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Nascent’s ‘DON’T GROW UP TOO SOON’ Finds Comfort in its Unpredictable Stylistic Waves, Strength in Featuring Numbers

Evan Dale // May 18, 2024

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Notorious Noise

There’s an indisputable sort of Chicago authenticity to Nascent’s production that bleeds of the same cracked asphalt and icy timelessness as the city itself. His beats come from the lived experiences of those same Chicago streets. His is a tranche of auditory aesthetics defiant of era and epoch; true, too, to hip-hop’s defiant roots, that makes him such a unique compositional force during a time of hyper-edits and anti-analogue sentiment. Amongst rare company like The Alchemist and NappyHigh whose own work also grows from a space sans a need to be stamped In time yet simultaneously so driven by the stylistic textures of his geography, it’s no wonder that so many artists from the city, alongside those from far outside of it, clammer to feature in the depth of his beats. And it’s no wonder that a full-length, hour-long collection from the producer, boiling over with guest spots from an unparalleled smattering of rappers and vocalists, fellow beat-makers and multi-instrumentalists, whose own sonic textures span an immense stylistic breadth, would coalesce into something special, tethered akin beginning to end by Nascent’s guiding hand.

Ab-Soul, Saba, BashfortheWorld, BJ The Chicago Kid, Maxo Kream, Paul Wall, Childish Major, SAILORR, Biako, Duckwrth, PawPaw Rod, Knucks, Farrah Fawx, Orion Sun, Hamzaa, Mereba, Jordan Ward, Rizz Capolatti, and Joseph Chilliams.

Only Kaytranada in the post DJ-Khaled-10-features-on-a-two-and-a-half-minute-track era can fill a room with so many talented friends, and somehow make their mosaic of sounds work within the framework of his own. Until now. And now that the immense absurdity of the featuring list is out of the way, it becomes clear that each and every one plays a vital role.

From DON’T GROW UP TOO SOON top to DON’T GROW UP TO SOONbottom, Nascent is the sandbox architect, and his friends all effect the castle’s ultimate design. Immersed in overarching undercurrents of childhood, adolescence, and a coming-of-age arch that the title would suggest, a listener is simultaneously thrust into the short stories of the featuring artists involved, whose own takes on the larger theme at times deviate, but never fail to add to both the grander thematic discourse at play, and the massive musical scope of it all.

Spinnin These Blocks is likely the most detailed one-track exhibition of the vast range at play throughout the album. Opening and doubling back with a BJ The Chicago Kid hook that delves into a certain 2000’s R&B reminiscence, the cut is subsequently dotted with an expectedly head-nodding verse from Maxo Kream, and the unexpected nature of a punchline drawing Paul Wall verse in 2024.

That same vast range is also on display from one track to the next. Take Run Me Back and Mangosteen where at first rapper and producer, Childish Major diatribes with the high-note slinging soulstress, SAILORR on a financially burdened coming-of age relationship struggle for a down-tempo, highly immersive duet; and second, SAILORR and Biako take the reigns for an acoustically foundational, folk-soul Spring anthem. Even featuring the same vocalist, the two tracks sound like they could have come from separate albums or eras, yet are fit together by Nascent’s steady composition.

Even that same construct, where one featuring artist’s aesthetic can be stretched from one track to another to sound like two completely separate deliveries without losing sight of the underlying direction of the project, appears more than once. TakeDon’t Check 4 Me where Nascent’s longtime friends and collaborators, Duckwrth and Saba rekindle their melodically rapped, lyrically pervasive Lock It Up magic from the producer’s last collective album; and All To Me where Nascent taps into his Kaytranada reminiscent house roots for a club anthem featuring Duckwrth’s effortless bars and Farrah Fawx’s range stretching from addicting high notes to lightning fast bars. In that ability to not only get the best from his featuring names, but to push them from their comfort zones and into new sounds they may have never discovered without him, Nascent is able to carve out an album unlike any other modern producer.

It’s the unpredictability of what a listener is going to hear next that makes DON’T GROW UP TOO SOON such a post-genre masterclass, the likes of which can only really be born from a compositional mind able to bend and meld without breaking or burning. Anyone drawn to the project by one song or another is guaranteed to stumble upon a stylistic shift or aesthetic change of pace they weren’t expecting, but Nascent’s ability to blend it all together almost also guarantees that they’ll end up loving and learning that which was so unexpected to begin with.

Case and point: Big Brown Eyes. At first it feels almost blasphemous to crown a soft-sung, emotionally immersive modern R&B ballad the penultimate standout of an album dotted with rap heaters that span the space’s gambit, but Orion Sun’s delicate songwriting and understatedly powerful vocals mirrored by Nascent’s knack at weaving a fittingly analogue sonic backdrop, fit with dizzying synth strokes and rounding, pseudo-psychedelic progression ending in a string breakdown, make us second guess our blasphemous constructs.

But the truth is really that at every turn of the page, DON’T GROW UP TO SOON reaches a new high point. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of track he’s making, or whose he brings on board to complete his vision, he seamlessly evokes the most from his friends, while keeping anyone listening ear toes, enjoying every twist and turn.

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