Cambridge's Connis shines with Emotional Self-Titled Debut Album
Evan Dale // Mar 28, 2019
It’s likely you’ve never heard of Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Connis. The transcendental artist who edges most closely to hip-hop and psychedelic R&B’s permanently-expanding grey areas is fond of a homegrown meditative delivery and poeticism diving deep into the personal storyline of his life and his love for music. It’s not to say he doesn’t divulge in the expected arrogance and absurdity of hip-hop thematics. One only has to listen into his debut album’s second track, Still Here to be inundated with samples of gunshots and lines about fucking up checks. And even so, he’s still unable to escape commenting on his high school sweetheart and what could have been. He’s sensitive, and Conn(is) is a product of that sensitivity merged with a deeply unique understanding of hip-hop music’s past and unpredictable future.
As part of the modern wave that has swept through Boston’s hip-hop scene in the wake of Cousin Stizz’s international success, Connis is, like most Boston artists (Stizz included) unfairly underrated. But with the as-of-yet recognition he and his city deserve comes the opportunity to develop a sound that is bound to explode sooner rather than later. Boston is still taking shape as an emergent hip-hop capital, but it’s obvious from artists like Cousin Stizz, Rothstein, and Connis, that emotion, a knack for honest, relatable storytelling, a blend of rap-sung approaches, and a slow and steady cadence are driving its greater direction.
With his debut project last year, Connis Archive Vol. 1, the young artist began showing signs of where he was headed. There were standout tracks that hinted at his energy (Way Before), others that displayed his romantic directive (Play Doh), and others still that captured the early essence of what has come to be his signature flow (Copthewholething). But for the most part, the project was too large, too scatter-brained, and too unrefined to garner much attention from a hip-hop community full of talented and more gathered artistry.
But Conn(is), which is being released as his true debut studio album, is something else entirely. It’s amazing to see how much growth can come over the course of a year when an artist is no longer distracted by the idea of releasing their life’s work under the banner of a marathon debut. Instead, Conn(is) is centrally focused and allows the rapper to explore within a narrow margin, the expanse of his talent. And that talent is brighter than expected.
Aesthetically, there are clear lines to be drawn to Mac Miller. The album’s closeout track, New Orleans, an emotional story of our protagonist being reunited with the love of his life, boasts of the honesty, relatability, and simplicity that Mac Miller learned to carry into his standout ballads later on in his career and his life. The track’s downtrodden piano only adds to the emotion and strengthens the lines to Mac Miller who was too enamored with the use of organic instrumentation. Combined with a unique voice and open penmanship, it often makes for better music than that from the most talented writers and crystalline vocalists simply because it feels more real. It feels more honest and relatable.
And though New Orleans is likely the takeaway track from Conn(is), the project at large is a wonderful and cohesive display of a sound that has come so far in such a short period of time. Rude brings into view Connis’ unique ability to welcome in another local artist and friend, Rothstein, despite their incredibly differing approaches to left-of-center hip-hop. In that collaborative effort exists flexibility, but Connis is able to maintain his sound and the album’s greater direction even amongst the raw adversity of collaborating with an artist of such one-of-a-kind sonic texture.
Silk/Velvet is another ace track that puts on display a particularly bouncy flow, highlighted by intermittent vocals and expectedly romantic lyricism. Kiss The Moon is perhaps the most unique track taken from Conn(is), aesthetically feeling more like something from the electronic end of the bedroom pop spectrum, all the while displaying even more wide range without losing the album’s overall grasp on Connis’ sweet spot. Interim, which falls into place directly in line with Silk/Velvet and Kiss The Moon rounds out the album’s incredibly strong mid-section where Connis experiments wildly with the line between hip-hop and psychedelic R&B, mastering the two in a take all his own.
It’s key to remember that Connis, at 23, is young and that his career and canon are even younger, not dating back much further than last year. The fact that Conn(is) – his debut album – has emerged as such a well-rounded, unique, and vibrant stylistic ride bodes well for him, but also for the future of spoon-fed hip-hop cadences, psychedelic R&B, and Boston’s greater music scene.