Melding classic hip-hop framework with a stylish modern pop production, “Retail Therapy” showcases the talents of young hip-hop star Neha, a fiery player with cratering vocal abilities. We open up with a blistering bass part that is subdued by the smothering mix, which softens the mere notion of a rough edge as we vault into the muscular melody head first.
The percussion is big and threatening, but it too is kept from becoming too unruly by the tightly wound equalization. Neha soon makes her first appearance; her voice immediately grabs our attention and leaves us transfixed on her ethereally imparted words, which seem to hang over the harmonies emanating from the backdrop like a radiant cloud. Her words scrape up against the beat and reshape the entire melody to suit the emotion in their substance. There’s a lot of vinyl-style hip-hop grit in the band, but Neha isn’t drawing the strength of her performance from any of her forerunners. She’s true to her roots but committed to dispatching something original and unattached to the output of her peers, and in “Retail Therapy” she sets herself apart from the crowded marketplace of exciting new hip-hop talent by doing something only she can do – be herself.
The structure of “Retail Therapy” is classic hip-hop in every sense of the term, but without the rigid, studded groove that it creates a tempo out of it would almost certainly be a less intriguing affair. The bass parts are somewhat stock on their own, but when magnified under the thick glass of this mix they take on an entirely different identity that is as attractive and evocative as Neha’s vocals are. There’s a lot of sophisticated soul in her voice that goes splendidly with the confident, beefy rhythm that backs up the percussion, and even when everyone is clicking and in perfect synchronicity we’re still able to discern one instrument from another. No one is competing for our attention here – half because it would be futile beside a rapper as talented as Neha, and half because this clean, surgically precise mix simply wouldn’t allow for it.
“Retail Therapy” highlights the skills that Neha has developed as a lyricist as well as her evolved compatibility with other elements in the studio. As much as it may cosmetically suggest otherwise, this single is less about solidifying her status as a knockout rapper and more about showing critics and audiences that she can roll with any style and pace of play and still find her footing. This is a different look for her than what we’ve heard out of her scene all year long; she sounds so at ease with her surroundings and able to connect with any groove the mix throws her way. There’s no point in denying it; Neha is her own artist here, and “Retail Therapy” is an excellent point of measurement for those who have been following her career from the start with anticipation of content this sublimely produced and performed under her moniker to date.
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