Cliché, Cub style reporter questions like “Who are your musical influences” didn’t help for a smooth conversation while writing my profile piece on AYLØ. It was the first profile piece I would be writing at the time and it served as an eye opener of sorts, and I did take those lessons and ran with them in following, similar pieces.

Two important things I learnt while penning that article were; do your research and put the music at the center. Scouring the internet for info would have helped in crafting more pertinent questions that would only improve the depth of the article and increase its gravitas. Putting the music at the center also enhances the artist’s chances of increasing his/her fanbase, which is basically the point of an artist exposé.

In acceptance of my glorious naiveté, I still can’t shake off the feeling that I was receiving a proud and snobbish vibe from AYLØ at the time. In retrospect, maybe I was expecting too much, like we’d become best friends or bro’s because I was a fan of his music and I was writing about it. Society largely considers pride as a flaw in a person’s character matrix, while that is debatable, I don’t consider it a sin against humanity. Only unforgivable sins against humanity turn me off an artist’s music, and pride isn’t in that category.

Listening to AYLØ’s newly released project, <insert project name/>, there’s an obvious awareness of his seeming pride amidst other flaws and troubles in his current existential state. A particularly striking line is “I don’t think I can survive/I got issues with my pride”, it sprawls over the solemn bounce of standout cut, ‘Can I‘. A confessional song that is drenched with lyrics that portray AYLØ’s flaws, with a sullen disposition in his voice to complete the song’s chin down imagery. ‘Can I‘ perfectly segues into the light reggae bounce of the spiritually themed ‘Pray’ which features a mildly ebullient verse from Odunsi.

The shortest song on the mixtape, ‘…anxiety’ revels in the farthest low. An extremely grim song depicting AYLØ fixating on his flaws hopelessly, like he’s in a day of perpetual dusk where the sun is kept away by dark clouds. “Silently I’m flawed ‘cos I can’t do it”, he howls helplessly. The featherweight production by Youngsleepyboi possesses the same melancholic shade, underscored by a morose piano that feels like it’s scoring a bad dream and a latter scratchy, expletive electric guitar by Chris Generalz.

Seven producers, including AYLØ work behind the boards on <insert project name/>. While one might expect huge transitional dissonance from such a number of producers on a 10-track project, the mixtape is decked with a very cohesive, well polished sonic canvas that is softly stirring and somber. The production creates a chill aura that opts for the striking incision of a paper cut instead of a disruptive thud. Which means that the dark, introspective parts aren’t overwhelming but still well toned to emphasize the sceneries. Creating an immersive body of work that can still be listened to casually.

A personal favorite is the self produced opener, ‘Gardens‘ which serves as an excellent tone setter for the project. A soulful, humming production serves as the musical carpet for AYLØ to lay out his regrets while also reveling in his coping mechanism of choice; drugs. The dusty boom bap terrain of ‘133’ which is steeped in the ecstasy of escaping via drugs with friends and women doesn’t fully tuck AYLØ’s pensiveness in, with thoughts like “I think too much of myself, I should think more for myself” peeking out.

It’s not all gloom on <insert project name/>, the lighter cuts are on the first half of the project. ‘Whoa‘ which features a splendid contribution by Amaarae, is a conversational song between two ex-lovers after the “Hey big head” text. The eccentric Santi joins in on the hypersexual atmosphere of ‘wys‘, on a beat which gently combines dancehall and R&B into a soft bubbly, steamy jam.

Coupling AYLØ’s ability as a superb songwriter, with a penchant for conversational intimacy and his versatility as a talented singer and rapper pushes the potency of <insert project name/>. With production that glimmers brightly in it’s dark sheen, you have a project that has high replay value.

Also, the embedded allure of a well crafted reflective project like <insert project name/> lies in it the fact that the listener is able to project some form and/or magnitude of feelings into the music, making it the type of relatable project that you can live in and with. Even if scenarios are different, hearing AYLØ wail “pace yourself, boy” on the outro, ‘pace‘ will give anyone going through anything a feeling of solidarity and hope.

They say “music heals everyone except the one who’s making it”, I sincerely hope that isn’t the case with AYLØ. Artists that create music this amazing deserve some peace and happiness, we all deserve peace and happiness. Pace yourself, AYLØ.

Words by Dennis (@ayo_dennis).