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The Nine Lives of Victoria Monét - Jaguar II - Album Review

She’s the one, she’s one. We could have already won if only we knew she was the One.

Victoria Monét’s cocoa butter smooth ‘debut’ album solidifies her as an R&B torchbearer with one of the industry’s sharpest pens.

"Songs are really gifts. Ideas that are in the wind and they happen to pass by you. And if you grab them, then they’re yours." - Victoria Monét, Apple Music


Intro - Open Your Eyes

The journey to success is seldom linear and there are few stories that exemplify this aphorism more than Victoria’s. Growing up in Sacramento, California, she was a shy kid who only came alive when she performed. After educating herself on the production world and creating music at a local recording studio, she learnt about producer Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins (Beyoncé, Brandy, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson). In 2008 she added him on Myspace and in return she was added to the new girl group he was forming in Los Angeles, Purple Reign. Shortly after, they signed a record deal with Motown Records.

Co-signed by one of the world’s most prolific producers and attached to a label with a track record of churning out legendary acts, Victoria was set for superstardom.


Not quite.


The journey to success is seldom linear, remember?


Purple Reign’s music was mismanaged in label purgatory and they were eventually dropped before they had a chance to release an album.


To support herself, she co-wrote songs for artists like Nas, Diddy and Fifth Harmony while recording 4 EPs between 2014 and 2018.


She also co-penned some of the most pivotal hits in Ariana Grande’s career. Honeymoon Avenue, the Grammy-nominated 7 Rings and Thank U, Next, just to name a few.


In 2020 she released her EP Jaguar to rave reviews, and thanks (?) to the pandemic rendering us fiends for escapist entertainment, a renewed limelight. The project was refreshingly idiosyncratic, blending disco, R&B, funk and Victoria’s Monét’s knack for joyfully sexual double entendres.


‘Supersonic pussycat/Just like a jaguar, silky black/So let me climb your wood like that/ You got nine times to come hit that’ - Victoria Monét, Jaguar


In between the Jaguars, Victoria gave birth to her now-two-year-old daughter Hazel Monét, released some well-received standalone singles, signed to RCA Records after building a buzz independently and put the finishing touches on the first Jaguar’s ‘older, more developed, voluptuous sister’.


Intended to be a trilogy, Victoria later announced that Jaguar II would be the final part of the Jaguar experience, placing even higher expectations on this follow-up.



How Does It Make You Feel - Jaguar II

Jaguar II, executive produced by the star’s longtime partner-in-tunes, Academy Award winner D’Mile (H.E.R., Ty Dolla $ign, Silk Sonic), is an evolution from its predecessor. A cohesive kaleidoscope of 60s and 70s live instrumentation and the 2023 audaciousness of a black queer woman discarding the ‘camouflage’ of conformity.


The album begins with Smoke featuring frequent collaborator Lucky Daye. Blazed in the vaporous fusion of 70s funk and reggae, it’s a worthy addition to the canon of transcendental weed tributes like The Beatles’ Got To Get You Into My Life and Rick James’ Mary Jane. The song showcases her improved breath control while spotlighting her trademark witty lyricism. Like the songstress, her ‘blunt’ can go ‘both ways’. As the song progresses some of the more clunky lyrics like Daye’s ‘Cough, you don’t need a mask, this that s*** you smoke to’ are elevated by the duo’s proven chemistry, a melange of piping horns, organs and shimmering electronic accents.


This collaboration is followed by the sensual comedown Smoke (Reprise) that slyly transitions into Party Girls featuring reggae legend Buju Banton. Sauntering in as another mellow number, it is injected with new life when Banton delivers on his promise to show us ‘what a true Jamaican night life is like’. When the song doubles back to Monét’s chorus - ‘Let’s hear it for the party girls, out lighting up the world’ - her Aaliyah-esque tone is somehow brighter. The juxtaposition between Victoria’s laidback delivery and Buju’s bombastic declarations create a wonderfully dizzy experience. Like the best parties, this song is unpredictable and guaranteed to keep you dancing.


The Katyranda-produced standout Alright continues Party Girls's celebration of fun through the lens of female sexual liberation. The deep house number mixes electronic bass and cutthroat lyrics. The strikingly explicit opening line ‘He gave me some d*** in bed/Now he think his d*** is embedded’ is reminiscent of the opening lines of Chlöe’s Body Do, 'Do you ever wonder, like, who else is f****** your man?’. Along with the forthright lyricism of Summer Walker, Ari Lennox and SZA, Victoria Monét, while being a singular artist, joins a growing group of R&B ladies daring taboos around their sexual agency.


The bluesy Cadilliac (A Pimp’s Anthem) continues this album’s conceit of female empowerment with mellifluous horns and staccato delivery in the lines ‘We women, been winnin’ since the beginning of your whole life’, ‘And if you f***** with it, you better be willin’ to roll them dice’.


The mysterious flute at the end ushers in the angelic centrepiece How Does It Make You Feel: an ode to love with ‘no compromise’. Evocative lines like ‘Just like the sand I’ll always be for shore’ are punctuated by cinematic strings and tintinnabulating xylophone. It perfectly flaunts her vocal growth and her enrapturing legato vocalization whisks you away to another showstopper On My Mama.


Interpolating and sampling the infectious chorus of 2009 hit I Look Good by Chalie Boy, the track this multihyphenate wrote in the throes of postpartum depression is an unapologetic confidence anthem filled to the brim with triumphant horns and Instagram caption ready lyrics. We should all aspire to be ‘so deep in [our] bag like a grandma with a peppermint’.

‘Remember there are many voices of the jungle. But the clearest one will always be your own.’- L’Tanya Chestang-Cubit, Jaguar


I’m The One overflows with urgency. While the lyrics deride an oblivious lover who wouldn’t know she was the one even if ‘God whispered [them] [her] name’, it doubles as a much-deserved read of the industry and consumers who declare ‘R&B is dead’ while ignoring her over decade long contributions.


Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt) swaggers in guns blazing, soulfully blasting those who want to eat the fruits of her labour.


‘It ain’t even Christmas/And it ain’t your birthday/So why you callin’ me with a wishlist/Like I live in a vase?’, ‘Do I look like a tree to you? /Well, leaf me alone if I do’.


Hollywood featuring Earth, Wind and Fire, one of the triple threat’s chief influences, is an introspective track. It examines how easy it is to ‘get lost in all the glitter and bling’. The bridge encourages self-reflection in the listener.


‘What do you live for? /What are you here for? /What do you breathe for? / What do you stand for? / What would you die for?’.


As her daughter’s adorable giggle ends the song, it’s clear she has finally found her answer.

The showtune-spirited Good Bye bids the Jaguar chapter adieu with hints of Odyssey’s vintage disco harmonies.


If we're gonna say goodbye, let's make it a good bye - Fin




Overall, Jaguar II is an expectedly impressive step up and a breezy listen. Like other artist+producer bonds- Janet Jackson and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Toni Braxton and BabyFace, Aaliyah and Timbaland, Brandy and Darkchild and FLO and MNEK-Victoria and D’Mile have struck gold together.


She is a true student of soul and has graduated summa cum laude. While no one can predict the future, if her upcoming sold-out tour is any indication, this is her Moment.


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This 19 year old British Nigerian writer and poet is called Emoefeoghene Akpofure Imoyin-Omene but because you’re cool, you can call him Efe, Mr Omene if you’re feeling spicy.


From an early age Efe has had an affinity towards the artistry of writing. It gave him the chance to create alternative worlds when his sometimes felt cold and confusing. Writing became his space to unleash emotions too explosive to articulate.


This love intensified during the pandemic. While most were reeling, Efe was finding healing through writing his debut novel. Ese: The Misadventures of Moving Forward- a book he affectionately labels ‘YA Romance with socially conscious and comedic twists’. It beautifully chronicles the trials, tribulations and euphoria that comes at the worldbuilding adolescent stage through the eyes of an unconventional protagonist and their diverse found family. From his work with The National Centre for Writing in their Lit From The Inside programme at 17 and publishing a zine with them, working on his school’s English Blog, Podcast and Instagram, starting the 1st Black Student Forum in Wymondham College, editing and mentoring, and using his imagination to paint possibility, the sky is too limiting for this bright star.


Get ready world because Efe is.

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