The burning question, so to speak, comes towards the end of the conversation: indica, sativa, or hybrid?
"Probably the indica-hybrid zone, keeping it a buck," YUNGMORPHEUS says after a beat. Miami-bred, Los Angeles-based, and currently in Europe for a series of November tour dates, the rapper and producer dismisses sativas as a category. "I'm not rocking with the sour, bro."
His stance on sour diesel aside, he makes one notable exception. "My homie who's a little bit older than me put me onto some actual haze and I was like, alright, I get it dog, fine," he elaborates before mentioning offhand Brooklyn's own billy woods' affinity for the storied strain. "I only find that shit though when I'm in New York, like actual haze."
As cerebral and profoundly contemplative as his music gets, YUNGMORPHEUS talks about his artistry with the same matter-of-factness and easygoing attitude as he does in reciting his personal cannabis preferences. "I'm gonna be making a gang of different paintings, but I don't wanna always be making them with the same colors," he says of the way he operates creatively , especially with regard to collaborations. In recent years, he's dropped a handful of inventive and impressive single-producer projects including Affable With Pointed Teeth with Eyedress, Thumbing Thru Foliage with ewonee, and Up Against The Wall; A Degree Of Lunacy with Theravada. His tendency towards this one-on-one dynamic seems in line with his overall desire to work with a diverse palette. "It allows me to step into this world–whatever world they're in–and see how I can grow from that," he says.
Yet for the just-released Burnished Sums for Lex Records, YUNGMORPHEUS appears to have reversed course. The six-song EP includes a couple of self-produced cuts alongside ones by August Fanon, DMH, and Joe Armon-Jones. A certain cohesion remains, however, his singular vision holding the plot together even as the other players and featured guests cycle in and out. But from his perspective, those aforementioned albums informed his current moves. "I think it just affects it in that way that, growing with each joint, what I'm down to play with becomes more like complex and in depth for me," he says. "It makes solo efforts more fun."
Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.
After all of these one-producer projects, what was your intended approach with Burnished Sums?
I think my approach on this one was really to give n***** not a full piece, but like a small meal of what is to come further, to really like bring n***** into my world. This is gonna be the first joint that's like, welcome, here I am. And it's exciting for that reason I feel, cause it does have those different palettes and other ways to engage.
Seeing how the EP is via Lex, and that a lot of your work comes out on UK or European based record labels, what is it that these imprints offer that you say American ones don't? What's the appeal?
I feel like cats is more open based on the distance from it, maybe. Familiarity can some kind sometimes breed like, oh word, yeah, you over here type shit, where I feel like there might be a slight more willingness to engage with the music at its nascent stages for that reason. But also, I don't know, I kind of just go where the wind blows, whatever seems like the right way to get it out to n*****. I want people to hear this. Then there's the obvious appeal for me on the Lex regard, on some respect to my man's DOOM and shit. Those were a lot of releases that I was a child being like, damn. 13-year-old me was bumping a lot of those. So I gotta give it up, you feel me, on some damn near Blue Note type–like, yo I got my Blue Note record.
One of the things that struck me on my listens to the project was, on "Price Of Convenience," where you offer this bit of self-critique. You call your old shit pretentious. Why do you think that was the case as an artist back then? And how do you feel like, over time, you got past that point?
That shit comes with growing into being a fucking man. In the early stages, I was coming at it from a soapbox perspective. And I'm like, to what fucking end, man? At the end of the day, n***** is always going to say something about something, because we are humans that exist in the world and gotta engage with the context we exist within. But being a whole person is way more than that, man. And I was listening to shit and being like, this is cool, but where are you at, bro? N***** just trying to peel off the onion, for real, to be more honest with myself, and therein the listener by being more honest with myself.
You have to allow yourself that, because not everybody is Nas on "Live At The Barbecue" out the gate.
Exactly. We can't all be like, when I was twelve I went to hell for snuffin' Jesus.
Burnished Sums is out now on Lex Records. Purchase/stream it here.
Aloe Vera & Steel Tipped Dove, Days Pass Strange (buy it / stream it)
Barely a minute into "Demarcus Kain Needs Money," Aloe Vera reveals a good deal about who he is. The squirmy opener bristles with renters' anxiety that swiftly descends into landlord murder plots and indie rapper financial woes before fully kicking into a wicked debt-saddled inverse of rap's chase-the-bag paradigm. With producer Steel Tipped Dove behind the boards, he then spends the remaining half hour of their Days Pass Strange wrestling with insolvency and identity alike in an oft unsettlingly relatable way. Anti-capitalist sentiments seep out of the strident "Moradian Messages," while the mental health and prison-industrial complex soundclash grinds him down on "The Psych Ward Cost 6 Months Of Rent." (The righteous reproach on the back half of "My Angel" should be shouted from the damn rooftops.) Seemingly inspired by the oddly affable emcee's down-to-earth despair, Dove lets his machines whirr and hum on the bluesy breakdown "Live For Me," the labored soul of "Wunderbaum Blues," and the droned-out title track.
Milc & Televangel, Neutral Milc Motel (buy it / stream it)
Having kicked off 2022 with the AJ Suede collab Metatron's Cube, Televangel keeps it local as he closes the year out with Milc. This Portland, OR rapper-plus-producer combo feels like a truly synergistic one. Indeed, the veritable lushness of Televangel's beats complements Milc's mildly raspy and somewhat reedy flow, a union evident on "Dinner With Jay-Z" and "Milc The Shocker." For "Bunk House Viddles," they bring "Today Was A Good Day"-meets-"Summertime" vibes with a good breakfast and a following flurry of foodie metaphors worthy of daytime devouring. Feeling fully supported musically, the solid emcee holds it down with the aforementioned Suede on "Ronald Reagan" and holds his own opposite lyricists Defcee and Zilla Rocca on the posse cut "Turbulence."
OBIJUAN, GUANAHANI (buy it / stream it)
This past summer, OBIJUAN dropped a joint project with YUNGMORPHEUS, their all-caps union revealing aspects of their respective island heritages. Arguably more focused than their dubwise SLANG CASINO, his latest solo album intentionally delves deeper into Bahamanian history and culture while embedding these ideas into a document laden with leftfield hip-hop sonics. Produced entirely by previous collaborator DYLANTHEINFAMOUS, GUANAHANI finds the avant-rapper immersed in a new world of his own making, pensive through the creeping chaos of "INAGUA" and the haunting thump of "JAH JAH XITY." The relentless (ab)use of DJ drops, ad libs, and other such samples give the record a DatPiff mixtape sheen, impishly betraying the overarching gravity of "EXUMA" and "SOLARIUM."