Sly5thAve is the project of multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger and composer Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II, whose sophisticated compositions are shaped by his faith in hip-hop, and deep understanding of soul, R&B and jazz. Having released ‘The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute To Dr. Dre’ to critical claim, Sly5thAve returned in 2020 with ‘What It Is’. Showcasing his abilities as a producer and collaborative musician, the LP featured the likes of Denitia, Marlon Craft, Melissa McMillan and Grammy-nominated Thalma de Freitas and celebrates Sly5thAve’s multifaceted musical nature. 2022 sees him collaborating with fellow composer and pianist Roberto Verástegui on ‘Agua de Jamaica’. Recording during lockdown in Mexico, the LP is rooted in a passionate and comprehensive understanding of Jazz and Mexico City’s ever-vibrant artistic culture.
With a core underground following, Grammy award-winning horns player Sly5thAve’s projects have been backed by Jarobi White (A Tribe Called Quest), Gilles Peterson (BBC 6Music), Downbeat magazine, Noisey, NPR, The Fader, Jazz Times, Indie Shuffle, Earmilk and more. He has also attained much respect from his work with a host of highly- fêted musicians including; Prince, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, Freddie Gibbs and Tru Thoughts label-mate Quantic.
Agua de Jamaica is the first collaborative project between Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II AKA Sly5thAve and Roberto Verástegui. The pair originally met whilst studying Jazz in Texas and began piecing together the release on Sly5thAve’s first visit to Mexico, over a drink of Agua de Jamaica – a drink made with water, hibiscus flower and sugar. Recorded during lockdown in Mexico, the LP is built from a passionate and comprehensive understanding of Jazz, a love of hip-hop and Mexico City’s culture, Latin flavours, and the African roots from which these sounds grew.
At the heart of Agua de Jamaica is the title track; the moment Sly5thAve and Roberto realised they had something to pursue. Thought of by both Sly5thAve and Roberto as the fullest collaboration on the release, “Agua de Jamaica feat. Silvana Estrada” considers the constant artistic and cultural exchange between the US and Mexico, despite the political differences. It draws the listener in with a hip-hop loop intertwined with hypnotic vocals from local artist Silvana Estrada; “she has a voice unlike anything I’ve ever heard. She has the ability to effortlessly float between genres”, Sly5thAve adds.
Taking in the freshness of Mexico City and all its possibilities, the jazz harmonies and monstrously addictive grooves create a backdrop for the perfectly matched sounds of Sly5thAve’s sax and Roberto’s keys.
A standing show.
My beat of the week!Huey Morgan (BBC 6 Music)