It signals, for one thing, a swift, pointed rejection of the stage personas that artists have historically donned as both a freeing creative mask and a protective shield. It is an act of cultural affirmation and self-acceptance: a young British-African, contemplating the continued struggle for racial equality, and proudly celebrating the Ugandan name his old teachers in Muswell Hill would struggle to pronounce. It is a nod to a suite of arresting, ambitious soul songs that – while they deftly recall the funkified epics of artists as varied as Gil Scot-Heron, Fela Kuti, Bobby Womack and Kendrick Lamar – cement the singular, supremely confident sound that made 2016’s Love & Hate such an undeniable step up.
The self-titled record usually marks a definable phase of a musician’s career; an embrace of personal mythology, perhaps, or merely a shift to ‘take me as I am’ straightforwardness. But ‘Kiwanuka’, the single eponymous word that heralds Michael Kiwanuka’s third album, holds a resonant, complex significance.