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Nashville's Jyou Captures the Moment with Broad yet Focused 'Emotional Summer'

 Evan Dale // Sep 1, 2020 

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As the peak Summer heat (hopefully) starts coming to a close, it’s hard not to look back at one of the more trying – emotional – seasons in memory with a heavy heart. So much has felt so wrong, but from the pain and struggle, so much beauty and art has emerged in response. And from more than anywhere, Nashville, Tennessee has been a go-to glimpse into where music and culture are headed in 2020 and beyond, churning out classic project after anthemic hit from the wide-ranging mosaic of its hip-hop centric underground. Overcoming the swing of a devastating series of tornadoes before the coronavirus had even taken the US in its fatal grip; subsequently tripled with a hard-hitting, leading role in the ongoing struggle with America’s racial reckoning – a key position that Nashville has found itself in with each and every generational fight for civil liberties – the city’s Summer (and Spring) were more hard-fought and more emotional than most. But Nashville continues to persevere. As does its art. And latest in a string of must-listens, is a Nashville hip-hop project boasting the timeliest of titles to date.


Emotional Summer, indeed. It comes by way of Jyou: another little known, yet vibrantly talented individual who – akin to many of his Nashville compatriots – likely won’t be undiscovered or underground for long. A figure of the scene by way of his roots and his Nashvillian manner of unapologetic, irreplicable creativity, his is a sound that though music didn’t have before, feels necessary and timeless through the 20-minute run-time of Emotional Summer. And it begins in a reminiscent, immersive space.


ES Intro dunks its listener into an introspective poem that introduces the thoughtful, meditative place from where its subsequent poetry – though widely ranged – is also sourced. Fluttering keystrokes lifted by the underlying float of humming harmonies and atmospheric tones set the stage for our protagonist to delicately address us with an edit framing the juxtaposition in Tennessee’s leaning towards both the thematically lyrical and the classically chopped & screwed. By a rapper from any other city, ES Intro might feel out of place or out of balance. But from Nashville, from 2020 – from Jyou – the story of an Emotional Summer jarringly encapsulates the attention of anyone listening from the jump.


When the days grow longer, and when the sun shines brighter, I become vulnerable.

       An emotional Summer flips the script. Our mental stability takes a trip and others slip.


Steady in his own steps, firm in his rapped footing, Jyou marches on from the poetic nature of ES Intro though at a different pace, never without his preliminary established prose. Poetry is in his blood and delivers the soul of his sonic texture throughout Emotional Summer’s wavering aesthetic nuances. First, atop light keystrokes and heavy bass, he and FSO Ebandz use Pain to cut into a brisk cadence with the effortless twang that define Nashville’s overarching anthemic aesthetic. There is something irreplaceably relatable, immersive, and so thoughtfully penned, even while letting the beat and the bass lead the direction of Emotional Summer’s standout banger.


Yet, that same knack for prose, meaning, and immersive poetry in balance likewise shines in Jyou’s further, differing explorations. He and established Nashville soulstress, Your Truly, Jai, dive into the meditative, emotive Favor shining Jyou’s knack for poetry to be intertwined by romantic piano keys and soft harmonies. Attack takes his aptitude for lyricism and flow and merges it with upbeat energy and addicting braggadocio on the hook.


         And if you hurt their soul, they attack,

         Cause the subject matter touchy and they getting too attached.

         And y’all getting too relaxed, fire to your bellies,

         I got your wife chopping meat in my private deli.


Immediately following, Misunderstood is a downtrodden, heartbroken rap ballad exploring the intersection between struggles with relationships and struggles with addiction More than anywhere on Emotional Summer, Jyou is able to utilize his established skill at driving lyrical meaning into his music, here.


Through the blaring disparities of ES Intro: a chopped & screwed honoring poem introducing the lyrical intent of Jyou’s larger work; Pain: a bass-heavy hip-hop anthem; Favor: a romantically underlined summer jam exploring the lighthearted edge of his lyrical emotionality; Misunderstood: the darker antithesis to Favor; and Attack: a glimpse into the fun-loving nature of Jyou’s take on more mainstream, digestible hip-hop; the young Nashvillian proves boundless in range, yet tethered and directional in his consistent foundation. And that foundation returns to raw poetry, to lyricism, and to the emotionally relatable nature of both.


Jyou’s Emotional Summer earmarks the moment in history its listeners find themselves experiencing while likewise providing its audience ample reflection and escape from the very wide-ranging space of turmoil and attempted normality where its stories and emotions are rooted. And that is a powerful feat seemingly only possible by way of Nashville these days.


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