Nashville's Jyou Expands his Stylistic Range and Opens Up About Mental Health with 'Living on the Edge'
Evan Dale // January 17, 2022
There’s a clear juxtaposition between the instrumentally-rooted Southern jazziness in production and the angst-ridden, hard-hitting lyricism and delivery that are at play from the very moment Nashville rapper, Jyou opens his new project, Living on the Edge, with Can’t Believe. It’s a comparative gap in his music that defines much of the ensuing thirty minutes, though that juxtaposition defines itself in different ways pointing towards different boundaries of a dichotomous creative identity and relationship with self for the artist. Even through the mire of the emotional and energetic shifts throughout the project, Jyou feels now more refined - and at times angrier, angstier, and yet still more emotionally and musically nuanced - than his introspectively lyrical, warmly emotional debut, Emotional Summer from 2020. Introspection, lyricism, and subsequent provocation of thought are still very much in his bag of tricks, however. The entirety of Living on the Edge lives and dies by its protagonist’s ability to first and foremost wield his pen. And that ability has only since sharpened his already dynamic verse from years ago. He’s also since developed a pronounced ability to construct high-energy anthems, and the even more challenging knack at weaving them in and out of introspective poetry for a cohesive result.
Take At What Cost?. The project’s leading single now finds itself as its third track, and it’s also the most hard-hitting addition in Jyou’s catalogue - one boiling over with introspection, melody, and incredible knack for lyricism. But here - and also with Full Circle’s breakdown and second half, as well as the intensity behind Grip n’ Clutch’s more slowed down flow - Jyou explores his moody range, blistering a barrage of anthemic lines overtop rumbling bass and distorted synth strokes. The new lane is a risk well-taken, as he expands his sound, without ever losing sight of his particularly lyrical roots. And those more poetically-entrenched, downtempo tracks find themselves sorting neatly in the slots between bangers.
Handle, which posts up between At What Cost? and Full Circle is an exceptionally vulnerable moment for Jyou from both a point of emotion and a point of musicality. Stretching his melodic prowess - his vocals and register - into a conversation about depression and suicidal thoughts, he bridges the space between his most upturnt, high-energy explorations with something equally emotional, albeit in a different direction. It’s another risk for the young Nashville rapper that was taken with such confidence and openness that it pays off in spades. A carefully curated connection to many listening struggling with their own journeys is a bold thing for any artist to undertake.
It’s that same vulnerability that also leads to some of the album’s most unique moments. With Emotional Summer - and particularly tracks like the Yours Truly Jai assisted, Favor - Jyou established a melodic edge to his music that allows for a more liquid flow through his projects. and with a track like Nest, where Jyou handily floats his verses across a guitar laden, spacey beat (we see you int the credits, Jack Keller), he pairs it all with a powerful, vocally refined hook. In effect, it’s the project’s most compositionally layered, and psuedo-genre defying deliverable, folding in a sense of emotional overcoming. Backkk - which features the ever-present glow of fellow Nashvillian, Chuck Indigo’s unique sound - is another addition that belongs in this conversation.
It’s that exceptional breadth - the ability to carefully curate a project with balance between not only the high-energy bangers, the angsty introspections, the melodic anthems, and the jazz-rooted poetics, but with a signature take on them all (closing the album with the Ashley EMJ assisted Restored is a pretty immersive amalgamation of most of the stylistic range he explores throughout the 30 minute) - that makes Jyou yet another key name in an emerging Nashville renaissance that continues to churn out further talent, also heavily delineated by their own respective range and lack of fucks about stylistic expectation. It does not exist in the city, that box which ties other artists from other places to expected sounds. The box didn’t exist when Jyou dropped Emotional Summer in 2020. But with Living on the Edge, his ability to transcend stylistic borders, breathe emotional vulnerability into his artistic identity, and pull it altogether in a way that coalesces for thirty minutes, makes the project an exceedingly experimental, exceedingly listenable success that is sure to connect on many levels with many listeners just like it has with us.