M E is the North Carolina-bred Emcee who's setting himself up to become a household name in the Hip-hop game. Now calling Brooklyn his home, this Old-school reminiscent rhymester's lyrics have a deep-weighted purpose behind each captivating narrative he exudes from the pores of his tight-knit productions; giving his music a unique authenticity that only comes around once a decade.
Following his creative intuitions on paper and in the studio, M E has already established notoriety amongst his musical peers for his magnetic approach to the cadence of his bar-dispensing and the engaging form in which his track's anecdotes quietly devastate. It's no wonder the Brooklyn Rapper has had Naomi Banks and Bret Taylor looking to him for collaborations over his latest Hip-hop endeavors. With the release of '20/21,' that trajectory continues. Over a twelve track record, with doors detouring between Golden-age Hip-hop reminiscent cadences, to R&B cuts that land healthy in our hearts, and some Alternative ominous-sounding Brooklyn-bred rhetorics, M E has dropped an album that is anticipated to become a Hip-hop modern classic.
As if teleported into the ceremonious sonic adventures of an Emcee Veteran, M E chaperones us through his opener, "Anti-Intro," with an attitude that comes off as brazen or brash. But quickly, that notion evaporates away via the scintillating riffs that his nostalgia-dripping electric guitar accompaniment provides over his 'eye for an eye' ethos: "they call me cocky and conceded, but I'm pinching, so I call it even." It's a hot-blooded first cut that ironically is the antagonist to all others, swooping in like a dead-eye eagle, locked on to the jugular of its prey. He knows that there might be a tendency to over-look the mastery he's putting down plainly for everyone to witness, so naturally, coming out of the gates flashing with two fiery tracks is the only right call.
"Maad," is an ominous tilt in the assumed direction of M E's proverbial jooking. Here, with a crisp production that exercises boastful and distorted verification over a lopsided bass, and the metallic 'thwack' of percussion that steadily ripples with 32nd note blast M E renders up like he's aggravated. His Emcee tone and attitude is intact here but mirrors a more brooding demeanor with the droning dissonant chords festooning the backgrounds of this dusky, distorting track. This track is focused on expressing the Brooklyn-based notoriety's outrage with the state of current affairs in the United States.
The next track, "BQE," is the first of the record to feature a guest feature, and by now, Bret Taylor's accompaniment of M E's Musical Crusade's shouldn't be a surprise; greatness attracts greatness, after all. On this New-age highlight, the two collude over a salacious hook that finds Bret sailing over ringing keys, towering pads, and reverberated echoes that disappear into the void. This all happens while M E slices up the verses with his Golden-era mirroring flow. The track stands out as the highlighting single on this LP, and as the Sci-fi reminiscent saturated croons of the final samples purr over the strings of our hearts, another song festers around the corner with a similar affecting sensation in store.
"I Do" sweeps us off our feet with the infatuating top-line that Naomi Banks naturally induces over the clean and tight-knit spaces of M E's productions. Here, the Brooklyn Rapper takes every need into account for his collaborator, leaving her enough room to soar over the top-line hook, while he slays over the stanza. It's like two worlds merge together with seamless effort. On one end, the Neo-soul intoner singing over the hook reminds us of the serenading sounds of Contemporary R&B, and on the other, M E takes full grasp over the verse with a nonchalant tonality and delivery that makes us think the Emcee is freestyling. It's a combination that works over Naomi's multi-tracked quavering unison, and as the familiar textures of an electric guitar, smooth rumbling bass, and crisp backbeat garnish the expanses of this mix, it's easy to lose track of time while sucked into the magnetism that '20/21' spills from every bordering edge.
So far, when we look back, M E renders up like a rapper who has a multitude of fitting vestiments, attitudes, and cadences for every narrative he wants to highlight. From R&B reminiscent tracks with guest top-lines to scintillating bar-dispensing versifications over old-school '90s mirroring backbeats, the Brooklyn household name only has time to follow his focused artist intuitions and for-goes all the rest; and it shows. "New Black," a homely gem in the middle of '20/21,' feels like the top-down cruiser song we'd play off the car stereo because we've memorized the words. It's one of those cuts that don't necessarily feel original by way of the beat production but still stands as a highlight via M E's relentless lyrical flow.
M E often likes to sprinkle some moody secret-sauce over the radiating production turbines working behind the scenes in '20/21,' and under his hot-blooded lyrical deliveries. "King Solomon," and "Wicked Pt2," are products of those occasions, and they draw similar doom-gloom vibes from tracks that showed face earlier on this record like, "Maad." Over tracks like these, M E shows no shyness when influencing his mixes with dusky, ominous-sounding hooks and samples. He often sounds distorted and saturated on tracks like these, but with enough tasteful subtility that it comes off as natural. If we were to describe the sensation of listening to these songs, it's like witnessing the fleshy and vulnerable parts of an artist's conscious and realizing quickly that the message they're bestowing is haunting in nature; often focusing-in on the injustice surrounding the segregation of minorities in this country. "Quarantine Freestyle" stands as one of the last tracks to spin it's versified web over our sedated minds. Here, M E sounds intoxicating; he sweeps and swerves over his words with a veteran Emcee cantor, while the sinister and haunting acoustics he's grown fond of still find a home. These acoustics are mainly noticeable from a grand piano's vibrations being manipulated over what sounds like a magnetic tape machine, and the clever turbulence in our Brooklyn Rhymester's free-form technique.
When we look back at '20/21,' there's no question as to whether this record stands as the most recent stanchion in the Brooklyn Rapper's foundation of New-age meets Old-school Hip-hop Music. There are dusky portions of this record where the light of day rarely warms the cold cement floors of songs like "Maad," "Wicked Pt2," and "Quarantine Freestyle." Yet still, the cordial embracing light of day manages to find a way in shining over other tracks like "BQE" and "I Do,"; proving that M E has gathered all his Musical touchstones with a connoisseur's ear, propelling him to become the House-hold name in Hip-hop we always anticipated.
Can you run us through the conception of this Album? Where were you mentally during the recording and writing process of '20/21'?
20/21 is the second installation in a trilogy of projects designed to highlight competing narratives around being unapologetic and vulnerable at its most accessible points and Freud's Personality Theory at its depths. The goal of 20/21 is to empower but to also highlight the juxtaposition of our perception of reality vs reality itself. In other words, multiple shits can exist at once and that's cool. The concept of this album came in 2018 when I began envisioning the trilogy however, most of the songs were written and recorded during the Shutdown between March-May. In terms of headspace, I had actually quit my job for the first time like a month before the shutdown. Perfect timing right? Fun fact, you do not qualify to receive unemployment if you quit your job; so the struggle was real during those months. It's not like I was booked heavily prior to COVID, we were putting on our shows. So everything stopped. I say all of that to give context to the environment in which this album was written especially with songs like MAAD or the Outro.
How did you manage to curate the cohesiveness of this Album's playback? What governed the order of each song that dissolves from one narrative to the next?
The Album order to me is one of the most important aspects of an album. For 20/21, the narratives of each song dictated the order. Of course the obvious tracks like Anti-Intro or Quarantine FreeStyle were made specifically for the positions they occupy respectively. An example would be MAAD, on its surface, it's just a track highlighting triumph in spite of the inherent adversity the narrator experiences or observes. Dig deeper into how it relates to the other tracks on the album and literally it's taking a raw emotion, anger, and turning it into a superpower. All of a sudden the narrator is charged and on the attack; "We ain't flexin' dog/ We just better here." That "cape-revealing" moment has to happen before the narrator can even deal with introspection or something as complex as love found in I Do, which has to happen before articulating the layers of mass incarceration and its unintended victims found in Jerome. Each narrative plays into the next by revealing more of the narrator's self-awareness sense and growth. In addition, there's a Yin Yang relationship going on with some of the track placements such as New Black and King Solomon or within the song, i.e. Wicked, pt. 2. All in all, multiple elements come into play when dissecting the track order.
What was the most crucial learning experience for you out of the entire process of releasing this LP?
That's a simple one; you can never grow if you're never uncomfortable. Self-explanatory.
Can you give us a few words of your own that would act as the Prologue to the experience your listeners can come to expect after listening to '20/21'?
"20/21 is a slow-releasing conceptual album that lays it all on the table, you just won't notice it until you finish bobbing your head to the beat."
What are some of the new Milestones you are going to be aiming for after '20/21'? Have you already made any moves in trying to inch closer to those goals?
Milestones beyond 20/21. Please forgive me, my goals, and plans I keep close to me but I can share with you guys what you can expect from me as it relates to music. First, closing the 20/20 trilogy with the follow-up to 20/21. I've begun work on that album already. 20/21 has a short film/ visual album companion that we will release in the Spring of 2021. Follow me on social media for updates regarding that and for sneak peeks. The Aguille Collective, the artist collective I'm a part of, will be releasing 20/21 inspired merch Fall 2020 along with a few music videos for the album. My collective-mate T-Bell from Toronto will be releasing a Nipsey Hussle smash-up project set for release this Winter. Another collective-mate Jave, out of NC, is currently working on his debut album. Needless to say, we have a lot coming to the surface over the next year. Stay Tuned! btw Shout out to Rashaad King, Goodz, and Mike Roach in NC, we definitely admire the hustle.