New Zealand hip hop is in the healthiest state it has been in a generation, a state which can partly be put down to the ethnic diversity of the musicians on the scene. There are Maori, Tongan, Samoan, Ethiopian, and Somalian rappers all doing great things, the latter of which is where Mo Muse’s heritage and story lies.
Mo Muse is a first-generation New Zealander in his family, a family who moved here in the 1990s from Somalia to escape famine and war. It is this journey and his background as a refugee that forms the inspiration behind his debut album, The First-Generation LP.
Following on the success of fellow African New Zealand rappers Raiza Biza, Unchained XL, and Abdul Kay, the first line of the first song All the Kids reads “this one goes out to all my immigrants,” a fitting and apt start to an album that is deeply personal, inspirational, and stylistically varied.
Despite being anchored in hip hop, The First-Generation LP moves all over the place, with Muse bringing in all sorts of sounds and styles. There is the troubadour rock of All Kids, the brassy sounds of Here To Stay, and the soul of Runnin’, all tracks that prove Muse has a wide pallet to draw on.
His flow and overall vocal delivery are also a definite highlight and conjure up inspiration from some of the best of the East Coast’s golden era, think Gang Starr’s Guru and A Tribe Called Quest’s Q Tip. This is most evident on the excellent collaboration with Abdul Kay, What’s Real?
Then there are the lyrical themes which dominate the record, themes which instantly draw you into Muse’s story. This is essentially an album about navigating two worlds and sees Muse laying bear his struggles surrounding life as a refugee and becoming a New Zealander.
Tracks like Flowers While Alive and Sleep Paralysis Interlude explore his journey to New Zealand as a refugee, with the latter containing the very poignant and powerful line “coming to this country was a voyage never planned, in a refugee camp with all their papers in hand, handed a second chance at life in a foreign land.” Aside from the powerful messaging here, it is lines like this that show Muse also has the ability as a writer aside to his skills as an MC.
It has been a big few years for Mo Muse resulting in this album although it has not been easy. A graduate pharmacist, he nearly gave up music a few years ago as he questioned his future and didn’t know if he could keep doing it. Thankfully, though, he kept at it, and this passionate and emotional record is the result.
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Released: 27 Sep 2019