Perhaps her name is Ravyn Lenae. At just 18 years old, the R&B singer has released 3 EPs (the most recent arriving at our digital streaming doorsteps last Friday, 2/9) and worked with her Chicago counterparts Mick Jenkins (“Communicate”) and Noname (“Forever”) as well as Zero Fatigue groupmate Smino (“Glass Flows”). Her latest release Crush is taking a giant leap forward in growth, as it was executive produced by (and features) Steve Lacy of The Internet. Lacy is becoming known in the production world for creating the beat for Kendrick Lamar’s “PRIDE” on his iPod. Lenae’s silky, soulful vocals perfectly fit on Lacy’s signature urban live instrumentals.
Dropping her first EP after graduating from Chicago High School for the Arts, this was the perfect time for Lenae to differentiate herself and maturely compose a story. Although Lacy’s production converges the EP into a similar sound as Syd’s Fin (also produced by Lacy), Lenae, who is stylistically reminiscent of Aaliyah and Solange, masterfully uses tonal inflections and winding lyrics to differentiate herself from her current R&B peers. “Sticky” is a prime example of this: Lenae sends the listener on her roller coaster ride through a toxic, yet irresistible relationship, blending musicality with lyricism to paint vividly on the canvas of your mind. The other four songs visit realms of psychedelic funk/soul and smooth R&B/jazz, both rich with ghostly harmonies and seamless falsettos. The EP ends with a youthfully naïve conversation between Lacy and Lenae that shows that they can be more than just a Pharrell/Kelis or Timbaland/Aaliyah. From top to bottom, Crush is chalked full of heart and soul, showing more maturity than her previous releases.
If Lenae’s 2016 EP Moon Shoes resulted in hopping on Noname’s Telefone Tour and her last EP Midnight Moonlight led to joining SZA’s Ctrl Tour, then I can only imagine what will come out of her next tour. Maybe The Internet will team up with the members of Zero Fatigue to bring Crush to your hometown.
- Sam Harkey
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