Nia Archives – Forbidden Feelingz
Nia Archives is one of those recent GenZ phenomenons to arise from the TikTok algorithm, together with artists like Cookiee Kawaai and PinkPantheress, to whom Archives is often compared. These comparisons are not totally unfounded. What these young artists have in common is how their practice is pushing classic dance and club styles from the 90’s golden era to a new generation, with Archives and Pantheress in particular finding themselves embroiled in the history of UK dance styles and breakbeats. For Leeds native Archives, her interest lies in jungle and all its root and sub-forms, arising as the unlikely heir apparent to the genre by both honouring its history and being bold enough to write herself into it in her own image. That image is calibrated to the times. Archives filters classical jungle through the current pop lens of the zeitgeist, applying her own cultural influences from jazz and R&B to the style while ensuring her jungle fits neatly into the two and a half minute sweet spot that’s become the norm in the age of streaming. Still, her music shows just how much she is invested in the style. Her name is literally Archives, for dub’s sake! Littered with references and an innate understanding of jungle’s classic motifs and sound system origins, she’s somewhat nerdy in her approach to creating music that both fits into the canon of the genre but also pushes it forward, an approach she’s called “future classic.”
On her latest EP Forbidden Feelingz, that approach can be heard in tracks like 18 And Over, which clashes a familiar reggae downbeat riff with the oft sampled vocal bit of “gimme a motherfucking breakbeat.” Racing breakbeats and drum loops underscore Archives’s otherwise sunny and laidback delivery, comparable to the stylings of Erykah Badhu. It’s a beguiling juxtaposition of styles and tonality that just works incredibly well. Being both purist and provocateur, Archives has found a mode of jungle that is inherently her own. On tracks like the bass heavy Part Of Me, it’s easy to miss how truly hardcore Archives’s beats are when wrapped up in her smooth and soulful vocals. That’s likely her greatest skill and hat-trick; injecting soul into the breakneck landscape of jungle. It would be amiss to not recognise her ascent through the jungle ranks as a woman in a usually male dominated landscape, and Archives allows her femininity to permeate the sound to gorgeous effect. On the title track, her voice is pitched to a helium high hook that sing-songs along ferocious bass and whiplash breaks. On the EP’s opening track Ode 2 Maya Angelou, she sets the tone by trading lines with a recording of Maya Angelou reciting And Still I Rise. “I’m feeling some type of way,” croons Archives as the bass kicks in and her drums begin to roll, receding at points to reveal crystal clear valleys filled like an oasis with birdsong, bright, ebbing drone synths, and of course the voice of Angelou proclaiming wisdom like some sort of divine goddess entity.
Forbidden Feelingz is a smart and intuitive body of work, the result of an artist who’s not merely a TikTok trend or algorithm anomaly, but a student of the style that she has come to master. Though part of what makes Archives so brilliant is her acknowledgment of her internet roots. In keeping the music on the EP succinct (albeit sometimes frustratingly so), she is creating astute, contextually layered jungle for the next generation to make viral. Jungle as a scene always struggled with whether to embrace its burgeoning mainstream appeal or to stay underground to avoid misrepresentation, a valid concern for minority artists in the 90’s. What Archives has realised is that the channels to the mainstream have changed. No longer dependent on major label exposure, but rather social media exposure in the control of the artists themselves, Archives has prophesied a mainstream future for jungle, but she’s making sure that it’s on her own terms. Those who paved the way for her to get to this point can rest easy knowing the culture is in safe and capable hands.
Watch the music video for 18 And Over from Forbidden Feelingz below.
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