Neeko Crowe’s Debut Runs at a Fluid Pace | ‘Every Race Is a Solo One’
Evan Dale // Dec 20, 2020
Transcendence and fluidity have become staple traits in a modern hip-hop spectrum that expects so much wide-ranging forte from its young artistry. The ability to string together bouts of thought-provoking lyricism doesn’t cut it anymore. One must be able to evoke emotion with a ubiquitous melodic delivery. It’s a plus to boast an experimental ear for production that can weave in and out the already complex web of sounds brought to the table. A young artist has to at one time be ultimately unique and ultimately broad. And because of that, today’s rising hip-hop stars are some of the most talented, rangy creatives on the planet, rearranging the tenants of their stylistic backdrops to craft sonic sensitivities yet to be explored.
Of them, Neeko Crowe is proving himself all-seeing in his understanding of crafting a sonic palette nearly from scratch. A deep, soothing baritone; a calming belaying of poetry; unendingly relatable thematic discourse; an affinity for mellow production woven with beachy guitar strums, delicate keystrokes, and hard-hitting bass; and a present and well-rounded knack at curating everything from the party anthem to the acoustic rap exploration. The boundlessness of Neeko Crowe’s sound is pleasing to the ear, but equally as important, custom fit for the mind. At times, it feels like hip-hip for practicing yoga; at others, it’s emotional meditation for hip-hop culture; and at others still, it strictly slaps. Because of that innate range, Neeko Crowe’s music speaks to the breadth of listeners spanning the street corner cypher, the party playlist, and the meditation retreat. It’s simply balanced, and ultimately relatable across myriad situational applications.
The transcendent Houston living mosaic is fresh on the heels of his debut album release, and it’s every bit as emotional, vulnerable, and independent as is to be expected from its title: Every Race Is a Solo One. His race, at the very least, is indeed one only he can pace. An organic ability to float between the rapped and the sung; the lyrical and the melodic, feels not even practiced, but unavoidable in his aesthetic. It is, by the time the album’s nine tracks run, the thing most standout as both defining and one-of-a-kind to who it is that Neeko Crowe will come to represent to a larger hip-hop generation in search for uniqueness and independent creativity above all else. It is the reason why Every Race Is a Solo One feels so vibrant and new, while also feelings so foundational and necessary, and likewise the reason that the album need not adhere to stylistic boundaries of the past. Neeko Crowe is his own man, his own artist, and through only one full-length project, his own stylistic corner of hip-hop and music at large.
Track to track, there’s no real telling where Every Race Is a Solo One will turn. And the unexpected transitions from one of his many lanes to the next is what makes the album successful and fluid through so many risks. Take the white space between the album’s second offering, Issues 4 Sale, and its third, Mental. Via their titles, both appear at first sight as if they may come to define Neeko Crowe’s introspection, but as the grey area between the tracks begins to break, it’s only because Crowe is spreading his productive and stylistic wings to such lengths. The former is a mellow, introspective rap ballad delineating his vices and coping mechanisms; the latter is an addicting hip-hop banger that could soundtrack any Southern hip-hop club in a post-Covid reopening. And yet, they’re tethered to one another through the aura that Neeko Crowe’s calming, meditative cool brings into a new era for hip-hop. From the exaggerated range that the one-two Issues-4-Sale-Mental punch puts on exhibition, the rest of the project plays in the well-balanced space between the Neeko Crowe stylistic bookends put on the shelf early in the album.
There are those, like leading single, Leaves in the Wind, that allow plenty of space for Crowe to fly through the airspace of soulful choruses and flow-endowed verses, feeling as if they’ll never end. He’s an effortless poet. Stock Boy and Kill! are both balanced in their thought-provoking penmanship, irreplicable flow, and emotionally vulnerable hooks. 23 & Me and Lost in the Deep End lean even further towards the melodic end of Crowe’s stylistic spectrum, brimming with vocal bouts not only through the hooks, but also in every word rapped. He’s a living display of hip-hop transcendentalism. Walk on Water is nearly a complete surrender to his soulful, vocal, and melodic sensitivities. The kid can sing. And Hosanna caps the project on another stylistic reversal by returning to a much more rap-dominant sound. Neeko Crowe can rap with the best.
It is that revolving wheel of fluid fortune that makes him such an unparalleled force even in a modern hip-hop scene that is more well-rounded than any other; that Russian roulette kind of listening session that makes Every Race Is a Solo One breathe its stamp of independence at every turn. Greater still, his ability to balance even the furthest reaches of his aesthetic under the banner of a nine-track debut album, speaks greatly to his mastery of range. Each track brims with undertones of honesty and a brash authenticity that makes Neeko Crowe a relatable figure to everyone listening, while simultaneously coalescing his debut, albeit incredibly broad in stylistic exploration, as a continuous and liquid stream of his consciousness. His discussions of the everyday – whether the downtrodden or sunshiny – feel applicable to anybody’s life these days. And his effortless delivery of it all makes him an emerging generational leader in a sound that he seems to be ultimately inventing as he goes.
Every Race Is a Solo One, indeed. And though Neeko Crowe is running at his own pace, he’s running his race with more thought, creative fervor, and promise than just about anyone else.