Choker, Naji and Medhane produce notable but underrated albums

By NIKITA SHTARKMAN | September 6, 2018

Over the summer, a lot of music was released to little or no fanfare. The summer is usually when huge, blockbuster music is at the forefront, so the smaller, more unique projects get sidelined. Here are some of my favorite more underground projects from the past summer that you may not have heard. 

Choker’s Honeybloom is a beautiful experimental R&B record. Choker is a neo-soul/R&B singer with a full range and an ear for beautiful, spacey production. Across this project, Choker glides across these sonic washes, either belting a gorgeous falsetto or keeping his voice in a lower register.

The song that truly blew me away on this project was “Juno,” which starts with one of the most hauntingly stunning intros I’ve ever heard. Choker sings in a falsetto that has been slowed and pitched down, which has a surprisingly gorgeous effect; it is eerie and inhuman, yet tender and sweet. 

Halfway through the piece, the effect is wiped and a swell of instrumentation bursts out — one of the most satisfying transitions in the whole project.

Choker’s greatest success is in making a cohesive, beautiful project that feels like it’s a product of its own unique sonic universe. While he has a lot of room to grow — focusing his songwriting, making tighter compositions and continuing to hone in on his personal sound — Choker is already a very mature artist, brimming with even more raw potential. 

Naji is another incredible R&B artist. While Choker creates fluid, slow burning, full pieces, Naji makes quicker, snappier, catchier songs. His voice is also more focused on power and delivery. 

What really sets Naji apart from the rest of the R&B world is his unconventional ear for beats. This past summer, Naji released part one of his three part EP series, Act 1.

The intro track has a beat that I can’t even imagine recreating. There are random whooshes of sound, yelps and clicks. There should be no way for anyone to sing over that random collection of sounds. Nonetheless, Naji confidently bounces onto the track, switching between his powerful falsetto and more subdued verses. 

The real display of Naji’s talent is “Affairs.” Here Naji is almost showing off the complete range of his voice. On the hook, Naji uses a groovy, nasal delivery. When he reaches the verses, however, he switches to this pure falsetto that cuts through the instrumentation.

Medhane is a New York rapper affiliated with MIKE. His EP, Ba Suba, Ak Jamm, is a great piece of experimental rap. The beats are clunky, rattling sample collages that leave very little room for the rapper. Medhane’s talent is his ability to mold his flow into these tiny spaces that the beat allows.

Medhane’s voice is monotone, but this actually plays to his advantage, setting his clever lyricism and perfect delivery at the forefront of the song. The mixing on this project is classic for that kind of rap — the beat and the rapper are competing for sonic space throughout the track.

Garage rock continues to thrive. Kiss yr frenemies by the illuminati hotties is a new project chock-full of catchy, fun, simple pop-toned garage rock songs. 

Like a less grungy version of the Strokes, the illuminati hotties, a project of Sarah Tudzin, create these groovy, fun songs with a basic melody, repetitive rhythm guitar lines and clean, powerful bass lines. Tudzin has a pure, simple voice that breaks out evenly over the thick instrumentation. 

As with most garage rock, there are points when the dozens of clashing elements just perfectly mold together into this beautiful cacophony. 

One such moment is near the end of “Shape of My Hands” where the main guitar riff is joined by a new drum pattern and a booming bass. The meshing of sound is extremely satisfying.

For the most part, this is standard indie-pop, garage rock fare. On some songs though, like “For Cheez (My Friend, Not the Food),” Tudzen experiments with rhythms that aren’t often touched in those genres. The song grows in tension more like an EDM song than a rock piece, with a pounding 4/4 kick and a simple, repetitive melody. Instead of a drop though, it resolves into a grungy, noisy breakdown.

These are all great projects that were generally ignored by the general public. And I can understand why. 

The current trend favors trappy, melodic pieces, thus the summer was dominated by that kind of music. Nonetheless, these projects shouldn’t be pushed aside. 

These artists are creating forward thinking, impressive music that pushes the boundaries of each of their respective genres, and I would highly recommend you give them all a listen.

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