On “Pray for You,” the most powerful song on Nigerian singer Nneka’s fourth American release, she confronts Boko Haram’s heinous crimes tearing apart her native country: “You’re a wretched lost soul but I’ll pray for you/ You’ve scattered my home I’ll still pray for you.” This expression of defiance and transcendence marks the nine tracks on this deeply felt, spiritual record. Many of the songs (“Believe System,” “Book of Job”) translate as prayers for Nigeria, Africa, and humanity. As she has throughout her career, the singer-songwriter traverses genres, accentuating reggae and Afrobeat, while seeking meaning amid chaos and injustice. Ultimately, she finds solace in compassion, God, and the freedom of the groove. There’s more of a reliance on reggae here, and her hip-hop influences are less pronounced. The rhythm-heavy set features her warmest vocals (“My Love”), without some of the staccato lyricism that marked her early work. Throughout, the personal becomes universal as profound love and perseverance yield hope. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Pray for You”
Nneka plays T.T. the Bear’s Place on June 19.Ken Capobianco can be reached at email@example.com.