iNTRO’s ‘Welcome To Next Year’ is a Jarring yet Cohesive Exhibition of Hip-Hop Boundlessness
Evan Dale // Sep 12, 2021
From its opening drum intro, iNTRO’s new project, Welcome To Next Year, bleeds of the rangy, analogue, and oft jazz-oriented mosaic that the Nashville hip-hop scene is beginning to script as signature. Removed from any singular sound that can be ascribed to the city’s overarching auditory aesthetic, unlike certain movements that other cities and other scenes have been host to past and present, Nashville’s underground hip-hop and soul sounds seem almost always loosely tethered to its jazz and blues oriented past, granting individual artists something to tether themselves akin, yet also providing them with unending space to maneuver through it on their own with a swatch of textures at a wider range than a sole hip-hop and soul city have really known before. Merge that with his recent move to LA, and iNTRO's debut album is unlike quite anything else being birthed into the hip-hop spectrum these days. Along with the fast-paced, distorted verses that he weaves into WELCOME, iNTRO’s intro sets that stage for a project as stylistically broad as any in the modern scene, where snares and symbols give way to silky key progressions; where muffled lightning pace raps give way to a cooling hook and some introspective poeticism in the project’s secondary offering, COMPLICATE. It speaks to the expanse of influence from where Nashville’s rising names – who all seem to inhabit multiple stylistic spaces at once – draw their amalgamate sounds into being. And from Third Eye & Co. – an illustrious creative collective and independent label that has been curating the sounds of nothing if not the rangiest of hip-hop oriented Nashville talent from Chuck Indigo and Ron Obasi to JORDAN Xx, RyAnne, and the visionary genius of director, SECK – iNTRO, too, is bringing his own audacious ubiquity to one of a handful of Nashville-centric collectives beaming creativity into a citywide renaissance.
Welcome To Next Year, mirroring its title set in the future, is a continuation of the precedent that Nashville’s rising hip-hop underbelly is setting the tone; that the scene is next up. Boldly crafting a project that effortlessly switches up its style, the album sets a jarring pace from a daunting stylistic scope by the time its third track, PUSH IT BACK begins its hyphy, anthemic run, and subsequently RIDE WITH ME breathes of a mellow, beach-ridden soul. By this point in the album, too, anyone listening is probably having trouble describing what it is that iNTRO does and what kind of music it is that he makes, because four tracks in, four stylistic boundaries pushed, and four unique styles all served up with equal muster, and Welcome To Next Year already takes on an identity as vibrantly mosaic. To listen to the project through its nine tracks is to come to understand that iNTRO is an artist of the modern enigma where the complexities of his layered self bleed into the many layers of that which he creates. From song-to-song, he explores the broadest of musical influences that have clearly defined the build-up of his artistry to this point in his still emerging career.
And yet, what has clearly emerged is a remarkable understanding of self – or perhaps selves. Much of history’s great art and creative displays have explored creative and personal dualities, and in iNTRO’s genre-fluid case, the plurality of our human understanding of the lives we live and the art we create in subsequence. Riding the foundations of a jazz-founded lineage of production, incorporating, too, a barrage of organic instrumentation that suspends the album in timelessness, iNTRO’s myriad exploration of stylings all tethered together by his own wide-ranging talent from vocals, to raps, to songwriting, transcend the idea of genre, blurring the lines of the creative self into something more fluid. From beginning to end, the half-hour exhibition that is Welcome To Next Year beams with the light of a post-genre era, successfully blending influences from hip-hop, Neo-Soul, and jazz into something that can really only be described as iNTRO – an intro to the future of music; an intro to the transcendence of the Nashville scene at large; an intro to iNTRO. Welcome To Next Year and to all the years that follow.