With the release of her first two EP’s 2019’s On My Way to the Listening Party and last year’s Drug Music EP, along a handful of standalone singles, the rising Montreal-based artist Magi Merlin (pronounced MADGE-eye) exploded onto the Canadian national scene: Her work has received praise from from CRACK Magazine. She has opened for Lido Pimienta and played at Osheaga Festival alongside ODIE, Jessie Reyez and others.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the past year, you might recall that the rising Montreal-based artist released the Funkywhat-produced “Free Grillz,” a track that featured Merlin’s mix of fiery, self-assured bars and sultry crooned hooks gliding over icy, trap hi-hats, skittering snares, glistening synth arpeggios and a tweeter and woofer rattling bass line. “Free Grillz” found Merlin hoping to aspire to at least some of the tropes of hip-hop fame while simultaneously reflecting on a series of bitterly harsh and seemingly inescapable daily realities — including having obvious and clueless people carelessly mispronouncing your name, casual misogyny, and kicking clingy, stupid men out of your life with a mix of humor and world-dominating swagger.
You also also recall that Merlin’s third EP Gone Girl was released through Bonsound/AWAL earlier this year. The EP’s material may arguably be Merlins most personal and audacious effort to date: Merlin grew up in Saint Lazare, a suburb of Montreal, created by Canadian Nixon types in 70s. A place for white folks by white folks. Much like here in the States, the suburbs are viewed as the epitome of all that’s good “right and “normal.” Of course, unless you’re a young Black, Queer women — and suddenly that perceived, long-held normalcy is challenged. Thematically, the EP’s material draws from this personal experience, and sees the rising Montreal artist talking about casual racism, fake friends, generational angst and more.
Sonically, the EP continues her ongoing collaboration with Funkywhat and is informed by 90s house, drum ‘n’ bass, Motown and acid flecked hip-hop to create a sound that evokes smoky, after hours clubs — but with rumbling bass lines and thunderous 808s. EP single “Pissed Black Girl” was a perfect example of the EPs themes and overall sound with the single being a sleek and hyper modern bop featuring Merlin’s assured delivery gliding over icy synth arpeggios, skittering trap beats and a sinuous bass line. The song is rooted in the familiar pent up frustration with fake white progressives and phony liberals — but while playing with the cliched, racist trope of the angry Black woman; the song is a dance floor friendly banger that sees its narrator telling those fake, closet racists to sit down and shut the fuck up, while the rest of us take our rightful place on the dance floor.
“I wrote this song summer 2020,” Merlin says. “I was made to really look at my identity as a Black woman and what that identity means to the people I surround myself with. I didn’t realize a lot of the people I had around me at the time that identified as progressive, leftist and ‘allies’ were not as supportive as they made themselves out to be. Talking with them just resulted in arguments instead of compassion and understanding. This made me very angry and the only thing I was able to do to vent my frustrations and arrive at some form of catharsis was by singing about it.
“The title of the track references a story an ex-friend recounted to me as well as what I and many other black women who speak their minds are reduced to: an ‘angry black woman.’ This ex-friend told me about a time they went to a predominantly white party in the suburbs and one of the party-goers, while staring out onto the front lawn of the house, said: “wow, there’s a N***er on the lawn” – one of many atrocious acts that go unchecked in white suburbia and various other white spaces. If there is anything I’ve learned from my experiences with ignorant and bigoted people, it is how unapologetic I need to be about my existence. I’m a girl; I am pissed and I’m Black. What about it?”
Merlin’s latest single sees her collaborating with longtime collaborator Funkywhat and rising Montreal-based Brazilian-Canadian, queer artist of color, Fernie. Last fall, Fernie released their critically applauded, full-length debut, Aurora, an album that featured a blend of emancipatory soul, melodic R&B and vulnerable lyricism paired with subtle nuances of 90s melancholia. Fernie worked on the album over the course of a three-year period, in which they also sought to be perceived as a whole person. The music they were working on created a safe space for them to reveal, share and affirm themselves.
Over the past few months, Merlin and Fernie have run into each other quite a bit: They’ve played some of the same festival lineups, and have attended the same shows and parties. Interestingly, they’ve often talked about collaborating on working on a song together. So when Funkywhat sent his longtime collaborator an unfinished version of “DOLLA BILL,” which he recorded with Fernie — and she immediately jumped on board. The end result is a soulful and strutting bop centered around skittering trap-inspired beats, atmospheric synths, a supple and propulsive bass line serving as a silky, grown and sexy, two-step inducing frame for two rising artists to push each other to new territories.