In many cases in marketing an artist, their music is way too often compartmentalized to the point of frankly sheer frustration. But, for the sake of presenting a complete package deal, especially regarding a new talent, the musician’s publicist and their team are still obligated to reel in fans with an attractive catch phrase in best describing their client’s definitive sound. For singer/songwriter Debra Debs’ website, it is almost impossible not to notice the fairly busy word play capturing her multi-dimensional sound that reads: "NeosoulfulJazzyRnBAfrosoulThings.” And while this ambitious artist categorization may be a bit exaggerated, this dynamic combination from the Cameroon-born, U.K.-based Debs’ musical canvas speaks the truth.
Debs’ poetic marriage of ‘90’s Brit and millennium adult contemporary soul with doses of Jill Scott’s jazzy swagger and the sass of Erykah Badu has spread like wildfire on several internet radio stations, including Solar Radio. As for her AfroSoulThings, Debs expresses strong concern for her birthplace’s political unrest on “Africa Higher Higher”, that received over a million hits on YouTube, adding further leverage to a career finally realized after earning her Music degree over ten years ago and paying dues through numerous open mikes. Within the past few years, Debs has also released a four-song EP, performed at London's Royal Opera House, collaborated with the soul house production team, Reel People, and released her debut full-length, Life Cycles, in late 2013.
Guided by urban producers from the U.K. & Africa, Life Cycles conveys the complexities of love and the repercussions behind social unrest, all covered by Debs’ musically eclectic bases. “Caught Up,” the recurring tale of a frustrating relationship game, floats on a breezy groove with flute frostings and hand claps. The vicious cycle of the rumor mill is explored on “Clear My Name:” “Sometimes we lie to give some meaning to the tale/Everyone becomes a victim/we can’t control the pain.” Fans of sonic contemporary jazz artists like The Robert Glasper Experiment and Jose James will appreciate “Love Galore,” a Jill Scott-flavored salute to fantasy romance.
Sometimes the forays into the neo-soul zone slightly falters with “Blew Your Mind” and “Speeches.” Yet Life Cycles flows with even more positives when Debs exhibits her other musical strengths, such as the R&B spiritual elixir, “Sometimes:” “Let your faith do the walking/Let your heart do the talking,” and “Fizzy Lemonade,” an ode to fine wine with an organic warm soul vibe, snappy drums, tasty organ licks and brass. The latter track offers bonus coverage with a chilled ’African House’ remix by Felo Le Tee.
Debs’ passion for social issues resonate strongly with “Africa Higher Higher” and “Blending Colours,“ where relationships strive to find a middle ground despite different backgrounds: “I come from another country/You come from another world/I come from another culture/You come from another race/ What’s stopping us from blending colours.”
Life Cycles is a well-balanced, delightful journal from Debs, whose slow climb up the career ladder has come to fruition. By the way, kudos go to Debs’ publicity department for nailing down their “NeosoulfulJazzyRnBAfroSoulThings” campaign. Solidly Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver