It’s weird that Internet, suburbia made Olatunji Ige named his debut short Missed Calls because it’s hard to believe the 22-year-old still even makes them. Imagine his monthly T-Mobile bill at like 60 dollars a month, all unlimited data. He started making music in his bedroom in his mother’s house in Montgomery county, some minutes less than an hour outside of Philly. He thrust himself into the minds of folks after his random upload “Day2Day” became very hot on the web. Soon, Michael Christmas and ILoveMakonnen hopped on the remix and the thing took off. It’s an example of how the Internet really can change your life in a flash.
That one reminded people of Kid Cudi’s early work, especially “Day ‘n’ Night,” which brought Cudster into prominence as the poster child of alt-rap. What was it, we all thought, that would come next? We imagined some Jetson’s like musical future where soul, jazz, funk, reggae, classical, and everything else melded and then became distorted by computer algorithms into something completely new. Where artists would stream chords directly up our spines and into our cerebral cortexes. But the future is always slow to come, and (stage name Tunji Ige) is, right now, more rap-progressivist than a true musical provocateur.
The debut EP is a measured construct filled with elements of all the music you hear around you: on the radio, on your playlist. And just a bit more. There are trap like sounds like “On My Grind,” and there’s more emotional, waifish, synth-slabbed tunes like “War” and the woozy “22.” He’s a rapper, for sure, but he’s got a long way to go in the bars department. Most of them are little parables of youth wrapped in a crinkly bow. Not the clever long form kind we get out of our favorite rappers This is fine, because what the EP lacks in bar-on-bar technical precision is more than made up for by the production. It’s quiet and moody and blends seemingly disparate genres together to create well-known sounds seemingly out nowhere. All the beats helmed were himself alongside executive producer Noah Breakfast (of Chiddy Bang fame, since working with the likes of Tory Lanez and Big Sean).
This patchwork production style underlies his creativity and enormous potential. Its ebbs and flows, mirroring the intensity of trap without its baroque style. The synthy modulations of alt-R&B without its artsy affectation. It’s within the gray areas of these particular moods that he excels. As he says himself, a bar that reads more like young, stunted, jotted poetics instead of raps, “This is post-backpack, post-swag rap, the end of trap, and it’s not wack.”
It’s not. Not at all. He uses vocal distortions, too. And sometimes they add a layer of inclusiveness to the tracks. A kind of spirit of the Internet come alive. Sometimes, they edge too much in the mode of Cudi’s electro beginnings. Where he goes from now, we hope, is upward, upward. Adding another dimension to the genre at best. Serving up consistently edible jams on the nervous emotionality of youth at worst.