Five Albums That Made Me | Yugen Blakrok

Photo: Tseliso Monaheng

‘Five Albums That Made Me’ is a weekly series written by TCOS’ favourite artists discussing five albums that have shaped their sound, musical outlook and career. There’s no limit on genre or passion – just a firsthand insight into the artists’ influences. This week we’re joined by South African rapper Yugen Blakrok. After featuring on the Black Panther film soundtrack alongside Vince Staples on the track ‘Opps’, her 2019 album Anima Mysterium received universal critical acclaim. Last year saw her collaborate with Coldcut on the collective album Keleketla! – her track ‘Crystallise’ was one of TCOS’ top ten songs of 2020. Listen to her song ‘Picture Box’ below while you read…

Voodoo – D’Angelo

This album is a complete spiritual experience for me. From his layered singing to the vibe of the music, I believe it’s one of the best albums ever made. There was an introduction on the inside sleeve that I’ll never forget. The writer said something about not fully understanding what D’Angelo’s lyrics were about but was aware of a force just holding him entranced. That enigmatic presence has always fascinated me:

You might respond, “Lyrics? Yo, I can’t even understand half the shit that D’Angelo be saying … And I’d say, “You’re right. Neither can I. But I am drawn to figure out what it is that he’s saying. His vocal collaging intrigues me.” Or you might say, “But his shit don’t sound all that original, he just sounds like he’s trying to be Prince or some shit.” And I’d say, maybe you’re right. At times he does. We often study the breathing techniques of our inspirations (inspire means to breathe in or to make breath, inhale) … The difference is that D’Angelo has allowed influence to simply take its place among his own intuitive artistry. He works to find his own voice within his many influences. I’d pay to see Prince’s face as he listens to this album.” (Voodoo liner notes, written by Saul Williams)

Dummy – Portishead

This was my introduction to trip-hop and inspired the moodiness in my music. Also, Beth Gibbons’ voice just breaks me. I always gravitate towards the melancholic, the dark and the unseen. This album gave me a space to explore my own inner thoughts, fears and to be at peace with everything, good and bad, that makes me who I am.

‘Roads’ and ‘Glory Box’ are my favourite jams from this album. I also have a soft spot for ‘Biscuit’. ‘Sour Times’ makes me feel like a sulky, sassy James Bond that’s become disillusioned by all the spy games, you know? I love music that makes me miss places that I’ve never been to before.

Fantastic Damage – El-P

I’ve always respected El-P for his innovative approach to production and rap. In a bigger picture, this album speaks to the angriest parts of me and helps me channel my rage. From the very first day I heard it until now. Also El-Producto’s not the type of artist who does “what everybody’s doing”. As with most artists on this list, I love him for inspiring me to go deeper into my authentic self.

The Age Of Horus – The Hymphatic Thabs

This album changed my perspective about being an independent artist, coming from South Africa and how far I could let my imagination run when it comes to expressing myself. Thabs is one of my favourite wordsmiths and this is the album that really allowed me to discover appreciate Kanif’s production style.

He, RZA and El-P are my holy trinity – there’s no producer whose style has impacted mine in such a way. I love the atmosphere of this album, the mood that the beats give off and Thabs’ rhyme-style really shines on this project. All his voices and thoughts, plus his background in theatre, make him a great performer to watch as well.

Homogenic – Björk

I love her creativity and sense of individuality. I consider her a master architect when it comes to building worlds and universes with her music.

The first song I heard from this album was ‘Joga’ and listening to it years later, it produces the same emotional reaction. ‘Unravel’ is also so beautifully written, it’s probably my favourite song on this project. It’s delicate and vulnerable, as much as the artist herself is strong and fiery. One of my favourite ways of dealing with the blues is stomping and dancing my way through the drama that is ‘Bachelorette’. This album’s become more valuable to me over the years as testament to the power of believing in oneself and in one’s path regardless of society’s rules.

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Thanks so much to Yugen for taking part in the series! Check out her Spotify here, and what TCOS said about her track with Coldcut, ‘Crystallise’ , here. Next week sees Bristol post-punk group Lice contributecheck it out next Sunday!

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