YOU is an emcee and producer coming out of Edmonton who is hungry to get into the game and who’s name turns conversations confusing quickly. He released his debut mixtape, ‘Felt Pen Sketch Book’ in March, followed up with another in May and is set to drop his third next month. A project every two months as well as producing all his own beats mean’s he’s a busy man, but what it really speaks to is how much he has to say.
In ‘Felt Pen Sketch Book’ he hits on some of the usual things most people can relate to, like women and weed, but he also gets existential with his lyrics, not being content with repeating himself. It’s not too surprising from somebody who lists his influences as Jay Electronica, Blu and MF DOOM but also Hunter S. Thompson, Aldous Huxley and Steve Nash.
On one of the album’s highlights ‘Mocean’, he raps “…know that currency’s a concept not a physical entity.” Most rappers are content with rapping about how much money they have, instead YOU reminds us how hollow it really is. In the same song he dips into what sounds like Farsi or Arabic, a language that has a really nice flow to it and sounds great. It’s a theme he keeps returning to, a weird globalization by incorporating many samples that speak to specific cultures and mashing them together. In the track ‘Watina Je T’aime’ he uses a middle-eastern sample and raps in French over it, closing the track with a Spanish guitar. He taps into old-world feelings of worship and mystery with these references and it reinforces the big questions YOU keeps returning to. There is an element of self-examination going on in YOU’s work that makes it personal and moves it beyond the weed and women into something more profound.
Take the track ‘Montreal (L’espoire et le Reves)’, where YOU describes the journey of an astronaut sent to explore space and the feelings of isolation and abandonment he is experiencing. The whole song works well as a metaphor for the sacrifices we sometimes have to make for loftier ambitions. The planet he is sent to colonize: our goals we strive to reach and floating in space away from our loved ones is the isolation hard work brings.
YOU keeps it fairly mellow throughout, not going for anything too hype and instead keeping it dynamic with subtle experimentation. The opener ‘River City Riding’ has a hook that plays with the timing, delivering in an off-kilter way that makes it instantly memorable. On ‘Pardon Me’ the hook is created through mashing up two samples, one of a foreign language sung by a nice female voice, the other some sort of male grunting rhythmically. By the end he adds a third sample over top and it all becomes much more than their parts, a weird groove that satisfies.
YOU handles a lot of the hooks himself and opts for laid-back boom-bap jams that keep the album cohesive. You can play it in the background and the music won’t ever become obtrusive but if you stop and listen you’ll always find something cool going on. Whether it be a sitar you weren’t expecting or a rhythmic hitch put in just to keep things fresh, YOU is restless in his production making it full without being busy.
We’ll have more from this new talent in a few weeks time when he drops his newest LP ‘A Righteous Dude’, a concept album based off of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In the meantime check out ‘Felt Pen Sketch Book’ below and his follow up mixtape ‘Thievin’ Fer Steez’.