising, you feel every word and the arrangement tears you apart and brings you back again. I wish I wrote it.

Ms Dynamite- ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’
I absolutely love this song. I’ll never forget feeling so empowered by it. Here was a young black girl from London being herself all over my TV screen and I loved it! She was so unique and unapologetic and always bringing a positive message to her music, which was so inspiring to me.

Ebo Taylor – ‘Love and Death’
This song takes me straight back to my childhood! Growing up in a Ghanaian household meant I got to hear a lot of highlife and afrobeat music. Especially at family parties; you would have all the old school high life playing in the background and I’d never know any of the titles or artist names. I loved the horn line on this tune so much, so when I rediscovered it a few years ago I was so happy! I also loved the concept of a sad song that made you want to dance. The polyrhythms in highlife and afrobeat music really inspires my production.

Kendrick Lamar – ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’
Kendrick is definitely one of my favourite artists of the last decade.

Massive thanks to MEI for sharing her Five (or six!) Favourites with us. Listen to ‘No Dim Lights’ below.

Follow MEI on Twitter for more updates.