The best Toronto albums of 2019
From confidence-oozing hip-hop to anonymous country, record collector psych to morbid pop-punk, it was an eclectic year for local music – and a very good one
1. Haviah Mighty: 13th Floor (independent)
2. Ice Cream: Fed Up (independent)
3. TOBi: Still (Sony)
4. Badge Époque Ensemble (Telephone Explosion)
5. Orville Peck: Pony (Royal Mountain/Sub Pop)
6. PUP: Morbid Stuff (Little Dipper/Universal)
7. Daniel Caesar: Case Study 01 (Golden Child)
8. OBUXUM: Re-Birth (Urbnet)
The Somali-Canadian producer and beatmaker’s debut full-length blends hip-hop, house and techno elements into a politically charged, high-energy debut LP. Over 10 tracks, Muxubo Mohamed centres Black women’s issues and voices – from gender-based violence in Somalia in opener Ayeeyo’s Intro / Can You Feel My Rage?, to racial justice on the Viola Davis-sampled EQUITY!!! Fittingly, OBUXUM underscores these messages with shape-shifting rhythms and fluttering textures signifying restlessness and declaration that Re-Birth is just the beginning. MICHELLE DA SILVA
9. Jacques Greene: Dawn Chorus (Arts & Crafts)
10. TRP.P: 2TRP.P (independent)
BY KELSEY ADAMS, KEVIN RITCHIE, SAMANTHA EDWARDS, CLAUDIA MCNEILLY, MICHELLE DA SILVA, CHAKA V. GRIER, MICHAEL RANCIC, RICHARD TRAPUNSKI
Obuxum is a Somali-Canadian producer who calls Toronto home these days. Last year, she made a little bit of a splash when she debuted on URBNET with a short-but-exciting EP called H.E.R.. It was inventive and interesting, and it hinted at a lot more potential that Obuxum was just beginning to tap into. Well, the good news is that we didn’t have to wait too long, because now she’s back with a full-length album that is just bursting with ideas in Re-Birth.
When it comes to hip hop, we tend to think of the emcee as opposed to the producer as the focal point when it comes to making political music. However, it is not only possible to make politically-charged instrumental music, there’s a long history of it, going back through hip hop, disco, rock, jazz, and beyond. This is what Obuxum set out to do with Re-Birth. Just glance at the track listing for the album, and you’ll see songs like “Reclaiming my D!mn Self,” “Own Your Truth,” and “EQUITY!!!” Obuxum achieves her goals by doing the obvious, which is including audio clips such as a recording explaining the gender-based violence against women in Somalia or Viola Davis’ Emmy acceptance speech in 2015, but also in less obvious ways. Musically, Re-Birth is one of the most inventive and challenging albums you’ll hear this year. Obuxum is an incredibly versatile producer, and she has an excellent feel for when to bring all of the different elements she’s working with to the table. Sometimes it’s the pulsing rhythm of house music to pump up the energy, sometimes it’s experimental and noisy to create tension, or sometimes it might be time to sit back in a boom bap beat for a second and meditate on an idea. It might be some combination of these, it might be something completely unexpected and experimental. Whatever it is, though, it’s being done purposefully and to great effect. Obuxum wanted to make an album that would challenge listeners to consider stories from a point of view that most aren’t familiar with. If you are willing to put in the effort to listen to these stories, Obuxum is going to deliver something that is passionate, innovative, and unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.
Obuxum is quickly becoming one of the most important producers working today. The amount of growth and ambition between H.E.R. and Re-Birth is astonishing. She’s crafted an album with a great amount of care that will push you outside of your comfort zone, but then reward you by opening your eyes to different life experiences and musical possibilities. This is one of the best albums of the year.
Chi Chi | scratchedvinyl.com/reviews/obuxum-re-birth/
Somali-Canadian producer and beat-maker Obuxum returns with Re-Birth, a follow-up to her 2018 EP, H.E.R. As she did on that record, on Re-Birth, Oxubum pairs house and techno beats with lyrical themes of gender and equity. Opener “Ayeeyo’s Intro / Can you feel my rage?” pits a vibrant, thumping, soulful house beat against looped narration explaining the gender-based violence that women face in Somalia. “Black Girls Flying,” another standout, is meditative and futuristic, making a deep impression despite clocking in at just over a minute. On the equally brief “Does your blood not move?,” Obuxum unveils a piercing, footwork-like beat that gives way to the Balearic “EQUITY!!!,” a moving track that opens with a portion of Viola Davis’s 2015 Emmy’s acceptance speech.
Obuxum has said that the album, “isn’t your average ‘beat tape.’ I created deliberate little worlds that tells numerous stories. Stories that I hold so dear to me.” And, indeed, Re-Birth does sound like a succinct project made up of multiple little worlds. Obuxum’s world-building is seamless, and taken together, the songs feel like one long track. With Re-Birth, Obuxum demonstrates that she has a singular vision, and is in a beat-making league of her own.
~~ D. Sharp daily.bandcamp.com/2019/08/22/obuxum-re-birth-review/
PRESS: BANDCAMP WEEKLY Show
OBUXUM's debut album Re-Birth shows her story is just beginning
Toronto-based, Somali-Canadian producer Muxubo Mohamed (aka OBUXUM), is not just telling her own story on her debut full-length album. Instead, she says, she’s “created deliberate little worlds that tell numerous stories.”
Her compositions bustle with hip-hop, house and techno elements, which gives the album a feeling of restlessness. Although half of the album’s 10 tracks clock in at under two minutes, each song delivers a unique statement. Every thump of the booming bass notes on Take Up SPACE!!, for example, feels like a manifesto for marginalized people to commandeer space.
Her fluttering beats mirror the motions of a pen scrawling across paper. As OBUXUM explains, each track is “a life-lesson or a note to upcoming Black womxn artists.” A sampled Viola Davis from her 2015 Emmy Award acceptance speech quotes Harriet Tubman speaking of equal opportunity on the glistening EQUITY!!! and on Don’t Blame Them, a funky electronic track that morphs into a silky R&B song, local singer/songwriter YourHomieNaomi offers warm encouragement.
On opener Ayeeyo’s Intro / Can You Feel My Rage?, a woman reports on gender-based violence in Somalia, stating that the east African country is “the second worst place in the world to be a woman.” OBUXUM encircles the voice in a murky soundscape anchored by a looped beat that ripples like blood dripping into water. At the song’s chilling half-way point, OBUXUM cuts through the haziness with a roaring synth melody that replicates her fury.
The album’s final voice is robotic and omniscient, welcoming us to “the maze.” From within the eerie soundscape of A Story About Re-Birth / To Be Continued, the voice says, “if this is your first time here, I shall explain the rules.” But before any instructions are given, OBUXUM leads us through a shadowy labyrinth of varying rhythms and textures. The effect is a little unsettling – speaking, maybe, to contemporary unbalance – but emphasizes OBUXUM’s mastery of mood.
Unquestionably, OBUXUM’s story isn’t over. This is just the beginning.
Rating: NNNN (Great)