We can’t help but appreciate the honesty shown by Azad on his newest EP. From the project’s title down to its most negligible lyric, the Los Angeles-based performer offers up straightforward thoughts and sensual energy in this classy hybrid of R&B and hip-hop, A Very Emotional EP. The record features a ton of material for an EP – verses laid out with consistent, adept flow, hooks highlighting his soft, lilting voice, all couched in excellent instrumentals from an all-star cast of producers. We’re grateful the singer/songwriter took enough time away from his label Mind Of A Genius to bless us with this compilation.
From track to track the EP tells a familiar but timeless story. First, serious longing and heartbreak. Then, introverted analysis leads to a return to confidence. Finally, it’s baby-making time.
“Enough of You” lays out the pattern that each song takes. Azad’s rhymes, sometimes styled more like freeform poetry than rap bars, tumble out towards in the verse towards a chorus that sounds like many a softer cut from Drake or J. Cole. The deep beat comes courtesy of Sango, Atu and Dpat, a trio which literally made great waves together in 2016. “Special” reminds one of The Weekend’s best tracks from 2016, but with more hard-edged lyricism in between the shiny hook. Catch the creative homage Azad pays to one particularly influential rhyme sayer in the second verse.
The talented Millz Douglas from East Baltimore holds it down with a great beat on “Godesses”, the type of pocket beat that offers a prime platform to a rapper, and Azad slides right in. The next two tracks, “Trust” and ‘Grind on Me” are produced by Jonathan Marquez, whose guitar samples refresh the soundscape. Trust is difficult to achieve, and the absence of it seems to be driving much of Azad’s emotional turmoil. Azad has a special ability to tell detailed, true stories in verse, especially on “Grind On Me”. Love songs are common, but it’s rare to hear an honest, productive, real discussion of relationship troubles packaged in smooth verse over the kick and snare. Only a few in the game do it well, and Azad puts forward his best effort on this cut.
Stwo from Paris offers my personal favorite beat on the compilation with “Ready”, a boom-bap dripping in bass with a kick that sounds like a heartbeat and a snare that is deliciously minimal. The lack of glamor in the instrumental makes room Azad’s smooth, soft flow. “Teach me how to love I never learned how / it’s like every house I ever built gets burned down.”
After such an emotional EP, “Sweet” is a perfect capitulation. The raunchy lyrics and braggadocio fit perfectly into HUCCI‘s big-ass booming beat (Strictly!).
A Very Emotional EP is a very strong effort from Azad. It’s exactly what an EP should be – a thoughtfully-curated series of stellar instrumentals, each one employed carefully by the songwriter to tell a different part of his emotional tale. Few artists rhyme with the complexity and sing with the catharsis of Azad while keeping it so real with the subject matter. With all the new-age R&B out there, it can be hard to find the durable cuts. A Very Emotional EP is full of them.