Hypnos was the gentle Greek god of sleep who sedated subjects by song as a singing bird. Hypnos, Ravyn Lenae’s debut album, carries the same mystic, dreamy hold. The 23-year-old Chicago singer warps time as Hypnos moves through holographic reverbs and whispered lullabies. Lenae takes control of her vision, handpicking every contributor and writing every lyric to produce a homegrown experience despite its space-age grooves and visuals.
Since the introduction of her new-dimensional wavelengths on 2016’s Moon Shoes, Lenae’s thrifty selections have matured into futuristic playgrounds warmed by angelic falsettos and sensually guided lyrics. Lenae keeps the familiar close, snagging longtime contributor Monte Booker for four tracks on Hypnos. The Zero Fatigue producer boggles the mind, making perfectly imperfect instrumentals from scratch. On “Higher,” subdued steel drums tap around a brightening synth while Lenae elongates just six bars. Booker throws darts against a board and sees what sticks, as Lenae transforms the unconventional instrumentals into cohesive musical juxtaposition.
“3D” also has the Booker touch, featuring alien-like probe taps around a steady bass and clap. The Smino-assisted track fills a vacant masculine space on Hypnos thanks to his cheeky closing verse after Lenae’s request to “Keep it light.” Lenae curates an almost all-women project cultivating and delivering a vulnerable and femininely divine reality—her reality.
Lenae trusts herself more than anyone to craft her vision for Hypnos, which may explain why the album took three years to drop. Once she wrote “Venom” in Chicago with Booker, it pretty much materialized the energy she set out for: “fresh, exciting, mysterious and a little weird and eerie,” all spot-on descriptions of the pop-centered electro bop characterized by bouncing strobe beams and reverb. Lenae continues down the pop path, collaborating with Kaytranada for the first time on “Xtasy.” Fans can vogue or 1-2 step to the house drums and kettle bells while Ravyn’s atmospheric vocals fill the gaps.
The Crush EP also began a new mesh with producer and The Internet’s bassist Steve Lacy. On “Skin Tight” Lacy juggles shuffled hi hats with friendly acoustic guitar chords then switches to meaty bass guitar plucks nestled around Lenae’s piercing voice. She blooms with versatile producers like Lacy, those who can remain on par with her genre-hopping abilities. Listeners can meringue to Spanish chords in “Where I’m From” (featuring Mereba) or fantasize a Disney princess world through Lenae’s grand vibrato on “Wish.” It seems Lenae’s adaptable approach also benefits from fellow soprano female vocalists like Mereba and Foushee, who featured on and co-produced “Mercury,” a countryside drive tune and easy pick me up track underscored with playful distain for an ex.
Its’s been a long road for Lenae, who toured with SZA and Noname while still a high school student training in classical music. What she’s taken from her classical training pours effortlessly over Hypnos, an album that fits in some unknown space-time continuum, and gives Lenae a path forward as a unique breakout voice in R&B.
— sexy sage. (@EfeOraka) July 23, 2022
the @ravynlenae album so good 😭 i always knew she had it in her but it exceeded my expectations
— La Vulnición Papi (@v_u_l_n_i) May 22, 2022
— Smi (@smino) May 21, 2022