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‘THE VALUE OF A THING’ | Sincere Hunte pitches an immersive tale of life changes through deadpan delivery and unpredictable flow

Evan Dale // April 23, 2024

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What is hip-hop? What is rap? What’s the difference? What’s the Southern take on either of ‘em? Do the definitions really exist? Does genre? What impact does Soul music have? How about rock? Those are genres. What about 2000’s video games? And the angst from the same cultural era? Those aren’t. What is influence, anyway? Who decides? Who creates? What’s creation if not acting on a choice? Well, sometimes it’s destruction. What is THE VALUE OF A THING? That’s the question.

Who is Sincere Hunte? That’s your answer. Or at least that’s the answer meant for Alek Trebek. THE VALUE OF A THING is the manifestation – or maybe the amalgamation – of the intersections, of the answers to the questions above. It’s the Huntsville-rooted, Nashville-grounded lyricist, producer, writer’s latest album, and its myriad questions beg a lot of answers. Most importantly perhaps, the answers are perceptively reminiscent, yet ultimately unique.

Adjacent to the Southern-born, lyrically reliant, pseudo-old-school-yet-not-before-our-time, modern movement spawned independent of – or maybe in defiant response to – the trend-drowned, poetically-soulless framework of so many of Southern hip-hop – or rap’s – highest and most pop-adjacent accolades of the past decade. THE VALUE OF A THING is instead standalone, even while feeling resonant towards a lot of particularities at once.

This new corner of the soundscape, mostly in orbit of small market cities in the South – with all its toiling reminiscence to past eras, while simultaneously paving the way for new ones – is drawing deeper into rap’s original wells than a lot of Southern hip-pop’s current sphere. It invokes spoken word albeit less stirring, more deadpan, but equally community oriented. It eats gumbo – especially Pink Siifu’s take on it, a savory hidepodge of sounds that form new flavors. It bleeds Soul – particularly Mavi’s version, though unavoidably less melodic. It flows effortlessly but not seamlessly, intermittingly imbibing the patchwork of samples, that which has been chopped and screwed, and – acutely when projected through the vocal chords of Sincere Hunte – finds its value first and foremost in the movement of the words being pushed into existence. The words themselves are a close second, as Sincere Hunte paints vivid landscapes with his storytelling prowess. But the way they’re shaped – while shaped, too, into the poetic, soulful, timeless Southern moment we’ve been musing on for one too many paragraphs now – is near-conversational, without yearning for a response. It thus feels almost philosophical.

Sincere Hunte has inspired an emotional reminiscence with his sound for years. Since 2021 debut project, the genesis, his raps have been thought-provoking and often immersive, while still retaining some incomparable exceptionality. THE VALUE OF A THING is a clear next evolution for his skillset that has always been in conversation – yet now artistically aligns in its own way – with the rest of that same Southern-rooted, particularly poetic rapscape alongside Mavi, Pink Siifu, and a swatch of other artists spanning Mid-Appalachia to the Gulf Coast, always infusing their corner of hip-hop and rap with a respect for the depths of lyricism and lo-fi production, brought into a modern shape that somehow feel relaxed. Easy-going, imperfectly bright, and immersive, lean into the silky flow of a one-two cut like CAN’T BE ALONE and BROTHAMAN, where his cadence feels most consistent and where delivery in subsequence feels emotionally warmest.

Music’s modern era desperately needs the likes of THE VALUE OF A THING, and not because it has a stronger tether to its roots than most new projects; and not because it delves in a certain mellow that hip-hop has lost touch with. Rather, because the album, with the thoughtful provocations it requires of its listeners, and the artful creativity of the way its poeticism is propelled through the speaker, provides value in the form of its newness. It’s hard to make something sound suggestive of a past that its listeners know and love, and defiant of a future that rap’s most pop-heavy forces are pushing into norm, without giving an audience exactly that which they’ve already heard before. But the nuances that feed memory holes are matched by Sincere Hunte’s ability to rap – moving past conversation and nearly to the point of philosophical monologue – unlike anyone else. His deadpan delivery alone itself sets him apart. But he does so without falling into the spell of spoon-feeding his raps into the mic for 25 minutes. Instead, his ability to control the speed of his flow like a driver deciding how much pressure to put on the gas pedal, is masterful. He holds his raps on a string.

Which is why, at unpredictable points, yet on nearly every track, just when a listener thinks they’re tapped into the pattern of his cadence, he hits that gas pedal – or sometimes the breaks – and shakes his audience out of their comfort zone, consciously locking them into not only the words being rapped, but how they’re being uniquely shaped. And that gives Sincere Hunte – even through his inescapably deadpan delivery – a tool to constantly differentiate his sound not only from others, but even from himself track to track, verse to verse, line to line. Where the emotionally solemn, run-on flow of NEED ME runs head on into the positively energized, at times choppy, stop-go of FUR ELISE, Sincere Hunte puts on an exhibition of his range in a way no one else is really doing.

On the other hand, where SEE WHAT IM DOING begins nearly acapella, it urgently bombs into an off-kilter, uncomfortable beat, again shaking the audience awake. Here, Sincere Hunte keeps his flow consistent, and uses his pokerfaced delivery to steady the listener’s experience. It’s another exhibition of how his rangy skillset – albeit rangy in a way different from anyone else’s – can be cut into something ultimately new.

And ultimately new is what Sincere Hunte has always proven to be. THE VALUE OF A THING is simply him proving that when weighed against not only rap’s poetic roots or the modern hyphy Southern scene, but even when juxtaposed against prior versions of himself, his continued evolution of a signature sound that pushes that unreadable delivery to new heights, is being stretched outward to create new listening experiences for an audience in search of a new take on some classic roots; a new voice in a movement where hip-hop is being reborn again, but in a familiar way.

Artwork by way of SECK, whose own shape seems to also keep on evolving.

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