Myquale's 'Passport Package' is a Winding Hip-Hop Experiment Circling the Rink
Evan Dale // July 17, 2020
To those who haven’t yet heard Myquale (FKA: Jhon Myquale), it would seem there couldn’t exist an auditory bridge between old-school, low-fidelity rap and the ambiance of spacey funk. But – somewhere in the atmosphere of a retro roller-rink – Myquale fuses a wide-ranging swath of influence into his own dynamic brand of transcendent Lake Michigan cool. If it were to come from anywhere, the ambiguity of Milwakee’s Northside and its subsequent adjacency to the Chi feels particularly like an adept birthplace of the effortlessly lyrical merging with the seamlessly soul. And that’s exactly from where Myquale has constructed his Passport Package. The four-track EP is his second since he began opting for his current moniker, and comes as the culmination of a short run of singles and features that have shown him in a new light.
Since the beginning – since the Jhon Myquale days where his 2018 Flight Theory EP introduced a vibrant poet with a deep voice and a taste for melody – Myquale has been first and foremost an image of lyricism manifesting itself into story. He’s always been that sort of pillar to rap’s longest standing cornerstones. But in the years since his original EP, he has only rounded out a more wide-ranging skillset without sacrificing the poeticism that has built his foundation. And for our understanding of his work, Myquale’s Passport Package is his most refined yet broad collection to date.
It opens curatedly to the smooth tune of leading single, Butler. In reference to a roller rink Myquale used to frequent in youth, Butler sets a tone – an auditory aesthetic – that is never sidestepped throughout Passport Package’s entirety. That tone is one of intersections, where the mellow, hypnotic trance of endless circling to 80’s disco hits and generational works of hip-hop and soul collides head on with a timeless knack for rap’s purest sentiments. The intersection is one of Myquale reconciling his past and his present – his childhood on skates and such with a current existence as an underground rapper and a young man prolifically working to pull himself from the floorboards. And truthfully, the result is of the quality to get him exactly to where he’s looking to get – exactly to wherever he wants to stamp his musical passport. And that’s because, with Passport Package, he’s to put it simply: rare.
Myquale doesn’t sound like anyone else in music. Whether rapping or in an always present, but newly polished knack for melody, Myquale’s natural allure comes from the depth of his register, while his work ethic has never been clearer in his wielding of those vocals and the stories that he’s able to bring to life through it all.
Once the addicting silk of Butler – which features one of Chicago’s most keymark up-and-coming soulstresses, Aaliyah Allah - begins to fade, it doesn’t do so without some serious thought into what comes next. Snooky rides the kind of watery synth progressions that, too, feel pulled straight from the skated lane of his intersection. And when Myquale himself comes in on the track, it becomes obvious that Butler wasn’t only a standout single, but an introductory piece to a larger, equally intersectional puzzle. His rapped-sung approach is most honed here. Floating in and out of the effervescent keystrokes, Myquale is never quite committed to rapping or pure melody, but instead dances in the perfected, refined grey area that land right in his sweet spot.
And being his sweet spot, Myquale takes some creative liberties with the EP’s were it be B-side. Beginning with Last Night We Parted Ways, Passport Package begins to take on an evolved identity more reminiscent of his Flight Theory EP than anything else. Here, Myquale’s production doesn’t drop the texture of the skate rink anthem, been instead just turns up the BPM’s and cooks up some heavy experimentalism. Including its distorted breakdown, all of Last Night We Parted Ways is a trancey, wavering blend of hip-hop and something else altogether indefinable yet still so very Myquale. Driven more by percussion, and ever-edging closer to something resembling spoken word, his knack for making something unquestionably, unapologetically his shines bright.
And that same energy extends throughout 4AM in Kenya. Passport Package’s closing track is also its most insatiably bizarre. That’s not an insult to the song, rather a salute to Myquale’s courage and his success at taking risks even when they don’t charm his audience to the tune of the same warm-weather anthems with which the project began. By this point, the EP runs dark, while brimming with more energy and intensity than at any other point. Not a plea, but a resilient exclamation point of artistic freedom, 4AM in Kenya is a powerful statement that Myquale doesn’t really care what you think, or what I do for that matter, but that he’s got his bags packed and his passport, too.
‘If [his] debut flop, he’s on the next flight.’
Don’t let that happen, people.