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The Empty Calories Of Victoria Kimani’s Sweet Pop EP “Afropolitan”

In 2011, Victoria Kimani did a cover of Ice Prince’s 2010 monstrous hit Oleku, which she posted online. Knowing the viral nature of the internet, the clip caught the attention of Chocolate City and the Kenyan pop starlet was later installed as the label’s First Lady. They had found, for themselves, an ethereal female vocalist, a Christina Milian-Mya Harrison hybrid of East African origins. Kimani’s Swahili tongue slithered into her songs, in the MI-featured Oya and the funky, sputtering Mtoto. Beyond that, though, Kimani stood out as an avatar of African female pop sexual liberation.

Victoria Kimani. Photo: Classic 105

Her debut studio album, Safari, released in 2016, testified how much Kimani could bend pop conventions with tone and language.

“If I was going to make a song for the Nigerian market, for example, I don’t see a problem in using pidgin. If I wanted to make a song for a Tanzanian or Kenyan, I could speak Swahili. I think that is what shows diversity as an artist.” Kimani said in a 2016 interview with NotJustOK.

Kimani localising her sound had begun with the 2013 debut mixtape, Queen Victoria. It was a tempered R&B joyride with faux, splashy The Lion King album art. The album had production touches from Chopstix and Kid Konnect, featured label hot shots Ice Prince and Jesse Jagz, and also had Kimani refixing popular hits like DJ Sbu’s Lengoma. But Queen Victoria ostensibly signalled Kimani’s departure from the then-haemorrhaging Chocolate imprint. “Mann. These labels got me feeling independent! But still, I keep pushing cuz greater is HE that is in me than he that is in the world.” Kimani wrote via Instagram. “SAFARI is my last project with @choccitymusic. Excited about what’s NEXT.”

Let’s just say the American-born artiste found herself in the wilderness, releasing a spate of hit-and-miss singles and denying dating Wizkid in a 2017 radio interview with SoundCity’s Moet Abebe. On Thursday, Kimani released her latest EP, Afropolitan, a seven-track, non-collaboration thesis on love and sex positivity. Wonka, the first single off the project, is diabetically sweet pop, with its jungle-themed video and Kimani drowning in a slippery coat of chocolate. “Pull up in my bumper. I got all this body you can conquer.” she sings in the chorus.

On My Sweety, she calibrates Bunny Mac’s popular hit, My Sweety My Sugar, with muted synths and yearning R&B vocals. She litters F-bombs in the fast-paced Should Be and brands herself as blissfully stupid in the lovestruck Fool. In an alarmingly homogenised pop-radio landscape, where each and new hit is a collision of trap-rap, bumbling, capitalist Afropop, and the indie quirk of SoundCloud offerings, Afropolitan quickly evaporates.

Kimani is known for fruity diva-pop songs, using bodily capital towards the male gaze (except the minimally anthemic 2015 single Booty Bounce, where she encourages women to shake their booty). With Afropolitan, she rehashes familiar R&B tropes with references to sweet foods, which turns out to be light on the palate but forgettable.

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