Night Lovell's GOODNIGHT LOVELL is his Thesis on the Sound he Made
Evan Dale // Feb 25, 2019
In a sonic world where the dark, the grungy, and the emo-thematic reminiscent coalesce with rap and experimentally electronic production, a new order of hip-hop has taken over. It’s not the meditative, melody-driven hip-hop of Atlanta; It’s not the high-energy, experimental force of the East Coast. Instead, this dark energy, underworld, utterly polarizing styling finds itself centered around Toronto with bright spots emerging in Brooklyn and London as well. And if one true cult leader of what at this point is hard to argue not being a cult exists, it’s Night Lovell. The 21-year-old Canadian rapper and producer from Ottawa is the flagship captain of what we’ve best heard described as Backwoods Murder Trap.
When his debut album, Concept Vague was released in 2014, not just hip-hop, but all of music was shaken to the core. Nothing about it at that point was relatable. Being a new sound without obvious influence, it was difficult to even label what was being made as an offshoot of hip-hop. Elements of it reminded us of the cadence being utilized by trap lyricists around the world. But others reminded us of high-fidelity, brutal trap electronica. And others still – the thematic discourse in particular – brought to mind memories of the early 2000’s emo-metal movement somehow converging with underground hip-hop. And all of this musical experimentation was coming from a 17-year-old artist shooting his home videos somewhere in the Canadian woods. It was thrilling, terrifying, and truly ahead of its time.
By the time his sophomore project, Red Teenage Melody was released in 2016, Night Lovell’s influence was being more widely felt – even leaking its way into the mainstream at times. In fact, his closeout track from Concept Vague – Dark Light – had become an international hit and is, to this day, his most popular career release. Red Teenage Melody was somewhat of a sophomore slump in terms of its public reception, failing to surpass the explosion that Concept Vague saw when finally the mainstream hip-hop audience discovered and embraced its brash new take on an ever-changing soundscape. But, Red Teenage Melody was brutally experimental even when compared to what Lovell had delivered prior, and most of its public reception has been delayed because of it.
Just like Concept Vague, Red Teenage Melody took leaps and bounds in its conversion of styles we had never seen come together, and now that the world is finally catching up with Lovell again, Red Teenage Melody is continuously gaining more acclaim and respect. Night Lovell is a fervent trend-setter in hip-hop. He’s one of, if not the quietest force on music in the last half-decade and is steadily growing while the style he pioneered continues to explode into the mainstream stratosphere.
But, with his third album, GOODNIGHT LOVELL, there is finally balance being struck between his brash experimentation, his influence, and his public reception. He is, at this point, an established hip-hop star whose reclusiveness and mystère only build on a character that would have been unacceptable in the historically flashy and outlandish realm of popular hip-hop before him. He is the biggest influence on hip-hop’s recent obsession with metal. And he is also the most genuine in utilizing its thematic discourse and emotional spectrum.
The emotive and sensitive sensibilities that metal had fused with particularly violent music was first mastered in hip-hop by Night Lovell and now, five years after his debut and key-marked by the release of his third, it’s pushing ahead of its experimental sub-genre counterparts faster than any other.
GOODNIGHT LOVELL isn’t simply Night Lovell’s first release amidst an era defined and popularized by the sound he shaped, it’s also his best album yet – a master thesis on his own lane. And that, beyond the exceptional growth of his own aesthetic, his own style, and his professional ability to delineate the direction of a full-length project, is what makes it so impressive, timely, and ultimately important. It’s also a marathon. 18 tracks spanning 45 minutes take the listener on a dark and twisted journey where the particularly negative ends of the emotional spectrum – anger, depression, loss, and utter carelessness – are effortlessly belayed by Night Lovell overtop brutalist and high-energy production of his own making. Though it’s been only two and a half years since Red Teenage Melody, GOODNIGHT LOVELL has been a lifetime in the making, emerging the kind of telling, personal project most wouldn’t have the courage to release.
Its lack of positivity is not the shocking aspect. Its love of negativity is. But it’s also what makes GOODNIGHT LOVELL and what has always made Night Lovell a bold outlier whose ceiling knew no bounds. He draws a new crowd to the world of hip-hop without being so experimental or absurd that he pushes away its traditional fanbase. He strikes a balance between the dark and the light, the underground and the mainstream, the positive and the negative, the hip-hop and the metal. And though that balance is not really middle-grounded in any way, it’s teetering on the edge enough to create a spectacle of bold innovation, necessary invention, and undeniable hip-hop villainy.
And everyone loves a good villain.