Kweku Collins shares his growth and his growing pains on his new EP grey, an introspective snapshot of the days following his breakout 2016 LP Nat Love.
As the title suggests, the tone of this EP is overcast. The sunny days of Nat Love and his earlier projects aren’t gone, but we do hear the threats of a spring shower. On grey, Collins explores all of the unexpected shades of an emotion. We see this on the cover with Kweku peering out from a bright grey corner. The EP features narratives new and familiar, and the timbre of his vocals has only grown richer. So you know how it goes: stop sleeping on this project, become “one of the lucky ones,” and get to know Kweku Collins on a deeper level with this project.
Opening track “Lucky Ones” sets the mood with a few cool notes and Collins’ relaxed singing reverberating into the melody. “From there [he] evolved” as the drum loop comes in and he spits some spring-loaded bars. The pulse of the beat acts as a good contrast to the languid melody, which builds on this theme of shades and complexities. The track features a somber sign off, as Collins asks “what brought you here to me?” The melody comes to an almost complete stop, and the synths sound as if they’re sighing. The cut sounds like Collins is phasing in and out of his memories.
There’s an easy transition into “Aya,” a smooth and ambient cut assisted by Allan Kingdom. The two artists’ styles compound into a much needed dose of melodic earcandy even as the feeling of loss permeates the track. On “International Business Trip,” Collins takes us through his recent success, takes us to London and Paris. This is a flex track that’s been humanized by Collins’ delivery: moments of tight raps that are offset by an exhausted drawl. We even get an atmospheric cover of “Maps,” originally by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Though a cover track, we’re still learning more about Kweku by getting a window into his influences.
The tender standout “Youaintshit” sounds like the minimalist successor to “The Rain That Wouldn’t Save.” Collins’ flow spills over the acoustic guitar riffs. He’s rapping in an urgent whisper, with a tinge of shame that’s pushing him to get through the verses. The cut is driven by doubts, broken promises, and guilt. The introduction of strings adds an extra weight to the hurt, especially when the notes reach a pitch just short of wailing and tears. The song’s approach to regret and sadness is so sophisticated, that when the initial track shorts out and the beat comes in, it’s too jarring. This has to be the most confusing moment on the project. If the beat was different, a little less frenetic, perhaps the switch-up would have been more effective.
Memories flood back on “Dec. 25th.” Loss rattles through the heart of this song like the accents in the beat. This song cuts deep because of how specific the memories are: “them backcountry roads through the fields and the woods and the rivers,” and later, “sweet potato in the Styrofoam/ taking pictures when we got up on that stage.” Collins does a great job of giving us his memories without making the song too narrow and alienating us. grey has him maturing into a meticulous storyteller. Optimism peaks through this track, despite dealing with death, with some of the groaned adlibs and the bright timbre of the synths. More than any other, this track delivers on the themes of multiplicity.
On grey Collins doesn’t drown in his sorrow, he doesn’t get stunted by his growing pains. The project as a whole doesn’t drown. Instead, we’re left with the feeling of taking lessons and moving on. The EP sounds like someone poking their head above water and taking in the scenery. A few questionable choices aside, grey is nothing short of an interactive still-life of Kweku Collins. Now that fans know exactly where he’s been, I’m exciting to see where he’s going.