Karmaa was one of my favourite discoveries of last year. A Californian based singer/rapper/songwriter, she released a string of excellent tracks including Hacerte, Get Loud and What Happened? Her energy, humour and determination shone through all of her tracks, but her new collection of tracks show another side of this talented artist. In her This is Me EP she explodes into 2022 with 5 songs about the effects of mental health issues in a searingly honest and straightforward insight.
First up is Do You See Me? Which reflects on Karmaa’s experience with anxiety. She is singing about a relationship that didn’t work out and the huge effect it had on her. Suitably, reflective musically with a subtlety in her rap that draws you in, the lyrics stop you in your tracks.
My anxiety's in the way
I can't help if it weighs me down
I can't help how it makes me frown
I can't stop the fear of losing you
Feeling like imma drown
I had to listen to it two or three times to really take in everything that was happening lyrically, musically, and emotionally. It is a powerful start to an EP that takes on a subject that is still taboo for many people, without holding back or in any way presenting it in soft focus.
Track two, You Don’t Know, sees Karmaa battling depression as portrayed by the decision
I've been on this bridge
Fighting for life
I'm close to the edge
Looking for a sign
If I did jump
Would heaven still be mine
Anyone who has suffered from depression will recognise the thin bridge that she is treading representing a life that seems to be suspended above impenetrable depths. The trouble is that however frightening those depths, sometimes the sheer physical and mental effort required to keep from plunging in is just too much. A song that is already affecting is rendered extremely poignant by the simple keyboard and a vocal that is muted and distant as Karmaa retreats further and further from safety.
Track 3, VICES, is one of the most powerful statements I have heard on a record as she relates the time when it seemed that suicide could be the only way out. She sounds broken and tired and out of hope, and I definitely found it difficult to listen to, as indeed it had to be, but the sheer insight Karmaa gives as she puts her feelings into words is breath-taking and brutal.
I've been walkin on my own for some time now
I been feelin all alone my whole life yeah
I've been stumbling through my days
Like I'm stuck in a drunk haze
But the truth is that I'm sober
Fighting through the aches and pains
Depression got a vice grip on my neck now
I'm tappin out call it ref don't make me beg yeah
I don't know how much more my heart can take
I've already got too much food left up on my plate
Anyone who has been affected by this condition to the extent that Karmaa has to trust to strength, support and a measure of good fortune to draw back from the option of calling in the ref and saying ‘No more’.
Track four is my favourite on the EP as it shows Karmaa making her way slowly but determinedly away from rock bottom. It shows touches of her lyrical humour, but it is still mired in pain and difficulty. It is a very difficult trick for any songwriter to pull off, but in this song, she makes you wince and laugh at the same time.
Got some habits need breaking here's my confession
I'm Consumed by my fears which result in aggression
When I feel vulnerable my tongue is a weapon
Each moment of weakness is another learned lesson
I'm a DIY project
Don't mean to digress
I'm trying my best
Im a work in progress
The delivery is defiant, but you can tell there is a brittleness to that defiance as if she first has to convince herself before she convinces the rest of the world.
The fifth and final track, I got THIS, is a pep talk that Karmaa gives herself as she continues her recovery from the depths of her depression.
Can't stop, won't stop I'm on a high
Do you see me? Anxiety in my eyes
You don't know the depression I fight
I'm a work in progress overcoming every vice
I hit rock bottom but I got this
I got this
I got this
It is a statement of intent as she reflects on how far she has come but how much further she has to go before she can feel as though she has beaten it. The pep talk is one that she knows she will have to give herself regularly because depression is a dangerous foe and will strike when you least expect it. If you are not on your guard, there may be a time when it takes control again.
This is a brave, brilliant and ground-breaking EP that reflects on mental health conditions with an honesty that makes it amongst the rawest but most rewarding listens I’ve had in years. Karmaa has always been an excellent songwriter, but in this personal exploration she has transcended her art and opened a door on a subject that is all too often shut away.
If like me, you are deeply affected by this incredible set of songs you may be interested in the cause that Karmaa is supporting, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which receives 10% of the sales of the CD https://catchmekarmaa.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-me or associated Merchandise.