Top 10 podcasts of 2017

2017 has been a great year for podcasts. My old favourites has continued to release great episodes and I’ve discovered a lot of interesting new ones especially Black British ones. This list is my top ten favourite podcasts I’ve enjoyed listening to in 2017. Whether they debuted in 2017 or not, as long as they released new episodes in 2017 they count. They’re ranked in alphabetical order only.

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Blanguage: Co-hosts, Janelle and Daniel are best friends and Black Londoners who discuss music and Black British culture. They’re so fun to listen to because of their friendship and their Black British perspective is in much needed in the podcast landscape.


The Bugle: The Bugle was created 10 years and was originally hosted by Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver. John Oliver left The Bugle in 2016 with the success of HBO news/satire show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Since its relaunch in 2016, The Bugle has remained one of the most essential political satire podcasts, still hosted by Zaltzman with a rotating set of co-hosts. It’s very hilarious and frequent co-hosts include Nish Kumar, Hari Kondabolu and Alice Fraser.


Code Switch: Another NPR podcast is Code Switch co-hosted by Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji. It’s a podcast on race and ways of navigating race, although focused on America, it’s often relatable and applicable to other countries. Typical of NPR the production quality is incredible and the level of reporting and research is outstanding.


The Friend Zone: The Friend Zone is made great by the close friendships of the co-hosts. Fran, Dustin and Assante discuss their personal lives and wellbeing and give great advice to help you get through the week.


If I Were You: If I were You is co-hosted by comedy duo, Jake and Amir, who played comedic versions of themselves in a long running series on web comedy website/YouTube channel Collegehumor. The pair humorously answer listener questions often asking for relationship advice and the banter is always hilarious. There are catchphrases, running jokes and off-kilter humour. It’s seriously funny stuff.


Mostly Lit: Mostly Lit is honestly one of my favourite podcasts ever. Black Londoners, Alex Reads, Rai and Derek Owusu discuss literature, pop culture and wellness. They make talking about books so interesting and have encouraged me to read a lot more and always have the best recommendations. I love their banter and friendship and their Black British perspectives.


The Nod: After ending their podcast, For Colored Nerds, co-hosts Eric and Brittany started The Nod, a podcast about all things black. Self-described as blackness biggest fans they discuss things about being black that are not so obvious. It always makes for an interesting listen.


Pop Culture Happy Hour: NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour is a long term favourite of mine and as someone who really enjoys all things pop culture. Linda Holmes hosts with a panel of guests which often includes Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon. This year they’ve released some shorter episodes on a more regular schedule. It’s recommended listening for anyone interested in pop culture.


Still Processing: The hosts of Still Processing describe their podcast in their intro so I’ll just paraphrase that. Wesley Morris writes about how pop culture relates to humans and Jenna Wortham writes about how humans relate to technology. They talk about many different things often to do with pop culture and race. It’s always interesting to hear their perspectives on things.


Tag Me in Podcast: Based in Bristol, Anton and Ola are another pair of Black Londoners who bring more Black British voices to podcasting. They discuss and give good advice on personal and professional lives.

Nervous Conditions review: Almost 30 years later this seminal novel is just as relevant and important as it was upon release


It’s been almost 30 years since the novel Nervous Conditions was published in 1988. Written by Zimbabwean author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, it was her third novel and to date is one of only four novels the author has published (a sequel to Nervous Conditions was published in 2006). Set in late 1960s and 70s Rhodesia, an unrecognised state from 1965 to 1979, now Zimbabwe, the novel is especially relevant considering the recent events. The recent coup of the national party, Zanu PF and the forced resignation of revolutionary turned dictator, Robert Mugabe who ruled the country for 37 years prompt a look back at this novel. The interesting thing about the novel is not it is not overtly political. Set in the 60s and 70s this was before Zimbabwe began independent from British rule and before Mugabe became president. The novel follows its protagonist, a little girl named Tambudzai, as she navigates the oppressive patriarchal domination in her home. After her older brother, Nhamo, dies Tambu is sent to the missionary school, where Nhamo studied, away from home with her wealthy middle-class uncle Babamukuru and his family. She finds it difficult to assimilate into the culture of the missionary school and is alienated from the white British missionaries and their children who speak Shona rather than English. Her cousin, Nyasha, after arriving back in Rhodesia from England where she had spent a significant portion of her childhood struggles to fit back into the oppressive patriarchal landscape of Rhodesia. The novel highlights the way in which assimilation is not necessarily a positive thing but can be a difficult and traumatic experience. It also points to the way women experience assimilation might be different from men. Both female characters experience this change in very different ways. The politics of the novel is not explicit or overt but is represented in the mental states of the characters and what colonialism has done to the natives of the countries it’s affected. It’s certainly not the first but is an important representation of African feminism and the struggles which black (especially African) women go through. The novel however does not wallow in despair it’s certainly dark at times but it’s ultimately uplifting and recommended reading for everyone especially young black girls.

Nathan For You season 4 finale review: a beautifully poignant portrayal of regret and loss

Two weeks ago on November 9th 2017 the season finale of the fourth season of Nathan For You aired. The feature length episode (an hour and 24 minutes) had been hyped by the promotional material for the series and expectations were high after the spectacular season finale for the third season. If you’ve never seen an episode of Nathan For You the premise might sound insane but it totally works. It is a docu-reality comedy series co-created by comedian Nathan Fielder and airs on Comedy Central. The premise is Fielder plays an off-kilter slightly exaggerated version of himself who tries to use his business background and life experiences to help struggling companies and people. He frequently offers them outlandish and ridiculous strategies and despite the reluctance of the business owners they often go through it. The lines between reality and fiction are tricky. None of the contributors and business owners are actors but Fielder and his team have an eye for finding the weirdest, most interesting and sometimes delusional people.  He also has a large production team who are able to orchestrate and are able to put the ridiculous plans into action. Despite not being scripted the series often gets into the most extreme and farcical situations imaginable.

In a season two episode titled “Souvenir Shop / E.L.A.I.F.F.” Nathan helps a Hollywood souvenir shop and during the episode meets a Bill Gates impersonator. The season four finale begins by looking back to when Nathan and a so-called Bill Gates impersonator, Bill Heath, recorded commentary for a DVD release. Bill comes to their office regularly to drop gifts and chat with the team. But he is preoccupied by a long-lost love, a woman named Frances Gaddy who he regrets not marrying. As a lonely 78 year old he doesn’t have much in his life and still clings on to the glory days of playing (American) football in high school. Nathan decides to take on the mission of finding Frances. It’s an ambitious task as there are over 600, 000 women in the U.S. named Frances and she’s likely to have a different surname if she married, nevertheless Nathan goes through with it. Throughout the four seasons of this show Nathan has gone through a lot of ambitious tasks and while this might not be overall the most difficult one it’s the most emotionally-affecting one making this the best episode of Nathan For You ever. Nathan and Bill go back his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. Frances went to another high school to Bill, in a town called Dumas a couple of hours from Little Rock. They have difficult gaining access to the school but as usual Nathan comes up with a ridiculous plan which somehow works. Nathan and his team pretend they’re shooting a sequel to the 2012 film Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey, called Mud 2: Never Clean. They find a random extra in the background of the film and gain access to Dumas High School. This is all so they can find a yearbook with a picture of Frances and use it as a lead to find her.

While this episode is about Bill’s desire to find Frances and declare his love for her, it contains some surprisingly vulnerable moments from Nathan. It’s difficult to tell where the real Nathan begins and the persona ends but they seem close as Nathan comes across as a naturally shy and awkward individual in interviews. When he finds out that Bill wasn’t the best boyfriend to Frances, Nathan hires an escort to see how he treats women. Bill refuses to talk to the escort but since Nathan has already paid for the services he goes on a number of dates with the escort. Although it’s difficult to tell the escort seems to like him. The episode concludes with Nathan and Bill finding Frances through a newspaper clipping and looking her up on Facebook. They discover that Frances is married but Bill still wants to go see her in person. Nathan sets up rehearsals with an actress who looks somewhat like Frances so Bill can practise what he’s going to say. When they drive up to where Frances lives Bill is so nervous after all the anticipation he calls her and decides not to see her in person after realising she’s happy in her marriage. In the end, Bill asks Nathan how to get into contact with the actress and when they meet it seems she genuinely likes him. This feature-length episode is one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever watched. It’s a sad but honest and poignant portrayal of regret and how we as humans want to be loved. Nathan For You has been renewed for a fifth season but this is likely to be the best episode the show’s ever done.

J Hus O2 Brixton Academy review: the Stratford rapper celebrated his London homecoming with extravagance

J Hus has had an incredible year and as 2017 starts to round off he’s topped it off with an incredible first headline show at the O2 Brixton Academy in Brixton, South London. At the end of last week, it was announced that “Form 696” was being scrapped after newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan had called for a review of the form’s use earlier this year. Since 2005 promoters and licensees have been asked to complete a “Form 696” as a risk assessment for hosting music events with DJs and MCs. Many in the grime and UK rap scene have accused the form of being a racist way to target black youth. It’s no coincidence that the form was introduced in 2005 just after grime music began to break into the mainstream. And grime music is primarily produced by black artists and at least in 2005 its main consumers were black. 12 years later, the grime scene is healthy after a resurgence in 2014. With perfect timing comes J Hus who just had an extravagant and successful first headline show in London. J Hus is a truly unique artist who is very difficult to categorise. Though there is some grime influence very little of his music can be classified as grime at all. He sounds like no one else. His music is a cocktail of UK afrobeats, dancehall, trap, UK garage, grime and hip-hop. He began his musical career in 2015 and after a series of freestyles released the infectious hit single “”Lean & Bop.” Earlier this year, he released Common Sense, the Mercury-nominated album which is one of the best albums to come out of the UK in a while and a future classic. It’s the perfect encapsulation of the sound of Black Britain. Stratford born and raised with a Gambian mother, his influences are as Black British as they are by their origin in West Africa, the Caribbean and the diaspora.

I was particularly excited for this show, J Hus being one of my favourite artists and having booked my tickets several months ago I eagerly anticipated the gig. To my disappointment, in my excitement in buying tickets I must have accidentally bought the wrong tickets which meant I was in the “circle” the balcony in the venue. Despite not being able to be in the moshpits which are some of the best parts of seeing live music, I was still excited to see the show. The supporting acts were Young T and Bugsey, NSG and DC and while they all brought energy to the eager young crowd they couldn’t match up to the legendary show J Hus was about to put on. On stage, there were four Mercedes-Benzs and a giant rotating fisherman’s hat (in reference to the song “Fisherman”). The fisherman’s hat rotated to reveal a full live band and J Hus came out and performed the title track “Common Sense.” Audience members were given a plastic band which I didn’t think much of until J Hus performed “Closed Doors” and simultaneously everyone’s bands lit up in fluorescent blue. On stage was a large screen which had visuals related to each song, the lights flashed and flames flew on stage (literally lit) making it a visually stunning show. When he began to perform “Mash Up”, MoStack the featured artist came on the stage to perform his verse. Krept and Konan then came on to perform MoStack’s track “Liar Liar (Remix)” which also featured J Hus. And as if the audience could not be embarrassed with enough riches later Dave come on to perform his track “Samantha” featuring J Hus. I wish I didn’t have to imagine what it was like to be in those moshpits but they looked incredible. I was just glad to be there. When he performed the track “Clartin” he encouraged the biggest moshpits and from what I saw they were mad. He ended the show with his biggest hit yet, “Did You See.” And what an apt song, he left myself and the 5000 plus crowd marvelling at what he’d just done.