Columbus' Joey Aich Opens Up Personally & Artistically with Wide-Ranging 'Open Treehouse'
Evan Dale // July 7, 2020
From the first moments of Open Treehouse, Joey Aich proves himself a rapper whose lyrical prowess, though relatively unknown, boasts a spiritual energy and a stranglehold on a thesaurus both largely unparalleled in modern hip-hop. But what ends up coming to fruition at even strength and shining him in an even more impressive light is that, like only a rare few in hip-hop history, his knack for raw bars is not at all the only skillset that makes him such a unique artist. And really, once the rest of his talent emerges – once Open Treehouse has been listened to once, or twice, or a dozen times all the way through – one really starts to hear something they haven’t heard from anyone before. The album is incredible complex and professional for an underground artist from Columbus, Ohio. But these days, geography and the mainstream’s awareness aren’t what define and direct the best artists and their best music. Confidence in a truly unique sound must instead be the first gauge with which to measure the eventual effect that an artist’s sound will have on the rest of the musical world. And for Joey Aich – for Open Treehouse – an intangible, confident presence unlike anyone else or any other project we can think to name is what is most prevalently put into frame – and what will come into focus in its wake.
There’s a gentle reminiscence of childhood in its production. Maybe it’s a late 90’s, early 00’s inspiration that we draw by default to our first tastes of proper rap, but the soft keys and lighthearted harmony of Love Note – Open Treehouse’s opening track – shine it in a light born from another era, though stretched to size for this one. Joey Aich’s verses are hard-hitting and poetic, the hook is braggadocious and bubbly, and the outcome is a merged lane of where he came from, where he’s at, and where he plans to take his unique lane of hip-hop in the years to come. The rest of the project, like his evolved overarching sound, pushes forward not without the old-school nuances present in its opener. In nearly every track, there seems to be an addicting hook built on the foundations of gentle soul and simple production albeit keen to the presence of instrumentation. And more notably, in undoubtedly every track, Joey Aich raps his ass off.
The most notable example to keep returning to is Inside. Inside the heart of Open Treehouse’s lineup, the track is a nonchalant exhibition of grace and confidence in multiple stylistic deliveries and varying cadence that feels like Joey Aich’s most comfortable artistic space. His wordplay dances here and there while his flow moves fluidly overtop an also evolving beat built on chords, strings, and drums in toe-tapping waves. The whole track feels like a microcosm of Open Treehouse at large where Joey Aich effortlessly adjusts his one-of-a-kind flow for an ever-adjusting, albeit consistent set of beats that couldn’t have been better hand-picked for a rapper whose lyricism means business, but whose wavy delivery also sets the tone for a damn good time.
When it comes to understanding the juxtaposition in his oft meaningful and deep poeticism weighed against an affinity for subtle lightheartedness in the hook and beats made for the party, Extra Sauce puts into perspective an important branch to the greater spectrum of Open Treehouse. The title alone and subsequent hook: ‘I don’t need no extra sauce on my wings, got enough on my plate’ may seem a tad outrageous when taken out of context. But, when held against the thoughtfulness of his pen in verse, it simply brings balance to what is really one of the heavier tracks on the project at large. And equally on display in juxtaposition in Extra Sauce is his courage and success in experimenting with his vocalism. A figure of modern hip-hop where artists are expected to go above and beyond the challenge of rapping, Joey Aich proves himself an adept vocalist who can bring even more levels into his grandiose auditory aesthetic.
Between the notable influence of hip-hop eras come and gone, the experimentation of production and vocals, the meaningful, the lighthearted, and the constant flex of his rap ability, Joey Aich’s Open Treehouse is a fervent and wide-ranging project that should find its way far beyond the reach of the underground, and deep into the warmer months of Summer from where its warm aesthetic feels directly pulled.