It has certainly been a rocky, stop-and-start career for the extremely talented singer Zakiyah.
For the past seventeen years, she has endured long intervals between projects, doggedly continuing on despite mass public exposure where many artists under the circumstances would have wilted. Her longevity in the music industry can certainly be attributed to her unusual approach to urban music: The tapestry of several genres that she weaves with her soulful demeanor and emotionally charged story-type songs are best described as funky urban folk. She has also drawn some comparisons to Dave Matthews because of his innate abilities, like Zakiyah, to cross-pollinate funk and world music effectively. Even with her versatile musical arsenal, it must have been frustrating at times for an innovative performer like Zakiyah to make headway in the current R&B market where artistic genius is not always required or rewarded. Yet, for those who have witnessed her passionate stage show, she became royalty and was dubbed Her Highnezz The Funk Mistress.
Zakiyah's humble beginnings as a recording artist were not exactly fitting of royalty. When she signed on the dotted line with the independent Flat Five label, she experienced her first recording heartbreak. Her 1992 project Sentimental Thing never made it to the record bins and to this day is shelved. She eventually returned in 1997 with a new attitude and plenty of vengeance on Au Natural, which wowed college radio audiences and received modest mainstream radio airplay on the sexy title track, "Purple Dayzeez," "What Matters" (tackling the subject of racism) and "Lessons," an appropriate composition that declares Zakiyah's fiercely independent musical spirit. Her stirring alto also echoed R&B legend Chaka Khan, musical royalty in her own right as The Queen of Funk & Soul. With Au Naturel, Zakiyah was a soul voice coming out of the wilderness to claim her artistic territory in the studio.
The wait for Zakiyah's next project was much shorter. 1999, she released Eclecticizm - a title befitting for Her Highnezz's eclectic musical tastes - encompassing a soul-funk music base mixed with folk, country, rock and jazz elements. However, with increased positive response from her fan base, especially in Europe and her powerful stage performances throughout the U.S. east coast, Zakiyah took another recording studio break for almost ten years.
After a much too lengthy wait, Zakiyah now strikes back with her adventurous brand of urban delights on The ReZipe. Among the thirteen tracks, there are several highlights. The spirit of Chaka is stirred with "I Love," "Stop What You Started" and a reprise of the title track from her debut disc. "Spanish Fly" meshes funk with a subtle Latin spice. The title track serves healthy portions of jazz, funk and soul to its listening audience and is nothing short of a "let it all hang out" party jam: "We are on a mission to release your inhibitions." Sometimes Zakiyah lets her storytelling abilities take center stage. On "Nikki Nikki," we learn about the â€˜wild child' side of Zakiyah. The song's infectious New Orleans rhythms are the perfect fit for the storyline. The hip-hop tinged thinking man's piece, "The Trip," offers plenty of instructions to handle life's daily challenges: "He who hesitates brings to life his worst fear and the one that fools rush in when the picture ain't too clear." Finally, the combination of roots Reggae and southern soul turns out to be fascinating recipe ingredients for "Way Down South."
Interestingly, The ReZipe reprises much of the material on Eclecticizsm. That is not necessarily a detriment as I found many of the updated versions to be refreshing and vibrant compared to the original arrangements. While Eclecticizsm only used one saxophone, The ReZipe utilizes a three-piece horn section, which overall beefs up Zakiyah's already invigorating performance level. Overall, I found most of the ingredients in The ReZipe to be absolutely delicious.
Hopefully, Zakiyah will make her next recording stop in a shorter period of time. Meanwhile, Her Highnezz should continue to rule as one of independent soul music's remarkable voices and songwriters who can easily transition from genre to genre with shear ease. Highly Recommended.By Peggy Oliver