FROM: Evanston, Illinois
HEAR: The Grey EP
It’s been about a year since Kweku Collins released his beguiling debut, Nat Love, on Chicago’s Closed Sessions label, but one can practically hear the twenty-year-old Collins shrugging over the phone when asked about what’s changed over the past twelve months.
“People heard this body of work, and now they look to the next body of work to be better than that,” he says of the critical praise heaped upon him from the beginning. “There’s no pressure [around] that for me, because it’s not like I’m not the artist who made that project. I made that, which means that I can make better than that.”
“I made that, which means that I can make better than that.”
Collins is like this when you talk to him—metaphysical but logical—and his music exists in that same liminal space between hip-hop and not, his ostensible role as a rapper belied by a voice much too mellifluous to be reduced to cadence. And so Nat Love and new EP Grey are a mélange of genres at the mercy of his inspirations, which include his father (an African and Latin percussionist), Kendrick Lamar, and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, all “unbelievable songwriters in their own way,” as he puts it. Describing his favorite albums, Collins describes himself, even if he’s still discovering what that means.
“Tame Impala’s Currents—to me that’s a perfect album,” he says, love beaming from his words. “The way [Kevin Parker] constructed that album: [It’s] Beatles-esque in the way it’s thought out, the concept is easy to follow, there’s almost a plot to it. Front to back the project just flows, and you can listen to it all the way through or you can pluck songs out and they sound just as good [out of context].”
Living in Evanston, a straight shot down the Red Line to his set at Lollapalooza in Grant Park, Collins can’t dodge comparisons to the other young, conscious hip-hop artists coming out of the city proper: Chance the Rapper, Noname, Joey Purp, Vic Mensa. Not black or white, Grey is an exquisitely produced record that should allow Collins to extricate himself from “conversations about the city” that fail to give him his unique due as a bedroom producer and classically trained musician.
“I’m in the city—I still live in Evanston, but I don’t consider myself part of it. I think I’m part of it in the way that I’m not.” FL
This article originally appears in the FLOOD Festival Guide presented by Toyota C-HR. You can check out the rest of the magazine here.