Innanet James Takes Leaps Lyrically & Stylistically with Sophomore Album,
Keep It Clean
Evan Dale // Sep 19, 2018
There is a specifically uptempo, lyrically profound, R&B-influenced approach to hip-hop native to the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area. And it’s growing. From the time that GoldLink appeared on the scene with The God Complex in 2014, the style, rooted at differing points in hip-hop, neo-soul, and electronic production, has been leaving a pronounced mark on the international hip-hop scene. Though usually bubbly and warm in sonic texture, there is nothing lost in its ability to retain seriousness and maturity through DC’s long-standing tradition of culturing lyrically-conscious rappers. And in that duality of a fun-loving, bouncy aesthetic meeting thoughtful, dynamic penmanship, the style has distanced itself from other new waves popping up across the globe.
Founded on the area’s history as a hotbed for transcendent musical forces – D’Angelo, Chris Brown, Missy Elliot, Pharrell, Timbaland – the blending of musical elements shouldn’t be surprising. After all, this is a scene that in modern times, boasts acts as dynamic and musically innovative as DRAM, Brent Faiyaz, Abhi//Dijon, and April + Vista, who themselves each belong to their respective ends of the uniquely geographical spectrum with GoldLink.
In addition to DMV’s past and its names mentioned present, Innanet James is a name not to be misremembered, central to its transcendent hip-hop complex. With the release of his sophomore project, Keep it Clean, the myriad artist gains a deep and inventive addition to his existing gait, making his case as one of the most dynamic and intriguing young artists in all of music.
That praise doesn’t come lightly.
For those of you new to the Innanet James construct, there are not too many references or comparisons to be made to his sound. But, those comparisons that he does deserve are likewise, not to be taken lightly. With an auditory aesthetic in many ways comparable to the transcendent driving force of his DMV peers, his sound, most directly built upon the virtues of hip-hop, is reminiscent of a rapper like GoldLink. Both artists certainly have a uniquely inviting vocal delivery, a quick cadence, ability to extend vocals into song, and a well-endowed vocabulary. But, like any artist able to be described as transcendent, single comparisons are only so defining. As such, another artist worth mentioning when delineating the sonic texture of Innanet James is the almost incomparable Anderson .Paak. A transcendent artist if ever there was one, .Paak, like James, is an inviting, conscious musician with a sound as bubbly as it is inventive. Summery vibes drive the warm passions in each of their music, especially when considering .Paak’s electronically-informed work with Knxwledge.
At the crossroads of hip-hop, R&B, and electronic; at the crossroads of DMV transcendence and the stylings of GoldLink and Anderson .Paak; at the crossroads of conscious penmanship and subconscious good vibes, Innanet James with Keep It Clean is a master of the emergent DC aesthetic.
Undoubtedly informed by more traditional DMV hip-hop artists, and even featuring perhaps the most prime of examples, Pusha T, Keep It Clean is first and foremost a great rap project. Lyricism and Innanet’s vibrant delivery are the true driving force behind the project’s entirety. But where rap takes priority, R&B features like KALLITECHNIS bring into light Innanet’s truly transcendent approach.
On Better Without You, the juxtaposition between Pusha T and KALLITECHNIS finds a harmonized middle ground with Innanet’s own sound, exhibiting its transcendence between two of its stylized pillars. Though his sound wavers between the two pillars depending on the track, it never escapes that uniquely defined position – a position firmly defining that greater DMV approach.
London-born, LA-based soulstress, Taliwoah and equally transcendent, DRAM-reminiscent California hip-hop artist, Rexx Life Raj round out the short list of other features, granting Innanet James, with all of his musical dynamism and obvious growth, center stage throughout.
The result is yet another incredibly innovative 2018 hip-hop project.
But don’t let all the releases lessen its impact. Innanet James, Keep It Clean should be considered highly as one of, if not the most well-rounded hip-hop project of the year.