Marco McKinnis Establishes Himself as a Timeless R&B Force with Debut Project,

 Evan Dale // Aug 26, 2018 

Oftentimes, the most convincing art comes from the most unexpected of sources. Right now, that source is undoubtedly Marco McKinnis, a Virginia vocalist whose debut EP is quite possibly the most important Rhythm & Blues collection of the year. It’s not that his previous work was pale in its ability to paint a vibrant future, but rather that it was unsure of when or how that future would finally manifest. With the timely release following a steady stream of lead-up singles and a celebrated collaboration with Rex Orange County, the man’s creative manifestation for the first time lives up to the man himself, symbolically aligning with his emergence from the Underground


McKinnis’ knack for belting Sampha-esque and Brent Faiyaz-reminiscent vocals which are otherwise incomparable, boasts the power and range necessary for such a debut. A strong yet poignant delivery drives shaky looks inward and an explosively late-night emotional spectrum best accompanied by a bottle (or two) of white wine. While his irreplaceable vocals exist as the consistent tether holding the project intact, the rest of Underground is an explorative myriad into R&B’s past, present, and McKinnis-influenced future. 


In fact, Underground’s innate genius is that it unfolds as an exhibition of vast and varied R&B stylings, displaying McKinnis’ range and drawing towards him a wide breadth of audiences who first and foremost, are simply in touch, or looking to become so, with their own emotional prisms. 


If Underground doesn’t connect with you in one way or another, you’re most likely a sociopath.


If it doesn’t connect with your tastes, you’re most likely lacking a proper understanding of R&B in the first place.


From start to finish, the mixed bag of Underground’s exploration driven by the punch of McKinnis’ vocals sways unexpectedly across a series of stylistic and epochal shifts in direction.  


Still Waters opens the project with an understated, high-fidelity future-soul take on the eruptive modern scene. Expectedly, McKinnis moves the track forward with an ethereal set of vocals but is constantly at odds with the bass-heavy, near-ambient production. The conflict arouses and even truer personal connection and sets the scene for the emotional roller coaster about to unfold. 


As quickly as a mood is established, it adjusts. Silence, a track influenced by the acoustic R&B approach occasionally put into action by modern artists like Brent Faiyaz, keeps the emotional range intact but takes it in the direction of the solemn and heartbroken. A loosely strung six-string ices the track’s cake, reaffirming the fragility of its lyricism.


Sultry synth strokes, creative songwriting, and a touch of humor make CPR a baby-maker fitting of any R&B golden era playlist. 


McKinnis takes it back another decade or two with Unwind whose thematic direction aligns with CPR. But, instead of cool-toned synthesizers, Unwind takes on a more analogue feel where rolling hand drums and a funky bassline inspire fantasies of Motown era pool parties and early 80’s funk-downs. 


Another Love once again sees an epochal and stylistic adjustment, bringing to light the cadence-shuffling, choral support, and explosive high tones that have defined R&B throughout the 2000’s.


At last, Temperature, Underground’s closeout track breathes of McKinnis’ own vision for the future of R&B where low-fidelity production gives way to not only his unsurprisingly pristine vocals, but also his lyricism – a piece to his poetic puzzle not to be overlooked. 


Through all of the drastic directions that Underground so seamlessly maneuvers, McKinnis reveals himself not only emotionally and stylistically, but also as a very real emergent force