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.