After a four-year wait, Ravyn Lenae makes her debut album unforgettably worth it.
As the R&B scene flourishes — with many of its artists finding different sonic avenues to test the limits of their sound — it continues to benefit from a genre-wide sonic reinvention in recent years.
Although it may get less “traditional” every year, talents in Smino, THEY., SZA, H.E.R. Summer Walker, dvsn and others are still finding innovative ways to keep R&B’s classic aura in tact — pushing the sound forward by staying true to its roots. While some like Jozzy are championing the “nostalgia” of the slow-and-low bangers and smooth jams of the ‘90s and 2000s, others in Bryson Tiller, Brent Faiyaz and The Weeknd have all had an integral part in shaping the current confines of R&B’s pop and predominantly rap influences.
Ravyn Lenae, on the other hand, has created an otherworldly mystique around Hypnos — her hypnotic, debut offering that melds a slew of uncanny influences that all intersect beautifully. Experimenting with various genres, the Zero Fautigue songstress is pushing the culture forward by not limiting herself on subject matter — creating as freely as possible over the LP’s 16 tracks. Previously known for her appearances on Smino’s debut album blkswn and NOIR, Hypnos is the malgamation of the 23-year-old Chicago emcee’s angelic vocals and eclectic soundscape all curating a ghostly, musical bliss.
For those who are unfamiliar, Lenae has been making a killing in the underground for quite some time now. Along with collaborating with the St. Louis superstar, Smino — and part of his Zero Fatigue collective — Lenae also has kept close to Smino’s right-hand man and acclaimed producer Monte Booker, who holds a plethora of production credits on Hypnos.
While the game has seen a slew of R&B singers try their hand at breathy, airy vocals on tracks, what Ravyn has been able to accomplish on Hypnos is far more artistic — beginning to thrust herself into a different realm of R&B because of it. What sets her apart from her peers, though, is her amazing pen. Being able to deeply immerse fans into her world, Ravyn assures that she stays authentic as she can be, all while giving off relatable subject matter in ethereal succession. It almost feels as if she is taking feelings and emotions that are hard to explain, and putting them into words, all over smooth and salty instrumentation.
“I wanted to challenge myself vocally and challenge my pen — that was my main goal because I think it’s easy for me to kind of fall into this comfort zone that feels good. But, I wanted to really push myself there and go to more vulnerable parts of myself […] on this project. I feel like there are simpler beats too, which is hard for me to write and interpret sometimes because I was trained classically. I wanted Hypnos to feel evolved from Crush and Moon Shoes because so much time has passed and I wanted that to show throughout the music.”Ravyn Lenae via Recording Academy
By far, one of the more impressive standout tracks on the album would be the early album cut, “Skin Tight.” Accompanied by longtime collaborator and the legendary Steve Lacy, who also handles a ton of production on the album, Ravyn speaks about that feeling of wanting someone close to you and cherishing the moments when they are in your presence.
In a conversation with Pitchfork, she stated: “Thematically, it’s about not being in a relationship with somebody, but still having those physical and mental ties. It speaks to sharing kinetic energy with another person, even if time has passed and you aren’t together anymore.”
On “3D,” Ravyn Lenae taps Smino to speak on the feeling of wanting to take things slow with a significant individual. Not wanting to rush into a relationship. Ravyn wants to “Keep the speed on cruisin’” as she loves taking things slow and taking her time being with this person. Smino delivers a crazy verse as well, wanting to keep things lowkey and not put a title on what’s going on between him and a specific individual.
I’m tryna see what underneath your robe like
But don’t call me, might be with one of my hoes, right?
Ain’t that the vibe?
You all in my comments, but I don’t wanna commit
It’d be suicide if we ever posted a picSmino on “3D”
While most of the album delivers low-tempo instrumentation and vibrations, things pick up the pace on “Xtasy.” Produced by the legendary KAYTRANADA, “Xtasy” is the perfect groove that was needed after floating and ascending from the rest of the album. This pick-me-up record compares her love to feeling like a drug, letting loose and being free. When this record comes on, that’s exactly what it will make listeners want to do: Get up and groove without a care in the world.
Serving as her official debut album, Ravyn Lenae’s Hypnos is the perfect introduction to her world for those who may not have heard her previous EPs. Progressing so much since — sonically, lyrically and emotionally — Hypnos is amazing for first-time listeners and letting her calming and nurturing voice move you — striking feels that may have never been discovered before. Crooning over euphoric and transcending instrumentals, Ravyn Lenae proves that boundaries don’t exist when it comes to what she’s capable of, and this album is a prime example of that fact.
Listen to ‘HYPNOS’ below!