For the first Breaking installment of 2016, we profile Adesuwa, the new solo identity of Denitia Odigie of Denitia and Sene.
Sound: Lush, downtempo R&B and New Wave-informed synths and guitars mixed with a bunch of other more subtle influences to create a unique take on the dominant R&B of the day. It’s much more "Purple Rain"-era Prince and Cocteau Twins than The Weeknd or Jhené Aiko.
Latest Project: “Air Light,” a just-released EP
Why You Should Care: Many of the artists and creators that we feature on Breaking are distinguished by a certain conviction—political, social, etc.—that informs what they do and ultimately guides why we think you should care. But the truth is that we, like most of the population, don’t just look for art that explicitly reflects our convictions. Sometimes we just need something to help us unwind, reflect, and just vibe out.
Enter Adesuwa, the solo act of singer-songwriter Denitia Odigie. Her “Air Light” EP, out today, (February 1) has just the kind of atmosphere-rich music to accompany any break of any size.
The 32-year-old Houston native and New York City resident is best known as one half of Denitia and Sene, an acclaimed electro-pop duo for which Odigie sings. Adesuwa, the middle name her Nigerian dad gave her, means "to make progress, to prosper" or "in the center or midst of progress and prosperity." Her solo project reflects that meaning:
I’ve always used my first name for projects. I’ve been recording and performing as "Denitia," "Denitia Odigie" or "Denitia and Sene" and I felt like this new iteration of my solo project just felt different. Stylistically, I kind of moved into another space, so I wanted to signal that shift, like, "Hey, this is a bit of a different thing." It’s still me, but just forward.
While the dreamy sound on "Air Light" borrows aspects from her former projects—electro-driven and ethereal—it’s different in that she did all the songwriting and composed arrangements with co-producer Brad Williams while also playing synths, drums and guitar throughout the record. In Denitia and Sene, she is primarily a vocalist; here, she runs the show.
The five songs on “Air Light” function as a collective mood board, with seductively-layered instrumentals entrancing listeners from the first play. On “Wild Light” (above), Adesuwa croons with clarity through shimmering synths and New Wave beats. "I don’t want to give up, even if the stars don’t wake up tonight, when the fog lays down like wine, begging for sleep in our eyes/you keep me up, with these visions and memories of our love, and miles won’t stop me and never slow me down, I want to see you in the light."
Many of her lyrics throughout the EP are like this—evocative and abstract enough to insert yourself into narratives of love and longing—but Adesuwa’s voice renders them simply another beautiful part of the atmosphere.
Adesuwa’s music sits at an intersection of R&B and several other genres—New Wave, indie rock and electronica among them—that blurs boundaries between each genre. She traces this affinity for genre-crossing and a multitude of styles to her childhood in "a middle-class Black family in east Texas." "I grew up on soul and country music. I mean, you know, do the math.”
That “math”—an affinity for combining genres into one wholly-unique sound—extends to her love of multiple art forms. The afore-linked videos for “Wild Light” and “Coach Class” are part of a larger video component accompanying the EP. They draw, in part, from her other creative affinities; outside of music, she curates the recurring Brooklyn multi-media installation "Parallels." "The whole idea was to create an alternate reality with the songs and make something you might see in those little TVs with headphones at the museum," she says.
But no matter what draws you to Adesuwa—the music, the vocals, the videos—it’s all part of a bigger creative statement from an artist progressing to the next stages of something stunning. If “Air Light” is any indication, her star will continue to rise.
Adesuwa dropped the “Air Light” EP today (February 1) via her own digital label, Adesuwa Records. Listen to tracks on her official Soundcloud page.
Note: Piece modified to reflect contributions of producer.