Repping my home country of Nigeria with graceful class and elegance, the Nigerian-born, California-bred duo, VanJess, delivered their debut album years after their formation. The duo, made up of sisters Ivana and Jessica Nwokike, can be traced back to 2008 when they made their talents public, uploading covers of songs by Rihanna and Beyoncé. After their 2015 EP, 00 Till Escape, they began a steady output of singles and collaborations that have brought us to this very moment.
Silk Canvas sports a soulful sound backed by 90s-inspired production. Standing at 14 tracks, their debut album is led by the singles “Through Enough,” “Easy,” “Addicted,” “Touch the Floor,” and “Control Me,” with features from Masego, GoldLink, Berhana, Leikeli47 and Little Simz. Put on your dancing shoes because this album is quite the groove.
Silk Canvas is a VanJess-hosted R&B party. For just under an hour the group takes listeners on a trip through both their upbeat and calmer brand of R&B. Kicking off the album, they get things started with “My Love” and “Control Me.” Both are slower and bass heavy, but together they serve as the perfect buildup for what’s next.
On “Touch the Floor,” the energy immediately increases. With Masego working his saxophone magic throughout and an infectious chorus, it makes it impossible to stand still. Passing through “Filters,” “Honeywheat,” “Addicted” amd “Cool Off the Rain,” VanJess returns to the more groovy and laid back side of things. Towards the end of the interlude we see a slow, but steady build up to what turns out to be the climax of the album.
The highlight of the night begins with the GoldLink-featured “Through Enough.” The DMV rapper slides onto the dance floor and provides a slick verse laced with a dash of charm. As the song comes to an end, you’ve definitely broke another sweat, but time for a break right? Nope.
“Another Lover” has VanJess adding a dose of EDM as they steadily build things up during their verses just to top it all off at during the hook. “‘Till the Morning,” my favorite off the album, sees the same upbeat production. Thankfully, the duo has some compassion and brings down the energy for listeners to catch their collective breath, grab a towel and wipe off any sweat.
The rest of Silk Canvas serves as the come down before the party’s end. “Best Believe” and “The One” sport a similar style of production but their slowed tempo is perfect for the come down. “Easy” has appearances from Berhana and Leikeli47 and the change in energy as the R&B fun comes to a close. “Rewind Time” is the perfect track to end the album, one of the more slowed down songs, it includes a one-minute outro that brings the album to a satisfying close.
Silk Canvas is a love-themed album, covering almost all aspects of the ever-so-confusing concept. Much of the album, including “Control Me” and “Honeywheat” sees the Nwokike sisters tiptoeing the line of true love as they show their infatuation for their partners. Other songs on the album take a different route conceptually. “Through Enough” shows their hesitance to get into something serious, while “Another Lover” shows discontent with their current relationship, while “Filters” discusses the difficulty to tell the difference between real and fake in both life and love.
VanJess has delivered one of the more impressive debut albums in 2018. Their ability to blend both today’s and yesteryear’s R&B without one dominating another is the highlight of the album. The sisters take advantage of their natural chemistry to produce one of the top R&B albums of the year. They also do so without drowning listeners in depressing love stories, a rarity in the genre. Kudos to the Nigerian siblings.
Words by Wongo.