Norman Sann is Applying ‘Pressure’ with an Experimentally Deft Display of Hard-Hitting, Meandering, and Unapologetic Energy
Evan Dale // January 23, 2024
He maneuvers through his largely hard to define soundscape with something reminiscent of the unapologetic theatrics of peak OutKast and a flow at times as wildly off-kilter as Eminem’s early work, rooted equally from his vast musical influences as they are from an upbringing spent imbibing his creativity with acting classes.
“How was I a thespian, and I still don’t know how to act.”
Norman Sann, the Houston rapper, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and all-around creative alchemist unwilling to comply with any preconceptions of genre, has been building from the ground floor for a while. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist who became a beat-maker after graduation, his foundation is one built on the possibility and range of imperfection, rather than infusing too much 808 modernity into his work. Grimy, self-produced production, boiling over with organic instrumentation, the high-energy hodgepodge of his aesthetic floor allows him to flourish as a writer and a rapper without definition or expectation. From there, he’s become an enigma, breaking boundaries, and earning evermore recognition for a sound like no one else’s.
It would be an understatement to say that Norman Sann is prolific. Countless singles and a multitude of EP’s since he first started releasing his own tunes in 2019, rather than crafting for others, Pressure still emerges today as only his sophomore full-length collection, following last year’s I Miss Mixtapes. And the timing only make sense. An explosion of recent artistic growth has been obvious by way of singles like Marble, Molton Chocolate Lava, and Space Cake, where cyber-trap production, hammering bass, and his signature off-balance flow have garnered him a serious audience, taking seriously, too, just how necessary his brash experimentation is for a modern scene that at it’s very best, is still to trend-oriented. When an artist is seemingly this prolific, and emerging with fortitude, its album time.
And yet, Pressurestill feels like a coalescing tour de force that not only took time, but also took a whole lot of successful risks. Or maybe that’s just what the blueprint would have looked like for other rappers. Norman Sann seems not to need time, and overfloweth with the constant influx of creative bursts. Though he may be under pressure to keep creating for his quickly widening fanbase, Pressure was made with focus, purpose, and subsequently emerges as a bold and daring display of hip-hop being bent in a mosaic of especially new directions.
Take New Year New Me. A simple keystroke beat lays the framework, while an addicting hook – lacquered over with some theatrics that feel pulled straight from the OutKast school of pre-adlib extracurriculars – is applied to a barrage of poetic prowess and delivery of stanzas so quick, amnd so thought-provoking, that they prove Norman Sann could have thrived in any era of hip-hop where rhymes were considered paramount.
Take Full Nelson. Overtop some brass and some very simple drums, Norman Sann slows it down, without forfeiting any of his signature energy, for a cascade of bars that though they shine with the irreplicable bounce of a freestyle, bleed with the landscaped messages that give his rap purpose.
“I came to save hip-hop, I don’t need a cape, boy.
They think we at the bakery with all this cake, boy.”
Take Change Coming. A mellow sample, and some muted snares transport a listener into Norman Sann’s Houston living room, where while the vinyl plays in the background, he seamlessly drifts through tumbling thoughts that arrange themselves framed by braggadocious self-assurance, explorative opinion on the rap game, and where he fits amongst it all, while somehow also finding away to belt a heartfelt hook.
“Even your top-five rapper say Norman Sann flow nice,
And if your top-five dead, I bet their spirit coincide.”
Take White Dress. A Neo-Soul composition that makes it feel like the band is in the room, grants the Houston wordsmith and willing vocalist to play in a space that would be experimental for anyone else, but for Norman Sann just feels expectedly unexpected. A la styling of spoken word, his verses and vocals bleed into one another, tumbling across the screen for an indefinable, yet somehow romantically emotive exhibition of boundless musical range.
And these are just four examples. Pressure is a 23-track, one-hour explosion of indefinability orbiting rap, hip-hop, spoken word, and Neo-Soul without ever committing to any of those spaces directly. And that’s all because Norman Sann refuses to be boxed into any one space, choosing instead to transcend expectations, while using his vastly broad skillset to achieve an album that still feels cohesive not only to its protagonist, but to music at large. To that, music at large better be feeling the Pressure to step it up, and try to even come close to keeping up.