After signing to TDE in January 2017, a lot was anticipated from SiR. He joined a huge label that has a catalogue of classic albums and a roster filled with stars, the expectations were bound to be high. Between his debut album (“Seven Sundays”) and an EP (“HER”), he showed that he has a high ceiling. He delivered on that promise with his first official release under TDE, “HER Too” (another EP). So, what is next for SiR? Stardom. Well, if TDE plays their cards correctly.
TDE has a notable reputation for delaying the project releases although the project is complete and demand is present. They’ve been subjects to complaints that they conduct poor album rollouts when the label’s premier acts (Kendrick, Q & SZA) are not involved. In fact, prior to the release of SZA’s Ctrl, one could argue that SZA’s rollout was also not given the attention that she deserves. Other label acts (Ab-Soul & Isaiah Rashad) have shared the same sentiments as they complained about label support. To put this into context, SiR’s album rollout was poor. I can’t help but feel that Top Dawg wasted the opportunity to create a star. There’s a rising commercial trend in the R&B/soul and SiR is equally as talented as those counterparts leading the return of the genres prominence.
Prior to the album’s release, “Something Foreign”, “Something New” and “Summer In November” were dropped. Although the music is high quality, TDE neglected heavy promotion. No television or radio exposure and little social media engagements. Moreover, he featured in a few music Hip-Hop sites (most of them lack integrity or knowledge). It’s hard to understand why TDE disregarded the release although SiR create great music.
The album begins with “Gone”. It utilizes a cinematic concept whereby a robotic women, “Kate”, is guiding him on his journey to unknown destination. SiR flips a new take on a Sci-Fi inspired concept that was once executed on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders Tour Guide”. “That’s Alright” speaks about his interest’s friends and family being concerned about his intentions. It opens with a sharpened synthesized chord. Essentially, it’s a raised G-Funk chord. G-Funk normally infuses psychedelic funk bass grooves and synthesizers, however, the raising of the melody creates an eerie feeling. Alongside a slow rock n roll influenced guitar and smooth drums, his vocal tone resonate beautifully. It’s impressive how SiR was able to make the song cohesive and soulful although it utilizes various genre characteristics.
“Something Foreign” follows the prior’s sound direction. The production is psychedelic jazz-influenced. A piano plays a dissonant yet rhythmically stimulating melody and jazz-styled drums. On great instrumental, SiR uses a light cadence and lofty flow that mimics the piano’s step-like. ScHoolboy Q’s guest verse is unlike his usual aggressive delivery and dense lyrics. He opts for a speech-like tone, poetic flow and andante delivery. Moreover, he stretches syllables and cadences. Both artists use iambic pentameters, it’s impressive. SiR speaks about cars and women while Q romantically details his love for his interest. A great song capable of evoking feelings yet it can make you easily disorientated (with its “space-like” theme), working well with the concept.
“D’Evils” sees SiR pays homage to Jay-Z’s “D’Evils”. Instead of rhyming about wealth being his biggest vice (like Hov), SiR has another take. Sampling Billy Boyo’s “One Spliff a Day”, he speaks about weed being his vice. Similar to how Jay knows money is evil, SiR disregards weed being known as “The Devil’s Lettuce” as he feels smoking will keep evil away from his soul. While Hov solves his problems with money, SiR solves them with weed. It’s an innovative take on a classic song and he executes the concept well. The expressive production flips a notable sample combined with a gorgeous guitar riff and great drums. Again, the cohesion is excellent. SiR’s slightly alternative yet soulful R&B sound is boundary breaking. Avant-garde.
“Something New’”. One of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear. The neo-soul production is incredible. A brass instrument plays a smooth yet regal melody while a light guitar melody harmonizes alongside infectious drums. SiR’s voice is angelic. Exceptional cadences, well-layered vocal harmonies, intense imagery and comforting content. Etta Bonds is equally as astounding. Stay within a good vocal range, she exhibits her dynamics and cadence control. She sings a lovely and rhythmically intricate melody. Her voice is beautiful and her contribution to the song is unforgettable. The song acts a juxtaposition to “Something Foreign”. While the prior focused on materialism, this speaks on relationship matters of substance. SiR and Etta sing about the possibility of him not returning from his voyage. He expresses his love and the idea of reinventing their relationship to make something new. SiR reminds me of D’Angelo here.
“I Know” is incredibly experimental. The production relies on dissonance to create a startling feel. To compound on that eerie feeling, SiR uses autotune to show signs of distress. SiR rhymes convolutedly as he stresses syllables accompanied by external rhyme. SiR flips the worn-out idea of falling for a stripper. However, unlike prior concepts, SiR doesn’t rely on R-Kelly-esque content, production and overall musicality. “She got bad ass kids, she got bad as kids/ I know who your baby mama really is!” He uses excellent humour and vast detail as he conveys notions we’ve all heard, differently. He describes an attractive stripper, approaching her 30s, with children. People enjoy watching her strip but are unwilling to develop a relationship of substance. She’s willing to do demeaning things to feed her children. It’s a different perspective of a topic that’s well known in the R&B/Soul industry. SiR’s pen is immaculate.
“Never Home” sees SiR allow his partner to convey her troubles within the relationship. Every problem is linked to him rarely being home due to his career as a musician. The production fuses jazz characteristics as SiR uses a speech-like flow. “And Top working me like my nickname, Kunta”. Yeah, that sounds correct. SiR’s worked hard and produced a great album but he hasn’t received equal commitment from TDE although they’ll benefit off his work (regardless of their lack of promotion). Anyway, back to the music. SiR’s cool cadence and slow delivery complements the upbeat yet dark nature of the instrumental well. He details their relationship struggles and how he feels that their relationship’s changed. Interpolating her voice messages into the introduction, interlude, and outro is a cool idea that, ultimately, allows the song to be more expressive. “War” is remarkable. The soulful production fuses a bass guitar, numerous brass instruments (that harmonize majestically) and slick drums. The brass’ timbre is raspy while the guitar is calming. SiR’s vocals are soothing. Moreover, the additional vocals layered are exceptional. As he illustrates his impressive vocal range and cadence control, he speaks about his willingness to fight for their love. Although experiencing difficulties, he’s not willing to give up. SiR’s musicality is underrated. Although he has relationship troubles, his voice’s union with the production is steadfast, healthy and amazing.
“Better” sees the album’s sonic direction change. Experimenting with futuristic production – using 909s, he describes one of his biggest regrets. SiR watches a girl, that once loved him, move on to someone who treats her better. SiR experiences compunction as he wishes that he treated her better. SiR is incredibly introspective as he shows his raw emotions and there’s a growing sense of self-doubt and regret. His delivery is slow and stagnant, it captures the song’s content effectively. A good listen. As the song fades out, there’s an instrumental change. SiR speaks to Kate and she decides to play a song called “Ultralight” to uplift his mood. SiR goes into “sleep mode”. The instrumental is gorgeous. In fact, the song should’ve used it for the duration of the album. It’s the perfect transition into “Dreaming of Me”. A well-known sample whispers. Dr. Dre’s “XXplosive” is always easy to spot. The production infuses Dre’s elegant guitar riff and chimes but uses a different drumline. Slow and soulful, the production is brilliant. Here, SiR reminds me of a Musiq Soulchild. Outstanding musicality, reflective content and flawless vocals. He sings about an imagined life with his partner. The song is cohesive as the chimes, slick flow and vocals create a dream-like listening experience.
“Summer in November” is flawless. Falling into the external concept of November, after SiR goes to sleep on board of his voyage – he begins to have colourful dreams. The resultant is “Dreaming of Me” and “Summer in November”. “Summer in November” is a clear standout on the album. SiR’s voice is powerful and smooth. Equipped with a great vocal range, and an irresistible melody on a neo-soul instrumental. He delivers without fault. The production is silky smooth – great arrangement, instrumental choice and overall timbre. SiR describes his feelings, desires and his safe space. It’s a great end to November.
November is a remarkable album. The concept of the album is executed excellently. SiR manages to reinvent ideas and stories that we’ve heard numerous times in R&B, soul and neo-soul. He does it expertly as he masters complicated scenarios, shows his musical innovation and delivers a soulful experience. Although experimenting with different sounds and concepts, he manages to create an album equally expressive as the likes of Daniel Caesar and PJ Morton. SiR’s creativity and content sets him apart from his counterparts. Musically, one of the finest showings of avant-garde R&B. He manages to take from influences such as Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones, R-Kelly and D’Angelo to create something new. Moreover, musical cohesion is difficult to achieve yet SiR does this with ease. He’s got an impeccable ear, effortless flows, abundant overall musicality and outstanding vocals. November is a high quality album. Only time can tell if it’s timeless but this is one of the new age neo-soul’s finest showings.