Triumph – Otis Fondè (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

What sets most music of this type, rap, hip-hop, urban…call it what you will, apart from the pack often isn’t what lies at its heart but what musical trappings are used to dress it up. It goes without saying that it is built on confident grooves and dexterous rap flows, and that is certainly true here, but it is often the musical landscape that Otis Fondè sit his music in that makes it such an interesting prospect.

Right from the start, Triumph is awash with cool soul references from the soaring brass blasts of opening salvo You Know What It Is (Intro) to the Marvin Gaye-esque background harmonies of I Just Did Me, from the funky grooves of Butterflies to soaring gospel vibes of Never Fall Off. But of course the background dressing is also just that and it is Otis Fondè’s lyrical deftness, controlled speed of delivery and engaging nature, plus the clever use of spoken word samples and found sounds, which is the real icing on the cake.

And it is the use of such references, this reminder that all music is made by standing on the shoulders of giants, whilst also using such tools to blaze a path into new musical futures, which is what is so smart about Otis Fondè in general and Triumph in particular. This is the sound of someone reappropriating vibes and feelings, musical emotions and sonic sentiments rather that plagiarising or plundering, something which most of his peers and competitors seem all too ready to do.

It is getting harder and harder to stand out in the crowded field of new music, but slipping the nostalgia card into an already winning hand makes Triumph a musical full house, not to mention a most aptly named album.

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