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Ron Obasi is ‘Thirty Sunz’ Deep and Pushing his Poetic Presence to its Most Balanced, Cohesive State

Evan Dale  // Oct 14, 2023

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From Nashville’s Ron Obasi, Thirty Sunz is a the newest project in a string of the prolific rapper’s releases tying back to the latest installment of his Notes On A Scale (3) mixtape series in May, a subsequent live recording of it from Shangri-La Studios, and a bombardment of hard-hitting singles from 2022. But, it’s not necessarily about the continuation of a streak or the sound that he’s carefully crafted, and been dynamically stamping with prolific fervor for years. It never has been about that for Obasi. Rather, Thirty Sunz — like so many of his projects steeped in a knack for meditative presence, and the roads that led — is an ode to where he is now, and the past he that he’s been that got him here, thirty solar returns in, and still building towards his final form.

“Thirty Sunz is intentionally dedicated to the young knucklehead me obsessed with black heroes and black powers - who eventually grew into his own,” Obasi wrote upon the project’s release — on the morning of his 30th birthday. And from beginning to end, it curatedly tightropes past with presence, exploring exactly that connection and continuation of his innermost id, without sacrificing just how unique he and his sound have become, even when weighed against prior versions of themselves.

Expectedly — and in the vein of continuation for his sonic signature — the sounds behind Thirty Sunz float between beatscapes of jazz,  neo-soul, and sample-blistered 90s hip-hop. The production — opening with JIM KELLY’s beat from the maestro behind so much of Nashville’s hip-hop and soul renaissance: AB Eastwood — euphorically captures certain nostalgia that transports the listener into the outer-spacey deep thought of Obasi’s always constellation-spanning and evocative poetics. His production sweet spot seems to always allow for the rapper and the listener space to think, meditate, and digest.

Even at its most experimental, Thirty Sunz’s beats expand without abandoning those jazzy, neo-soul roots. At STATICSHOCK, a galactic yet mellow beat transports Obasi’s astronomic lyricism into the astral plane, pulsing outwards with retro sci-fi chords.

And with another nod towards sample flipping, Obasi pays special homage not only to hip-hop’s timeless roots — not only to Nashville’s jazz and neo-soul adherence — and not only to his inventive spin on it all — but to his own nuanced personal influences. MONOPOLY turns Chattanooga-born-and-raised Isaiah Rashad’s Darkseid beat on its head, allowing Nashville’s own rasp-ridden poet to dynamically maneuver through it with a flavor unique to him. It’s an explosion of Tennessee inception, respect, and reinvention, and it ties together Obasi’s influences and current form with dynamic intrigue pointing towards his future.

Dedicated in scope of his artistic influences and growth as an artist, but even more focused on his growth as a person, a man, and a father, Thirty Sunz reads as a deeply intrinsic worm hole through timestamps in Obasi’s diary entries. Obasi names those timestamps, those moments, those infallible roots, expanding on how they relate to his present. On DRAGONBALLZ, he dives deeper than just the show’s influence on his youth, by tying in a discussion on losing those around you, through one way or another, with age.

"I lost more to the vibes than the streets.”

With some homegrown réference à la forme d’Obasi — see VILLELIKEMOOKIESLIM2HUSKY imbibes his geographic brethren with a Music City anthem, custom fit to the Black-owned pizza joint that has been making waves in every corner - from Buchanan to Broadway to Nissan Stadium — of Nashville for years.

“Smoking herb, had to order me the Smokin’ Herb. Last 20 in my bank account. Finger licking’ good on my spoken words, now the mission looking good ‘cause I spoke the words.”

On FINALFORM, he explores who he is now, and who he’s still becoming, through the frame of who he’s always been, personally, artistically, and in their amalgam grey area.

“Blessed to be Obasi, but this time it's Ronta.”

Throughout all of Thirty Sunz — for 20 solid minutes —Obasi explores the very many layered elements of himself. That thematic nuance allows the entirety of the project to allow a rapper that has always been unparalleled with his lyricism, his storytelling, and his sense of poetic purpose, to scale even further into his conscious artistry. Self-aware, present, and growing still, Ron Obasi is Thirty Sunz in, with plenty more to give. So take a moment, have a listen, and find some resolute peace with yourself, just like Ron Obasi — a knucklehead turned hero — would intend.

Happy birthday, Ron.

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