I realised something pretty obvious recently; it’s no big deal to stake your reputation on something if you don’t really have one.
You don’t know me, you don’t know my family, you don’t know where my local is. So then, I can say with zero hyperbole: I stake my reputation on the success of Emma Aika, aka AiiTee, and the fact that she will be an absolute star.
I say this because I’m staggered she isn’t already. Scotland isn’t exactly the most fertile ground for R&B sensations so the palpable delight that there’s one behind Hadrian’s Wall, ready to burst out into the stratosphere, is something we should all enjoy together. AiiTee’s voice is incredible. Absolutely incredible.
It’s not just her voice, either. There’s a real attitude here. AiiTee is ready-equipped with great lines and wonderful ideas. In the brilliant ‘Issues’, complete with a stellar turn from the promising MC, Chef, she turns the concept of a bad relationship where the trust is gone into a brilliant kiss-off. “Now I got issues, got a lot of fucking issues… fuck you” is as fierce a barb as you’re going to hear but it’s sung with such velvety brilliance that it sounds seamless.
Raised on church choirs and based in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Aika takes inspiration from Beyoncé and Rihanna (particularly in the dancehall stomper ‘On The Beat’) because, well… why wouldn’t you?
“’On the Beat’… was put in place as an inside joke as my style is often compared to Rihanna and Bey. I used to listen to Bey and Rihanna and a couple other artists religiously when I was younger, watching every performance and I guess I subconsciously picked up some traits from both of them. I love how versatile they both are.”
There’s no doubt AiiTee is shooting for the stars. When I ask her about a dream studio team for a project, she lists Beyoncé, DJ Khaled and Drake, and listening to 2020’s ‘Love Don’t Fall’ EP it honestly doesn’t sound far-fetched. This puts the onus on us as listeners, and take this as a rallying cry: we need to make this happen, because frankly, at the moment, there isn’t the infrastructure for singers like AiiTee, who is quick to show solidarity and shine to her Scottish contemporaries, to get their dues.
“We need more R&B singers here. It’s such a beautiful genre of music. Having said that though, there are some I’ve heard and they are honestly amazing. A few artists I enjoy listening to are Kohla, Tammi Whyte and Aiysha. Apart from R&B, there are so many guys killing the rap scene. One prime example is Chef, who’s also featured on my EP, [who’s] definitely one to watch.”
About that voice again: AiiTee’s range is immense, in both musicality and emotional heft. In ‘Love Nobody (Interlude)’, she dives into an achingly beautiful falsetto which calls to mind prime FKA Twigs. On the brilliantly-produced ‘Agape’, complete with brass and what sounds like a power drill being sampled, she exhibits a strong alto that – and I make this comparison in all sincerity – gives the gravelliest Beyoncé tracks a run for their money. Perhaps more frighteningly, this EP exhibits a song-writing craft that nobody should have the right to display on their first release. Podcart is not an A&R, nor it is a label, we have no stock in who signs who, but we’re unanimous on this: sign AiiTee and give her whatever she needs.