Marco McKinnis' Sophomore Project, E'Merse is a Refined Display of his Range
Evan Dale // June 19, 2019
In the spirit of an R&B epoch come and gone, Marco McKinnis has since 2017 explored the direction of his musicality amongst the merged worlds of contemporary risk taking and nostalgia for his lane’s golden eras. Where last summer he delivered his debut project, Underground introducing his delicate register and powerful range to the world, his newest project, E’merse breathes of its title, immersing listeners in a deeper, more refined exploration of his many nuances, while allowing him to emerge further from his R&B underground roots.
Marco McKinnis, even being very much a key part of the new and explosive R&B / neo-soul moment, stands out amongst his peers. Relatable in his unique aesthetic and relative mysteriousness to Brent Faiyaz while equal in his auditory aesthetic and stylistic lane to the legends of late 90’s and early 2000’s, McKinnis is a bridge in both directions. Fans of Daniel Caesar, SZA, and the modern school at large earn a new respect for the slower, darker reaches of R&B’s past through his texture, while fans of old who find themselves immersed in Underground and E’merse are tossed into the world of refined production techniques and wider range seen in the modern spectrum.
And yet, even amongst such generational breadth, Marco McKinnis has found success bringing something new to the vocally-driven stylings at any scale. And E’Merse is the kind of project that should shoot McKinnis’ name into libraries of the larger public.
Amidst such a burgeoning pool of talented R&B youth changing the world of the vocally-driven spectrum like never before, McKinnis is so staunchly true to delicate, hyper-emotional delivery that at times, E’Merse feels completely drawn from the annals of R&B’s hall of fame. Give It Up – the album’s second track – is its classic sound’s best example. Wavering between piercing falsettos and bellowing, sensual lows, McKinnis’ delivery throughout the track brings to mind the range displayed throughout Ginuwine’s career where the brash contrast in his vocal spectral ends sets him up to deliver a duet of sorts even as an individual artist. Layers of production interweave the highs, the lows into a complex patchwork of unending sex and smoothness while plastering his nearly unmatched talent for range high on the billboards of modern R&B.
And his penmanship accentuates it further. A poetic, romantic, and vibrantly descriptive author McKinnis has no trouble matching the emotional draft of his voice with the realism and relatability of his pen – something often missing the mark not just in the absurdity and hilarity of classic R&B, but also in the hyper-sexualized present.
The album's leading single, Deep which finds itself batting cleanup for E’Merse is a perfect example of that balance. In instrumentation and vocals, Deep feels like the slow ballad highlighting R&B Golden Era’s most defining projects – Usher’s You Got It Bad taken from 2001’s 8701, Anthony Hamilton’s Charlene taken from 2003’s Comin’ Where I’m From, Tyrese’s Lately taken from his self-titled 1998 debut. It’s an emotional exploration built on the vocal determination of its artist, questioning love and setting up listeners to cry on rainy car rides.
And though that may seem a little dramatic, that’s the power of a project like E’Merse. The hyper-sexuality is still present, holding true to the always expanding collection of modern-day baby-makers driving what is probably R&B’s most notorious sound, but the emotionality that might come through forced or cheesy in the classic scene feels natural and balanced in Marco McKinnis’ hands.
E’Merse is a short project but doesn’t come up short anywhere else. It is a masterful expression of what makes Marco McKinnis’ soon to be dominance – the vocal range, the poetic knack with a pen, the vibrant mixology of R&B classic meets modern. It is bold and unheard through eras come and gone, but is sure to heavily influence not only his own route to the top of the R&B circuit, but music at a massive scale top come for years.