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Album Review: “Motherland Journey” Blue Lab Beats. Words: Del Osei-Owusu

Blue Lab Beats – Motherland Journey

  1. Sky Reflections 

The first track on this opens with with an instrumental, you could just imagine this as a concert entry music… The way that this starts off is uplifting, and I love it. I love the the synth chords start out, and I really need to find out where NKOK gets his Maschine Kits from because that’s the secret sauce right there…. This sets the tone for the album, a bit of jazz in there with an afro beat bass line…. What a treat to the ears…

  1. Labels (Feat. Tiana Major9 & Kofi Stone)

Tiana and Kofi are the first of the collaborations on the album, and they bring the smooth flavours to this. The groove has a bounce to it, and Kofi’s London drawl combined with Tiana’s beautiful vocals really bring this to life. The piano and strings combination…. 

Beautiful! The beat just… bounces!

  1. I’ll Be There For You (Feat. Teni Tenks)

This gives me a late 90s vibe. Again with the smoothness… Then a saxophone comes wandering in, ushering in a trumpet solo…

But the trumpet’s production is something else it’s harmonising on itself making that melody it’s playing more rounded. 

Beautifully done.

Toni goes off on a tangent adlibbing then blesses my ears with some sweeeeeeet sugar scat vocals…. 

That’s what I’m talking about! 

Probably my favourite track on the album so far. 

This one I wrote the review for already…  Time to introduce my guys… 

  1. Gotta Go Fast – Blue Lab Beats 

Blue Lab Beats are back with more fire following up the monster of a track from 2021 “Motherland Journey” with “Gotta Go Fast”. 

Listening to this I ask myself can these two talented individuals do any wrong?

Probobly not. It’s hit 10,000+ – yes let me lay it down again TEN THOUSAND PLUS streams in its first day of release. 

So these are doing something special. 

This track full of slick synths sounds – Herbie, George… 

Guitar solo giving me George Benson callbacks… 

The guest trumpet playing from Poppy Daniels is smooth and sultry, chromatic notes that give you the goosebumps. Wow she can PLAY! 

The drums are mad. Really tight, the hi hats are off the chain the way that they come out in 16ths as well as rolls in some place but it all fits nicely!

I could hear this being played with a live band and everyone having the time of their lives both on the stage and in the audience. 

*picks up phone and calls Jazz Cafe” hey are you planning on having Blue Lab Beats?? Have a listen to THIS!

Blue Lab Beats are a multi instrumentalist duo from London NKOK and Mr. DM. They are already causing havoc on the airwaves by having been played by Tom Robinson on the BBC Introducing Mixtape recently with “Motherland Journey” using Godfather of afrobeat Mr. Fela Kuta’s vocals (Not an easy feat as his estate don’t usually allow this to happen… but they did…) 

They have remixed tracks for Rag n Bone Man, Due Lipa and so many more. 

This track is from their forthcoming album “Motherland Journey. 

Do not fall asleep on them. You will regret it. 

  1. A Vibe 

Oh it is indeed. This has a bit of a swing, but it’s off beat, and… it makes it just bang. 

The synth lead choices on this really do the job, really funky space age synths that make your head spin! 

It’s all sat on a bed of rhodes piano, make it sounds sumptuous in my headphones… Lead guitar is back too, jazzy as anything! 

  1. Don’t Give It Away (Feat. Emmavie)

Emmavie is a force of nature unto herself, so seeing her on the credits got me excited! 

Do you know what? 

She did not disappoint me, and I’m glad that she’s on this, as a vocalist producer musician she absolutely KILLS…..

I love the trippy chord progression on this, and letting Emmavie do her thing on her vocals, I feel blessed listening to this. 

  1. Inhale and Exhale 

Bass harmonics with that sensual lead….you can almost meditate to this, I could hear ADSR vibes on this too.. 

Are they channeling a bit of Victor Wooten with the bass here? 


  1. Blow You Away (Delilah) (Featuring Ghetto Boy) 

This is an Afro beat groove starting with a gorgeous guitar riff over some shaker, it’s got that natural groove that makes you want to dance, with a little bit of swagger to the camera… I love Ghetto Boy’s lazy vocals on this it just fits the track… The tempo thenslides into 5th gear  into this… 

  1. Sensual Loving (Feat. Ghetto Boy)

The guitar line and horn parts really make this song groove along, this is a party starter for sure…. This is a stand out track among so many stand out tracks on this, the drum roll to get things started just gives it that party atmosphere. This is the summer tune to end all summer tunes… This is part of the new amapiano vibe coming out of Africa and causing havoc in the diaspora right now… 


  1. Motherland Journey 

This is what I wrote about it back in December… 

When this dropped in my email, I was… shocked.

Blue Lab Beats have been on my radar for a very long time, and they’ve made some incredible music. If you don’t believe me go look them up…

This track is no different in fact…. 

They upped their game. 

NKOK (Namali Kwaten) and Mr. DM (David Mrakpor) have only gone and used the vocals of Fela Kuti on this track. For those of you who don’t know he’s one of the founding fathers of afrobeat as we know it, without him it could be argued that the afrobeat artists wouldn’t exist today.

And it’s amazing. 

My sister Justina coined a term a few years ago that I loved, this is ancestral soul as a genre, and it also taps into the relatively new genre amapiano that comes out of South Africa. They put their own unique jazzy twist on it too, with an addictive guitar line, but I have to shout out the horns that are being played here! WOW! Jazzy to the max. I was listening to this on the way home, and I’ve been running it back and forth just to get the vibe.

This was co written and produced with legendary Ghanaian engineer and producer KillBeatz. The estate of Mr. Kuti gave their blessing for this to be released – the track itself is based around the vocals from his song “Everything Scatter”. Shout out to the talents of Poppy Daniels and Kaidi Akinnibi playing those killer horn parts and solos!

So who are Blue Lab Beats?

Well, they’re a duo from London, NKOK and Mr. DM met in the hallways of WAC (Weekends Arts College) where NKOK would bust his beats in the lunch hall, and Mr. DM invited him to come and hang out in a studio – watching Mr. DM play every instrument in the room…. BOOM. It was a match made in heaven.

There is one more detail…..

What is it?

Oh yeah. 

They’re grammy nominated for their work on the Angelique Kidjo album Mother Nature, and have a MOBO nomination for ‘Best Jazz Act’.  This song banged back then. 

Among the final project… It bangs now.

  1. Ultramarine Interlude 

What I like about Blue Lab Beats is that their sound conjures up so many different images… This track is fluid in its flavour, and I don’t think it’s an accident…. I think I understand the flow of this album now, the interludes break it up from jazz/soul to Afrobeat to dance….

Leading us into….

  1. Warp (Featuring Dead Mathod and Kaidi Akinnibi)

D&B drum beats. I know for a fact NKOK plays this live on his Maschine at breakneck speed  check out their Instagram if you think I’m lying! There are some tasty chords with a lovely synth lead to go over it all, they are joined by Dead Mathod and Kaidi Akinnibi, the MVP here is that the lovely trumpet and sax solos that come in, really enjoyed that… 

  1. Slow Down 

The vocals on this are silky smooth as delivered by Ego Ella May, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of her and…

I’m impressed! Nice harmonies over a neo soul groove and there’s a lovely high register lead synth solo later which is pleasing to the ear… another stand out track on this album.

  1. Dat It (Featuring Kiefer) 

The piano chords on this are hypnotic… and the piano solo to go with it just draw you in, makes me feel like I should be sitting in a jazz club listening to this. This is so soulful, and I’ve probably listened to this at least four times… 

  1. Home 

Oh the vocals are so sensual on this… this is just gorgeous! 


Right now I’m looking out into my garden it’s a gorgeous morning and this is soundtracking my morning tea. 

Then comes in a trumpet solo that really talks to my soul. 

I’m two two tracks away and I don’t want this album to stop…

  1. Real Good 

Jerome Thomas is the featured artist here, and does he go in on his harmonies? 

Yes. Yes he does. I love the vinyl crackle at the beginning, you could just imagine this being dropped sometime in the 80s, and then brought of a time capsule for it to be revived and remixed. The soulfulness just  makes it fit snugly and being the penultimate track it just shows you that there’s more to come. 

  1. Reflection 

The outro is so lovely. I love the strings on this, and could imagine a star studded performance with a string quartet with this… it’s like the closing theme to a film soundtrack. 

Credits roll. 

It’s a wrap! 

On the whole, the entire album is a proper piece of work. 

What do I mean by that?

Well you can’t just dive in to one track you have to listen to it from top to bottom to get what it’s all about. 

On a personal note I’ve been looking forward to the release of this album since Blue Lab Beats announced it. The day before it was released my grandmother passed away. 

Paraphrasing Leonard Cohen, “I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the lord…” according to biblical accounts David used to play for King Saul to lift his spirit it was the only thing that would soothe his soul. 

Given that the title track was recorded in Ghana, where my family are from, this made me think of Ghana, and my family. 

Thankyou so much NKOK and Mr DM, this has given me light during a dark time. 

Special thanks to Kwame and Maura Kwaten Ferocious Talent

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