BY NNEKA NNAGBO
PHOTO BY WASSIM PHARAH
Meet the artist making major waves all over the rap blogosphere and putting Ottawa on the map.
The throbbing feeling of freedom and raw live sound upon entering a Night Lovell show, is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
The physical energy of the atmosphere he creates vibrates through the walls and grips you, leaving you transfixed as you get pulled into a mosh-pit frenzy.
His music attracts a certain crowd. An unruly crowd verging on ravenous crazed mob, chanting in sync to his most notable songs, spellbound by his bars, hooks, and heavy baselines.
He has a cadence similar to Travis Scott and Earl Sweatshirt and the deep tonal, commanding richness of MF Doom. His stage presence is infectious. The energy in heat-filled venues he is in stick to you and your limbs like sweat and force you to move. His musical approach is new and exciting, divisive and youthful. Full of angst and hyped-up stage antics, the rager has gained a reputation for creating heavy synth and beats-that-bang into dark, melodic rap.
After releasing a solid buzz-building debut mixtape, Concept Vague, in late 2014, Lovell followed it up with his long-awaited second solo release, Red Teenage Melody, venting and flexing through his bars about his rising popularity, hype and expectations, his fans, making money, girls, media scrutiny, and the unforgiving jury that every artist must face at some point—the haters.
Lovell’s feral stage presence, distinctive growl, and online presence have won the young rapper a legion of followers. All this, coupled with the diaristic nature of his rhymes and his dark, sonorous vocals, make him as much angsty as hip-hop.
In May, the Ottawa native released his second full length album titled Red Teenage Melody, showcasing the young rapper’s evolution even over the short space of the past year or two, demonstrating an even tighter lyrical focus, a willingness to play with different flows, and stranger, more spaced-out beats.
Breaking the iTunes Top 20 charts in its first week, Red Teenage Melody is a natural sequel to Concept Vague—a dark and brooding, indie-rap mixtape. Where Concept Vague was more menacing and less inviting, this album offers a more vivid and complex soundscape. A true testament to how far Lovell has come in honing his craft.
Heavy bass and spacey sounds fill the 14-track album, including features from Nessly, Wavy Drexler, Pathway Private, and Dylan Brady. Prior to the album release, Lovell released his two blustery lead singles from the album, “Louis V” and “Contraband,” detailing the newcomer’s impressive musical prowess.
The 14 tracks on Red Teenage Melody simmer at the same temperature as “Louis V” and “Contraband,” showcasing even more of Lovell’s gritty basso and monstrous beats. As an MC, Lovell is blustery; he is more compelling when he slips into his viscous mid-range. His take on slash-and-burn rap is particularly noteworthy: “Boy Red” remains a frontrunner for perhaps one of the best songs on the album.
The album opens with the nightmarish, tribal “Boy Red.” You feel “Boy Red” immediately: the horn skulks in first, then the bass, and Lovell enters not long after, lapsing into a high-pitched malevolent-muppet voice layered atop his characteristic growl.
The album’s most anthemic track, “Problems,” is characterized by the rapper’s signature calm-and-cool, foreboding dirge overtop a boisterous backing track.
“Guidance” is emblematic of the sound that dominates contemporary rap and hip-hop today—somber and lyrically candid music. This track in particular, declawed by rich textures and melodicism, is sludgy but precise. Lovell’s delivery is frictionless and, seemingly, heavily indebted to a style similar in nature to Travis Scott and Future.
Abstract and bled completely of anything that resembles mainstream hip-hop, Red Teenage Melody is a game-changing and sonically complex album.
As a whole, the album is cold and raw and sonically pleasing; that even goes for the bruisers. Possessing dark melodies hammered out on wonky synths and clattering breakbeats, but padded with eclectic sound embellishments that give the album an animated breadth.
Night Lovell is very much a part of the rap zeitgeist of today and what we are witnessing is the sound of a creative mind coming into the possession of the proper means to carry out his ideas—and doing a fine job at it.