If You Know, You Know that Chuck Indigo’s First Project in Years is an Exhibition of Gray Area Balance and Artistic Growth
Evan Dale // Nov 29, 2023
Intangibly unique, Chuck Indigo has for years maneuvered through his self-built, self-believing corner of Nashville’s explosively rising hip-hop and neo-soul scene to create a sound tethered to the organic storylines he anecdotes through his oft personally derived and always artistically expansive auditory aesthetic. His is a storyline that has taken an intermission — at least publicly — since his last collection release, Shades of Indigo, in the Fall of 2021 – a project that at its core breathed as an ode to his striving for authenticity, releasing the project early, imperfect.
But when listening to his new work, it’s clear that in the time between releases, he’s continued widening his already broad sound, pushing also further into art with a self-shot, self-directed short film to tie to the project itself. His art, in 2023, is reaching even further into the indefinable grey areas where his artistic traits meet.
For those new to the Nashville rapper, vocalist, and lyricist, his is a well-balanced triangulation of those skillsets. His voice is pitched with East Nashville expression, immersive poeticism projected through a higher, unendingly unique and nasally draw that tends to bleed into a prolonged vocal bout. It’s hard to pinpoint the moments when he stops rapping and starts singing, where well-crafted bars end and emotionally hinged vocals begin. Together, transcending the rapped and the sung with poetic architecture and a one-of-a-kind sound, his merging middle ground has made his music immediately recognizable ever since his debut, Indigo SZN in 2017. Since then, he’s only expanded.
Like so many in the continuously growing hotbed of emerging music, art, fashion, and culture at large that Nashville is, Chuck Indigo’s presence both in the city, and stretching far beyond it with a smattering of heavy streams pulled from a mosaic of his canon to this point – check out iNDigo Café from 2019 – is microcosmic of a larger tale of his generation and city’s emcees, vocalists, producers, and their sometimes-manifest coalescence in one artist.
He — like others from Nashville, including the incomparable, yet reminiscent Brian Brown also featured in the EP, and also just having released his own new project — represents the latter, and with his new project, IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW…, Chuck Indigo puts forth his most balanced, cohesive, yet expansive expression to date.
For its part, Brown and Indigo’s duo, ’94 BABY, is not only one of the more anthemic standouts of late 2023, it’s also primed as a noteworthy exhibition of two of the Music City’s most gifted artists, equally transcendent in style as they are, at the heart of their artistry, damn immersive lyricists.
From the first track to the fifth, the EP - not even 12 minutes long - emerges still a mosaic of the absurd length that chuck Indigo’s experimentation can reach while remaining true to himself, and to the integrity of a project’s underlying infrastructure. There are no jarring changes of pace - no abrupt anomalies of musical vibrance that throw a listener off course. Instead, there is a well-connected flow through the many stylistic glass ceilings he first shatters, and then binds back together with his own creative epoxy.
But that’s an ode to his having simultaneously whittled away at the shape of all sides of his artistry over the course of his years-long journey. For many artists, the broad aesthetic expanse of IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW… would throw the project and the listeners into a disorganized tailspin. But by way of Chuck, chaos is replaced with noteworthy and deft experimental risks gone right. No matter which lane he takes on any given track – or even changes of pace at varying moments within a track – he crosses over with grace and fluidity, always authentic to himself, and almost always orbiting an uplifting positivity that leaves his music anthemic and at the same time defining of who he seems to be as a person.
BELIEF IS A FORM OF DOUBT opens the EP to a sample-riddled monologue internalizing past doubts, navigating mental health, prioritizing the right path, and calling out the wrong ones. Expressly lyrical, Indigo leaves no doubt to anyone listening that the hyper-poetic fabric of the Nashville not-so-underground continues to be sewn by stronger hands than just about any other locale. LOVE ME STILL doubles back, encircling a listener in an unapologetic willingness for its protagonist to explore his high-toned register, before breaking down at the halfway point for a smattering of lightning-fast bars that never deviate from the established vocal prowess that opened the song. DIFFERENT again would be a moment of brash stylistic deviation for most artists. But for Chuck Indigo and his well-documented breadth, the transition from a hummy, vocal-strewn ballad to the most hard-hitting, bass-thudding anthem of the five not only leaves IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW…intact, but altogether exhibitionist of his nimble ability to transcend stylistic boundary. And YE SHALL FIND feels like the most timeless of Chuck Indigo cuts. It seamlessly could have fit into any project along his journey since the beginning, shining of his rapped-sung transcendence that still defines him, and his music today.