As streaming services render much of modern music genre-less and musicians find the need to distinguish themselves artistically, you may have noticed a trend in the culture of insanely talented solo acts. These dynamos are seldom tethering themselves to a boxed-in sound but rather placing their personality in the absolute center of their work, broadcasting their inner workings through the media of lyrics, delivery styles, and everything that comes in the process of production.
The ability to separate oneself from the pack has never been as important as it is now. Streaming numbers continue to rise while consumers can find whatever they’re most interested in at the particular moment — making it crucial for artists to create a bond with their fans despite such metaphysical distance.
Any one of your favorite artists could be in your head at the moment, but for me, the current embodiment of the movement I just invented is Tyler, the Creator. With his #1 album, Igor, Tyler continued his fascinating career arc with an album with themes, production, and vocal delivery far from what fans have come to expect — this album was more of a departure from his previous, more abrasive work than Flower Boy.
But Tyler is just the most popular example of this kind of artist. Talents like Solange, Steve Lacy, Omar Apollo, Mereba, and Gus Dapperton bring nuance to this idea with every upload. While each of them shares that indescribable talent of translating their personality into an impressively holistic product, they still manage to bring a completely different skill set to the table.
It would be impossible to describe these artists’ talents in a single article, but some of the big themes I find sprawled across these masterpieces are personal empowerment, emotional intelligence, and self-driven motivation. These aren’t just translated through lyrics; I feel as though each of these artists’ instrumentation carries emotional weight, often more so than their words.
Tyler, the Creator // Scum Fuck Flower Boy
Solange // A Seat at the Table
Steve Lacy // Apollo XXI
Omar Apollo // Friends
Mereba // The Jungle Is the Only Way Out
Gus Dapperton // Where Polly People Go To Read
Of course, what fun is any hypothetical music-genre-theory article without a counterpoint? You may contend that there’s plenty of talent in the music industry that isn’t literally handling/influencing the entire process of album production — rappers like JID, Noname, and Tierra Whack are just a few.
But while these artists are intriguing and almost unbelievably talented, there’s something special about an artist’s ability to translate their feelings in a nearly five-dimensional masterpiece. It could be my personal feeling, but when an artist is in the driver’s seat every step of the way during the artistic process, something magical is created.