Joyce Wrice’s Debut Album is ‘Overgrown’ w/ Harmonious Understanding of Emotion
Evan Dale // March 21, 2021
A sun-soaked reminiscence has always tethered the auditory aesthetic of California soulstress, Joyce Wrice not only to the Golden State, but to the Golden Era. It’s not to say that she’s not a figment of Neo-Soul modernity – having been a collaborative name and a standalone artist on the rise for something like half-a-decade – yet, her music could have ornamented the wavy birthstones of R&B as we know it, and no listener would dare question its placement in the 90’s or early 00’s. It’s her era of influence, after all. A young talent with the immeasurable grace and grip of the veteran she really is, growing up a fan of R&B and hip-hop during the eras that made the two spectrums’ collaborative partnership eternally intertwined, makes her modern take on it unavoidably reminiscent, yet daringly timeless. And her debut album – three years in the making, and more than five years since her debut single – bridges all the time she’s spent – all the space she’s known – as a fan of music, a creator of it, and a beneficiary of its healing powers.
The years towards the release of Overgrown have not been oversaturated with releases begging the question as to why her debut has been yet to surface. A steady soloist, but even more so, a prolific feature, recent years have instead been spent learning, growing, and refining musically. The name Overgrown itself, as it turns out, is a more personal reference.
“…this music is a result of me tending my garden. My garden, my emotions, and my thoughts are full of a variety of colorful flowers but they were overrun by weeds. These sessions and collaborations were opportunities for me to do my gardening and create value from everything that I was going through.”
Ah, emotion. It’s always been the cornerstone to art, and art often a living reflection of human emotion. But no artistic space is perhaps a more obvious nod to the spectrum of human emotionality than that of R&B music. Born from soul, as was Joyce Wrice’s creative inspirations; tied to hip-hop, as was also her musical upbringing; Overgrown’s R&B in particular overflows with nods of artistry in blossom, past influence, and existing fandom of her collaborating names.
‘I’m a fan of these artists…. I wanted them to be a part of the world I’m creating.’
And who isn’t a fan? One glance up and down the list of featuring artists, and any true fan of modern R&B has no option but to press play, and then loop the album at least a few more times. In near-order of appearance: dream-weaving Lucky Daye who in many ways is counterweight in modern R&B to Wrice’s own exploding stance; hard-nosed lyricist Freddie Gibbs who has shown an ever-increasing affinity for stepping outside of pure rap and into new roles as he does in Overgrown; old-school reminiscent Westside Gunn whose register is unmistakable and fervently of any era he chooses; super-producers ESTA, KAYTRANADA, and Mndsgn who’s roles do nothing short of define a project’s most detailed identity; Masego – the genius; Devin Morrison – the ultimate Golden Era revivalist and emerging prince of R&B; and UMI – fellow soul-slinging queen redefining modernity through her own remembrance of the past.
Stacked, to say the least.
And yet, even through the unparalleled 2021 web of names that Overgrown is overflowing with, there isn’t a moment that doesn’t scream from the rooftops that Joyce Wrice not only belongs in conversation with them – belongs on a project with them – but is the kind of explosive talent that every single one of these modern hip-hop and R&B legends flocked towards.
Joyce Wrice’s vocals are crystalline. They wistfully breathe through the epochs of more than just R&B, but also through all the eras of Soul. Alongside names from That’s On You feature and friend UMI to other modern R&B queens established and up-and-coming from Snoh Aalegra and Mahalia to Nashville’s Yours Truly, Jai, the reminiscence in Joyce Wrice’s music begins first with her register. Alongside Lucky Daye, Falling in Love bleeds of its title, and brings to mind timeless duets à la Tammi & Marvin. Alongside Freddie Gibbs with On One, the same can be said of a beckoning towards Mariah and ODB. Her voice is simply that powerful enough to transcend time; her collaborators chosen perfectly to drive a listener backwards through R&B and Soul’s illustrious pasts, yet forwards to a future bound to be as influenced by Joyce Wrice as she is by her predecessing soulstresses.
And that eventual influence – as with everything R&B since the beginning – harps on a sliding scale of relatability and emotionality. Overgrown was grown from the heart – often from the heart at its lowest point. And from the heart – and subsequently the soul – Joyce Wrice’s timeless Soul is Overgrown with an understanding of music and human emotion in permanent harmony.