With her new album "Que Walou", Frankfurt-based rapper, singer and songwriter Namika has moved beyond the categorization of musical genres.
The successor of gold-selling Album "Nador" is a hypermodern pop narrative, empowered by the hip hop socialization of its protagonist.
An album about self-assertion, identity and the pursuit of happiness – with "Que Walou", Namika puts her heart on the table.
In our time, the concept of musical genres has increasingly lost significance, and so has the concept of origin. Hip-Hop has globally become the most important youth language and has occupied an even more important position than back in the nineties, during its golden age. This is accompanied by an interesting stylistic opening to all directions, that benefits the music. What has been missing so far - in Germany, at least - were artists, that had really internalized that new openness. The open-minded all-rounder Namika is such an artist.
Born and raised in Frankfurt/Main, Hip-Hop was Namika`s most relevant musical source of inspiration from the beginning. "My mother´s younger sister was really into it and always brought the best records home", Namika says. When she was about nine, she started rapping: "It was a playful approach. My cousin and I were the same age and spent a lot of time together at our grandparents` house and we used to beatbox and rap together, taking turns."
Many years later, Namika can rap like a pro and knows all the codes, but she hardly serves up to the Hip-Hop clichés common in Germany. The first album she bought, was Missy Elliot`s "This Is Not A Test". Elliott`s way of combining rap and singing fascinated young Namika, but it`s not easy to explain Namika`s conceptual approach by talking about role models. She has a sophisticated feeling for melodies and is a fantastic singer, but the common definition of pop music doesn`t really apply to her music, either. Namika defies the usual categorizations, that`s what makes her so interesting.
Early in her life, Namika knew what she wanted: as a teenager, she had her own home studio, rapping at Hip-Hop jams and recording a mix tape at her own expenses. In 2015, her massive talent was presented to a wider public with her debut album "Nador", named after the hometown of her Moroccan parents. The first single "Lieblingsmensch" (“Favourite Person”) hit the German charts for weeks, the album attained gold status, important awards and nominations followed.
Namika`s new album "Que Walou", produced again by Berlin based producers team Beatgees, is both a logical continuation and a consequent development of "Nador". Over the experiences of the last two years, Namika has developed as an artist, she gets to the heart of the topic even better.
“’Nador’ and the new album are siblings, regarding both title and content", Namika says.
"Because of the Moroccan references, but also, because they`re two chapters of my life. I wanted to create timeless music, that captures the sprit of the time in any way. It definitely wasn`t about following any hot trends."
And she succeeded: “Que Walou” is a central Moroccan idiom, that has its origin in the Berber language Tamazight and means something like "nothing" or "for nothing", depending on the context. This perfectly describes the album: light, bouncy, seemingly effortless. Namika has internalized the most important character of great art: you shouldn’t be able to hear how much work was put into the art.
The album starts with the title song, and the song itself with a piano intro, which sounds like it is from another time, because of the filter that was put on it. Then Namika starts to rap and tells us her life story in three and a half minutes, which was precarious in some parts. This is also about a classic longing: Get out of the situation, and into a better life. "Mae-yemmi que walou? / Mae-yaemmo ighaneqim / Ouaeren sekoue walou?”, Namika is singing in the chorus. “Why like nothing? / Shall we really stay like this / Shall we really stay worthless?” It’s about accepting your situation and still appreciating the moment. At the end of the song, Namika is an old lady, who proudly reminisces about her life.
“Que Walou” is one of three songs on this album, that are autobiographical and based on real stories from Namika’s life. These songs form the emotional and contextual frame of the album. While “Hände” (“Hands”) is a tribute to her grandmother, “Ahmed” is possibly the most touching song on this album. Ahmed – Namika’s father left the family early. After spending years in prison, he passed away a couple of years ago due to cancer. Namika never met her father.
Namika is discussing the topic of finding identity from a very personal perspective by telling her own story. While she is talking about her own father, she is also telling about the misery of a fatherless society, deracination and the personal way to handle problems within the family. Where am I from? Who am I? Where do I want to go? Namika was born and raised in Frankfurt and spend her whole lifetime there. As a young girl, she got to know her parents’ home country by often traveling to Morocco. Namika says, she feels German and Moroccan equally at the same time, but it doesn’t even really matter to her: home is where your family and friends are.
The special thing about Namika is her sparking optimism, with which she can discuss about deep topics but also fills you up with an infectious warmth. She is taking us into her world and you want to be part of it – and she finds the right images: “Parkbank” (“Par Bench”) – also a song from the album – is open, tolerant and indulgent and becomes a metaphor for a loyal friend.
Music is a universal language and it’s important for Namika that everyone understands what she is saying. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t understand that nice guy that she met at the beach, as she explains in her first single “Je Ne Parle Pas Français” (“I don’t speak French”). Namika doesn’t speak any French, but she thinks that the guy sounds so charming and she likes his charisma – sometimes feelings matter over logic.
Namika talks about the pointless attempt to find the meaning of life in numbers in her song “Alles Was Zählt” (“All that counts/matters”). “Roboterliebe” (“Robotic Love”) is understood as criticism against our civilization in the digital age and in “Ich Will Dich Vermissen” (“I Want To Miss You”) she emphasizes the importance of keeping some mystery in a relationship.
Namika is telling these stories from different perspectives and with different musical colors. Soul, Arabic harmonies, Hip-Hop, songwriting art and pop: all together combined in this album. Her song “Liebe Liebe” (“Dear Love”) is about the yearning to be with someone, but she brings in a little twist – the song is a short message to love itself – to avoid any corniness.
Namika’s biggest love is music: Soon she will hit the streets again with her band. She even wrote a song about the biggest moment being on stage, while adrenalin hits its highest peak and all becomes one. The electrifying party stomper “Zirkus” (“Circus”) gives us a little sneak peak of what we can expect during her tour.
“Que Walou” is an album about love and life, about the search for identity and the desire to find happiness. An act of self-assertion – she knows that she is almost the only pop artist in Germany that can sing and rap. But she refuses to emphasize this fact and wants to stand confident and emancipatory: “People should let artists just do what they naturally want to do and not try to put them into a category”, Namika says, “then we also won’t have to talk about less women in the game one day.”
Namika lives by this philosophy. Maybe that is the reason, why there is no one out there you can compare her with. She has her own system.