[13 June 2014]
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” - Carl Jung
Tunde Olaniran, the Michigan son by way of London, Germany, and briefly Nigeria, isn’t a pop star or rapper, R&B singer or social activist. He’s all of those things draped in a DIY glam-art aesthetic. On Twitter, he describes himself as an “Indo-African Deity. Cheese stick enthusiast”, and his new EP, Yung Archetype, is an equally-hard-to-define blast of vibrant energy. Even the name suggests a willful attempt to buck trends, a desire to swim in the waters of the avant-garde, the title melding Olaniran’s individualist bent with Jungian psychology.
Yung Archetype is the kind of document that could be made only by someone like Olaniran. He’s a talent prodigious enough to ignore genre entirely, creating a post-America cut-and-paste brand of hip-hop devoid of regional or national affiliation. Olaniran alternately sings in a bright four-octave voice and raps elastically, everything said with a wink: “I roll with witches in Williamsburg / boleros and blazers / broom is a vintage cinelli / sidewalk for haters,” he flows on “The Raven”. Olaniran raps about gentrification and cultural identity without sounding like he’s rapping about gentrification and cultural identity (see: “Brown Boy” and, well, the whole EP). The same material from Talib Kweli would sound like a sermon, but Olaniran spouts it as casually as if he were ordering a sandwich, sending up race structures and capitalist greed without rubbing it in, sort of like a less mumblecore Das Racist.
But no comparison in the rap world really fits him. Maybe the best parallel isn’t another rapper at all, but Reggie Watts—that wild multinational genius whose voice seems similarly elastic, his style similarly indescribable. There is no standout track on Yung Archetype. They’re all standouts in their own way, as individual as their creator. The EP is a fresh breeze. Something not exactly like anything else. A short record that leaves a big impact.