nIgel Sprints Between Sentiments on Running Through Feelings

The title of RUNNING THROUGH FEELINGS, the latest solo project from nIgel  of cloud rap duo $ U I T, is a perfect summary of a listener’s experience throughout the concise and varied tape. Echoing vocal clips haunt the first few tracks’ intros. Reinforcing the spacey, distant feel evoked by the the rapper’s conflicted lyrics, djuniverse’s ethereal production loaded with fairly minimalist instrumental samples and wavy synth loops. nIgel told Ever Evolved, “I had a lot of bad relationships, interactions and dealings with women at the time when I was writing Running Through Feelings. It kinda just came to together on its own”.

He pours equal measure of soul and sauce on this 12-track project, expressing different forms of commentary on love in each track. “I gave her space, all she wanted was peace, you can leave love right there up in the streets”, he raps on ESCAPE. A song that parallels ambition for musical recognition with the pursuit of romantic interest, two paths inevitably full of rejection. Switching pace on WE MEET AGAIN to an infectious bounce, pain turns to contempt, with critiques to hypocrites like “you claim to kick the cup, but now you wanna act”. A subtle double entendre that touches on the sometimes addictive nature of a passionate relationship.

After an earnest appeal to a crush on FOND, $ U I T reunites for WITNESS. A perplexingly smooth yet hype bop laced with quicker-paced flows and light flexes as NePh punches in seamlessly, adding vocal texture to the track. Originally started rapping to follow in the footsteps of his grandmother, a poet and choir singer who he played the saxophone with, nIgel references her while affirming his greatness and his growth on CHOSEN FEW. Starting by admitting “I had to change the approach; I barely did anything, used to be determined to boast”. By the end of the brief but introspective song, not nodding your head in a silent amen proves challenging in the face of nIgel’s deep-rooted sense of purpose.

The next four tracks are the most indulgent on RUNNING THROUGH FEELINGS, beginning with the leaned-out BORED AND BORING. “You got me sleepy snoring, she not from here she foreign. I’m on the social scrollin’”, sighs nIgel in this trap house equivalent of a lullaby. Featured artist Bruc€ Pill$ turns the opioid factor all the way up with his slurred flow, fittingly aspiring, “I just wanna put my face on Fader”. EASYBAKE is the rapper’s chance to demonstrate a boundaries in the relationship he describes by refusing a superficial connection through convection, aka an easy bake. This is followed by the otherwise decidedly chill tape’s most mosh worthy joint, TENSEIGA. Bars like “they need the clout, they can chase it. I’m high booking new engagements”, drip with confidence and solidify our protagonist’s drive and self-sufficiency.

According to nIgel the goal of this album itself, an unofficial sequel to EARLY MORNING TUNES, was to “show versatility and a different sound”. Both those boxes are boldly checked. Trailing off with a hazy-eyed, coarse yet heartfelt farewell on FROM ME TO YOU, the final two tracks RELEASE ME! and NEED ME! underscore the theme of contradiction that traces through the whole project. The former has nIgel disavowing critics, fake friends and even himself, suggesting he feels trapped in the world that is built up around him. RUNNING THROUGH FEELINGS closes out with a melancholy guitar that evokes nostalgia for rosier times and despite the title, NEED ME!, reading like a command, the final refrain of the song is “I’m here if you need me”. This speaks to the emotive stoner’s soft spot, a passive gesture of unconditional care no matter how thick the smoke clouds get.

Catch $ U I T  at Gallery Cabaret this Saturday, September 7.

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Woman Crush Wednesday: L11

L11 is hard to miss whether it is conquering open mics, holding her own in beefy local lineups or serving a cake shake that would put Portillo’s out of business in CantBuyDeem’s Thumb music video. The hip-hop and R&B artist has carved out a defined role for herself in Chicago’s musical community. With a seamless blend of social consciousness and uncompromising agency, L11 owns her sexuality proudly in the face of objectification. “You gotta wait, wait, wait, til I say go/ you gotta understand me if I say no”, she raps on the track Consent, a sultry bop with crisp, decidedly NSFW visuals by Rena Naltsas. According to the video’s description on YouTube, the song was created in partnership with the Chicago Votes Give a Shit collective to address the necessity of consent, as it builds trust and makes fantasies a reality.

Since her 2015 debut project Nefertiti, L11’s artistry has been honed to a razor’s edge. Encompassing soulful melodies like those that fill the island vibe-tinged Spring (Self Love) as well as scathing bars to remind listeners she is not to be mesesd with. On the twerk-inducing W.A.N she delivers a cold dose of reality to leagues of fake thugs and other would-be suitors. “You ain’t even got no goals, lil n****, I fuck around and snatch you right up out your soul, lil n****”, raps L11 over tumbling percussion. A true master of her brand, she is designed a line of Good Pussy Energy merch to rep the self-produced anthem of the same title. She handles her business and expects anyone she lets herself get involved with to do the same, declaring “energy so pure I swear my demons steady duckin’”.

Recently L11’s latest single B has been racking up plays, as one could expect with a beat from a union of the artists signature assertiveness and powerhouse producer DJ Skoli. In a dynamic script-flip of rap’s favorite and most controversial term for a woman, she wastes no time letting the people know; “B is for bitch, say it loud…When you see me, I be killing this shit.” At this stage in the game, L11 has shown not only potential but real progress while maintaining an entirely authentic voice that rings relatable for strong women and those who admire them. Whether putting it down on stage or in another artfully-directed video, we cannot wait to see what is next for this promising femme fatale.

L11 | Soundcloud | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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