A sense of whimsy comes naturally to south London-raised free-thinker Greentea Peng. From her inception, she has fused her musical influences of R&B, reggae – and more – to psychedelic effect. Since 2018 debut EP, ‘Sensi’, too, she’s proven time and time again that her fresh take on neo-soul is totally peerless. With her latest record, the mixtape ‘GREENZONE 108’, utilises her natural croon to create 10 feel-good tunes.
It gets off to a slightly iffy start, mind. The record’s opening couplet, “I can relate / Lucky I ain’t full of hate”, is a simple and candid line that is, well, relatable. Its whirling electric guitar riffs are spectacular, bur the song feels a little drawn out by the end, as we’re left with wobbly harmonies and muffled instruments, contradicting the vibrant notes before it. Her latest single, ‘Look To Him’, builds slowly too; a little too slowly, perhaps.
Once ‘Stuck In The Middle’ arrives, though, Greentea Peng hits her stride. She sounds snappier, and doesn’t dip in her ethereal sounds and illustrative lyrics. With fanfare accompanying the jumpy piano accents, you’re transported to a 1920s shindig where the big band is loud and the vocalist is slick, captivating the masses. It’s a suave and subdued track, as the 27-year-old tells us: “Listen closely, what’s that sound… / Coming up from the underground? / Their heads ain’t lost, but they ain’t been found… / Ain’t in the habit of sticking around.”
The musical highlights lie closer to the end of the record; ‘Three Eyes Open’ exudes a jerky ska quality that you can’t help rocking back and forth to, while the closing track ‘Top Steppa’ is Greentea’s rockstar moment yet. It’s dedicated to her late stepdad and the song’s chorus clangs with heaviosity ideal for head-banging frenzies. Best of all, though, is ‘My Love’, likely an ode to “blessing bestowed upon me” – her child on the way. Over a sunny and bright instrumental, Greentea’s love oozes from her some of her most moving lyrics: “I been waiting all so long for a reason, whether it’s right or wrong / I was slipping, now I know that / There’s no dipping from responsibilities”.
With her second mixtape, Greentea Peng shows immense growth in her pen and musicality. She keeps what works – the psychedelic and futuristic sounds that transport us to alternative universes – but she also plays around within this context, the newer influences of rock and electric guitar adding grit and instant energy. It’s inspired. As she matures into all aspects of her life, ‘GREENZONE 108’ is an utter triumph.
Release date: September 9
Record label: EMI