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Live Review: ALPHAMAMA exudes liberation, self-love and honesty with 'Oil & Water'

8 November 2018 | 10:06 am | Max Lewis

Sydney's multi-talented ALPHAMAMA shows exactly why she's a powerful force in the world of R&B and Soul with her sophomore album Oil & Water.

Sydney's ALPHAMAMA is not only one of the most influential figures in R&B/Soul/Hip-hop today - she's probably one of the most influential artists in today's music, period - and there's no better proof than the pudding of her latest release OIL & WATER.

As her second full-length, OIL & WATER brings to the table the same overwhelming maturity, honesty and confidence as her first album TRUTH, TRIPS and REVELATIONS, yet if the leading single '3x11' has shown anything, it's all been turned up to 11. Mixing jazz, soul, r&b, hip-hop, pop and dance weaved through soaring vocals, gentle whispers and rapid-fire raps, ALPHAMAMA presents every facet of herself, no matter how contradictory they may seem. On the meaning behind the album, ALPHAMAMA says: "Oil & Water together create a beauty that’s other-worldly. That’s how I feel about my expression. “The main thing I want people to know, is that you NEVER ever have to be just one thing. You're a human being with dimension and facets."

OIL & WATER moves with such overwhelmingly fierce and positive energy, it's impossible not to get caught up in it.  Previous single '3x11' serves as a gentle yet strong introduction, delivering a takedown of music-industry ageism through pounding beats and ALPHAMAMA's piercing and poetic flow. 'Move Me' turns up the heat with a four-to-the-floor synthpop/club hybrid that oozes soulful energy. After that absolute banger, 'Spit Me Out' acts as a palette cleanser, presenting a vulnerable ALPHAMAMA over warm keys and retro-styled R&B production. 'A Cautious Production' keeps the down-tempo vibe going yet puts ALPHAMAMA's powerful spoken word over heavily side-chained keys and a walking-pace beat. 'Ballers ft. Nardean' goes a bit experimental, with a soundscape of piano and vocal-samples building up to a trip-hop sound booming over some of her most tremendous rapping yet. 'Stranger in Asia' presents a crisis of identity growing up as a mixed-race woman through future-trap production and gorgeous, multi-tracked vocals. 'Ass in the Front' serves as a well-placed breather track, exuding fierce body-positive rhymes over minimal gamelan inspired production that morphs into a jazzy breakdown. 'Your Life' rounds out the album with a veritable wall of sound consisting of layered samples, pounding percussion, and ALPHAMAMA's vocals switching between proud spoken word and soaring vocal melodies.

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OIL & WATER represents everything amazing about ALPHAMAMA. It's unashamedly proud, fiercely confident, mature and honest, supportive and empowering - not to mention, each track absolutely slaps. ALPHAMAMA has done wonders not only for Australian music, not only for soul/R&B/Hip-hop, but for women/women of colour everywhere. She's a force to be reckoned with, and OIL & WATER is the perfect proof.


Words by MAX LEWIS