Congolese-born Baloji's music stands at the crossroads of traditional African music and Afro-American music (hip-hop, soul, funk, jazz). Growing up in Belgium – which he describes as, "a land of surrealism and multiple identities" – Baloji discovered the culture of sampling in electronic music. The result is a record combining African rhythms – not only Congolese, but also Nigerian, Zimbabwean, and Ghanaian – with 808 productions and funk-influenced synths. By placing his resilience at the center of his work, Baloji reconciles all these influences to enrich his projects.
137 Avenue Kaniama is a construct of multiple narratives, designed to provide the listener with a cinematic experience of one singular sequence. A filmmaker in his own right, Baloji cites a diverse range of filmmakers as influential, including Raoul Peck (I'm Not Your Negro), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), and Robin Campillo (Beats Per Minute). First and foremost, 137 Avenue Kaniama is a collection of up-tempo tracks designed to make you get up and sweat. The record kicks off with "Glossine," the medical term for tsetse flies bites, where he channels Bossa Nova baselines and Afrobeats. "Spotlight," with its booming dopamine-inducing beat, is a reference to our screen-obsessed culture and "fear of missing out; our need to convince ourselves that we're experiencing something real."
There are more introspective moments here where Baloji examines struggles both personal and communal. "L'hiver indien" is a faux-feel-good track – beneath its Afro-Disco exterior the song explores the disconnect of migrant communities in larger society. "Ensemble" – a Cameroonian Bikoutsi-infused Afro Trap track – is "a continental saying that means ‘we are together' or ‘your issues are mine.' 137 Avenue Kaniama also sees Baloji explore love in its varying forms. "Ciel d'Encre" is about the fathomless cycle of falling in and out of love with the wrong person while the spoken word piece "La Derriere Pluie - Inconnue a Cette Adresse" is about the devastation of separation from one's parents. The artist describes the track as "the most honest record I ever made in my life."