Cerisé Proves How She’s The Girl She Thinks She Is In “I’m Her The Mixtape”

 By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza & Tawanda Chari

Cerisé West - who heartily and unapologetically reps Harare’s Hatfield environs and every other little aspect of contemporary [street-conscious, trendy] city life - is a fiercely gifted rapper armed with a beautifully angelic and sultry voice; as well as being amazingly talented with cool and groovy lyrical prowess/song writing skills that makes her a cut above the rest, yet, in her own distinct way that’s aptly punctuated with a rebellious flair.

This, plus a wavy, regal, and youthful discography that can be left on repeat anytime and at any place imaginable undoubtedly makes Cerisé the unrivalled Zim Hip Hop “Queen of Melodies”.

But because her profound rapping stock is still confined to a relatively minute conglomeration of a loyal fan base –  due to the ineluctable dictates of time, chance/opportunity, and marketing in a densified, cut-throat Zimbabwean [urban] music industry – her name won’t obviously ring a bell even to some quarters of enthusiastic listeners of Zimbabwean urban sounds who claim they fervently lend their ears and auditory mental facilities to contemporary, youthful Zim Hip Hop acts.

Her seemingly (though palpably) authentic [urban] aesthetic and exotic aura appeal to the organically street-conscious essence of Hip-Hop; as her enviable versatility traverses the modern rap dynamics that are in vogue which encompass emo, trap, lo-fi, and pop beats. This ingenious sonic conflation vastly sets her apart from her peers, as observed through the past few years; regardless of whether such peers are female or male emcees.

Such a painstaking attempt to give an apt précis of the type of rap that Cerisé engenders within the confines of Zim Hip Hop through the succinctly laid background/profile  is indispensable; this is so because it is directionless, futile, pointless, and devoid of context and nuance to  review her music (with ample honesty) without truly appreciating her distinct rap persona, artistic style, sonic range, lyrical elasticity, and overall motif(s). It presages a holistic critique of her music.

Her profoundly priceless rapping stock largely goes unnoticed, particularly in the sphere of Zim Hip Hop, owing to her somewhat obstinate though earnest efforts in refusing to conform to the [tired, commercialized, cliché, and hyper-sexualized] tropes of what a femcee should look and rap like. 

This is what she preaches via her latest songs in the April 2022 project christened I’m Her The Mixtape – a 19-track project which the overwhelming generality of Zim Hip Hop has implicitly conspired not to accord its due attention. (Perhaps the inevitable passage of time is the only recourse for Cerisé as far as organically procuring a sizeable base of dedicated listeners is concerned.)

Project after project, single after single, this is the biggest message that Cerisé attempts to put across (the refusal to conform to set conventions for female musicians in Zimbabwe – her niche of loyal listeners is now familiar with Cerisé’s little protest) – and, sometimes, she delivers this with convincing success; sometimes, with deflating audience reactions in terms of metrics; and, other times, with  fairly remarkable break-even points.

It is the game. It is what it is. It is relentlessly unkind. It is remiss of us not to underscore such a concrete reality that underpins the currents of Zimbabwe’s music industry and its attendant audience tastes/preferences. What Cerisé – in the final analysis – says to the world is that she really is the coolest girl in the rap game. Faithfully locked in to her art; deliberately oblivious to how the markets determine who the greater majority of the urban's masses listens to at any given particular time.

Notwithstanding the hushed release and reception of Cerisé West’s offering I’m Her The Mixtape, what we cannot gloss over is the salient fact that her [seemingly exotic] rap image and aura, inspired by an authentic [urban] aesthetic appeal mentioned earlier, emphatically make her really cool in her own proud way.

As with all musicians, some critics may fail to comprehend, grasp, and appreciate this well; but Cerisé implies that definitely, that’s not her damn business. She's too cool to mind to that.

Such artistic pride and exotic feels are expectedly diluted by relevant local contexts – you can tell her ear is rooted to the much-vaunted streets, with all the connotations and innuendos thereof.

The new projects portrays a Cerisé who appears to embrace this material reality gracefully, as attested by her shrewd musical sense that allows her to elude the pitfalls of overly complicating her art.

Her choice in producers speaks to the local contexts that she subjects her rap intelligence and swagger to – she has considerably worked with Southerton’s Mob-Figgaz/Mob Ent (the Zim Hip Hop duo/label of brothers Mob X The Don and Mob G). The mixtape was mostly produced by Chris Raimonds of Studio V VII in Hatfield.

This nuanced approach in dissecting Cerisé West’s music and her latest mixtape makes her raps a wholesome, refreshing listening experience.

By now, you should have [sub-consciously] picked that a melodic and wavy street-conscious rapper is being described here. A city girl who effortlessly raps city life from the contextualized vantage point of an unrestrained Harare cool girl. (That’s why we once previously wrote about Cerisé West here.)

Cerisé has convincingly mastered the fusion of hip-hop’s rhythm-based lyricism with pop’s default preference for melodious vocals and catchy feels. It creates the vibe of a rap cool girl reppin’ her streets with street-inspired loyalty while simultaneously weaving flashes and glimpses of personal life experiences. With the hope that such individual rap excursions inspire collective listening experiences.

This is what her new mixtape is biased towards; yet sticking to Cerisé’s clarity of identity as outlined in the earlier paragraphs of this review piece.

Her discography, old and new, exudes this artistic act of evolution [the fusion of rhythm-based lyricism and melodiously catchy feels] – inspired of course by the fountain of experience she sips from; given that she’s been dealing in raps since her college days.

A trademark feature of her raps, brought forward to I’m Her the Mixtape, she glides and floats over beats almost like a mellow but poignant RnB or Blues singer. And, yet, with a dash of sound caution, she doesn’t delve all the way in with the tonalities of pitch and vocal projection.

All the while, she executes such delicate abilities and little but profound acts of artistic evolution with magnificent maintenance of a steadily balanced cadence –  seamlessly switching flows at will for the ultimate punch melodic that rap fans helplessly love.

As can be gleaned from her previous projects, and likewise, the new mixtape shows that what sets Cerisé West apart is the inescapable sonic reality that she can be technical with her scheming (without making it didactic as some rappers are wont to do), giving you refreshing doses of melody and still making you feel something. She does not make her bars a vacuous exercise. It’s this musical dexterity that lends invaluable replay value and sing-along effects to her releases, including the new project under discussion herein.

Cerisé – with the typical defiance of an independently conscious, young city woman who dabbles in (often unappreciated) artistic exploits as the inalienable basis for her intrinsic purpose –  boldly projects emotions in ways that triggers a listener to feel what she has felt or what she has gone through in navigating the complexities of purported freedom in adulthood. It is palpable in a way that makes a serious listener with sufficient patience glued to the music without  feeling estranged from her bars.

This act of listener-sensitivity while not veering from your artistic lane as a rapper is not an easy thing to execute because :

1.      Picking the right instrumental is an arduous task of songwriting and the attendant recording, mixing, and mastering, and publication.

2.     Detecting the key of the instrumental is a cumbersome technical feat.

3.     The process involving scat with the melodies, with the raps then coming in 

I’m Her is a mixtape (and Cerisé flourishes with such a rap art form), so there’s no overarching motif or unifying conceptual theme or idea recurrent throughout the rap project. And some of the instrumentals may not have been hers (this puts a dampening effect for conservative rap loyalists) but nonetheless, and on the overall,  it’s a good entry point into her music.

Cerisé West, through her mixtape I'm Her, boldly proves that she can make a good full length project and that she’s a force to reckon with in Zim Hip Hop circles.

She conveys a simple but powerfully defiant statement: she’s really the girl she thinks she is – Harare’s cool rap girl; a 7vengoddess (sevengoddess).

She insinuates that she will gladly chase quality over clicks, her swagger, charm, and elegant aura keeping her ears, heart, and auditory senses rooted to her distinct style of rap. She’s her.  

We have said too much, and we don’t want to make it all superfluous.

Listen to I’m Her The Mixtape by Cerisé by clicking the Audiomack link below and share with us your listening experience.

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