An intense outing of boundary pushing hip hop.
There are a few genres of music that need to be refreshed and shook up once in a while. Hip hop is one of those genres, always risking threats of stagnation if it doesn’t redefine its own boundaries every few years or so. That’s why Owen Bones‘ new EP, Surrender, is so worthy of a listen.
As good as Drake is, when he started really gaining steam a lot of things changed for the worse in hip hop. This isn’t his fault directly, but because of his influence. While Drake can spit fire when he wants to, the typical generalisation of him is that he is a gentle soul of gold. Many artists took note of this, but in an attempt to capitalise on that a lot lost the bite that hip hop just needs sometimes to stay interesting – focussing instead on making radio-friendly tracks that are instantly enjoyable and instantly forgettable. Gentle melodies are important, sure, but without bite it’s very forget-me-pop.
Owen Bones opens his latest EP with Grapefruit, an instrumental track with a polished overdriven guitar line that carries a gentle melody with a light bite. It’s not much, but it’s something. It’s something a little bit different to set a scene of sorts before the EPs main event. Grapefruit represents the hip hop scene as it stands at the moment – gentle and pleasing but nothing too impactful in the way of lyrical delivery. Bones eases us in with a play on this, a solid groove and steady percussion assuring listeners that the guitar won’t detract from proceedings.
And of course, it doesn’t. Enter Stuntman, the first track to feature lyrical from Bones and it is intense. Bones doesn’t leave any room for doubt, setting fire to the track with an intense delivery over instrumental that rings with a chromatic dissonance yet distinct melody. It’s radio-friendly without being instantly accessible – it’s challenging, but rewarding for those who get into it. That, in a nutshell, is the overall appeal of Owen Bones. He doesn’t set out to go with the flow or follow the “please play me” pleas of many new hip hop artists. Bones runs with the underground, carving quality into his own sound rather than adjusting it to public taste.
It’s for this reason that Surrender is such a good listen. It’s not your run-of-the-mill release. It challenges listeners, putting them through their paces to test if they are worthy enough to soak in the goodness that is locked away at the centre of the sound. But importantly, it’s all real. There’s no sense that Bones is just being sonically guarded as a gimmick – this is his sound, his way.