Fashionably Late: VanJess's Silk Canvas (The Remixes)

 Evan Dale // Dec 17, 2019 

The knack at crafting a collaboration is built into the foundation of VanJess. The sister-duo formed by Ivana and Jessica Nwokike merge their unique sounds in every track they make. And their 2018 debut album, Silk Canvas is a merging of so much more than simply one another’s aesthetic. It’s a merging of their roots: Nigeria and California. It’s a merging of their influences: from 90’s R&B to the modern scene. And their 2019 release of Silk Canvas remixes is a merging of their already confluent texture with that of many of modernity’s most important voices and producers. Silk Canvas (The Remixes) is a bold thesis on how decades of R&B, hip-hop, and electronic have molded the modern sound.


VanJess’s own take on that modern sound pays homage to its roots more than most. Listen to Silk Canvas – read anything about the album – and one will undoubtedly come to know VanJess as a throwback 90’s R&B duo. But that’s not to say that their sound isn’t modern or applicable to an R&B scene as wide-ranging as ever before; it’s instead simply a nod to the obvious nod they’ve already given their predecessors. 


Naturally, with R&B and hip-hop in the expansive places they currently populate, and with retro-futurism taking grip of so much artistry, artists from around the world and from around R&B, hip-hop, and electronica’s surrounding grey areas were quick to hop on new cuts of Silk Canvas’ original cloth. 


The lineup of guest features is unprecedented and unparalleled for a remix EP just nine songs in length:


Ari Lennox who has had one of, if not the most impressive 2019 in music, representing R&B, Neo-Soul, and hip-hop’s timeless collaboration through her own debut album and through her role in Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers lll. Producer and vocalist MNEK, who continues to be one of the more sought-after role players in all of music on the heels of acclaimed 2018 album, Language. Saba, whose 2018 album, CARE FOR ME along with 2019 conglomerate project, Pivot Gang’s You Can’t Sit With Us also earned him a spot in Revenge of the Dreamers lll, and a perennial position as a highly sought-after wordsmith. Bas: second-in-command to J Cole, Dreamville standout, and emerging star in his own right. Experimental Neo-Soul and R&B force, Xavier Omär whose 2019 collaborative project with Sango, Moments Spent Loving You was also one of the year’s most acclaimed collaborative efforts and included a feature from VanJess (Just Get Here). GoldLink (who was part of the original Silk Canvas) has been one of the most pace-setting artists of the year with the release of Diaspora and an innumerable collection of feature verses. Masego (also included in the original) is arguably the most transcendentally capable artist alive with a long-awaited project on its way in 2020 (hopefully). Jarreau Vandal who has become a particularly unique electronic producer founded in old-school hip-hop and R&B. Krs, whose Dancehall flips are becoming a staple of the scene. Jayvon whose own sounds circulate in European techno. And mOma+guy who call home to tribal-centric South American house music. 


If anything about the list of featuring artists is more impressive than their individual names, it’s the range of sounds they represent. And that’s an ode to the immense stature of VanJess. The duo have a sound not only that everyone wants – but that everyone wants to be a part of. The sheer force required to draw towards them a guest list as prominent, important, and influential as that of the Silk Canvas remix cut speaks volumes to just how up-and-coming they truly are. Just look at the fact that KAYTRANADA recruited them for a single and an album inclusion this year alone; then take into account the reach of their debut project by itself; and finally try to make sense of how far its remix releases reached not only stylistically but also geographically. 


VanJess, at the hands of Silk Canvas and even more so by the hands of Silk Canvas (The Remixes), are an emergent force much larger than R&B, hip-hop, or electronic music – much larger than the aesthetic of the 90’s or the end of this decade; they are a force only possible through the power of collaboration dualistically, stylistically, and timelessly.