By KC (Host of You Must Learn)
This is a very rare occurrence for me.
I am pretty good about keeping older albums in enough of a rotation that it’s a rare thing when I get completely blindsided revisiting one. But it happened this week.
In the back of my mind, of course I would have told you that the debut record from Bahamadia, Kollage, was a good record. A very good record, in fact. She has the skill as well as the support from her network. But I hadn’t probably listened to this record from start to finish in 20 years. I knew I wanted it to be the focus this week, so I went on a walk and hit play. And even though I was familiar with some of the words, it was like hearing it for the first time all over again.
It starts from jump. “WordPlay” hits you right after the intro, over a sparse beat from Guru – who clearly honed his craft with the Gang Starr partner, DJ Premier – that really serves to accompany the lyrics and not overpower them. In fact, the four songs up to the first interlude are really, really solid. But what really makes this dynamic work are the way the vocals are recorded. Bahamadia does not choose to use an overpowering voice, it simmers. And not in a sultry or sexual vibe – she’s not trying to play on any sexuality for the vast majority of the album. But it sounds like the vocals were recorded without any screen in front of the mic, and you can hear the Ps pop, and some saliva clicking on the tongue. It’s an extremely intimate sound. It’s measured. It demands you listen to the words. And Premier, with most of the other producers involved, made sure that intimacy is front and center and not dominated by the backing track.
The only weak spots are the two songs produced by N.O. Joe. They aren’t terrible, but they don’t fit. His work on “I Confess” stalls the momentum – however, there is a remix by The Roots that really should have been the album version. They appear on “Da Jawn” later in the album and really serve their sister from Philly extremely well. “Rugged Ruff” is an absolute banger from start to finish, and her entry to feature two other female emcees, “3 tha Hard Way,” is indeed hard.
Bahamadia, unfortunately, was never able to catapult herself into a more mainstream spotlight. However, it would serve many people very well to revisit – or visit for the first time – the brilliance that is on Kollage.
Check this out and more in Ep 018 of You Must Learn!