Chicago’s Ravyn Lenae bursts on the scene with “Crush EP”
by Conor Green
On Feb. 9, Chicago’s very own Ravyn Lenae released her second project, “Crush EP.” Despite being only 19-years-old, Lenae has been successful in carving out a spot for herself in the music industry. She recently inked a deal with Atlantic Records, which should only add momentum to her fastly growing career. Even in the digital age, where it has become increasingly popular for up and coming artists to denounce labels and handle their music distribution independently, signing to a major label opens up a whole new world of opportunities for marketing, touring, and production. That being said, she has toured extensively with SZA and Noname, both of whom she has cited as major inspirations for her work. In addition, several singles off of her 2017 “Midnight Moonlight” project received critical acclaim. What is most impressive, though, is that she managed to maintain her buzzing music career all while still attending high school. Graduating this past May, the ChiArts graduate is ready to take her career to the next level. “Crush EP” is just the start for Lenae, as she climbs the ladder of the industry on a superstar trajectory.
“Crush EP” takes the best of R&B and mixes it with soul and funk. The album’s uniqueness should be in part credited to Steve Lacy, who executively produced the five track album. Lacy was nominated for a Grammy for executive-producing and performing on the 2015 funk-R&B-soul album “Ego Death,” the third release from The Internet, and Lacy's first with the band. He recently gained more mainstream recognition for producing tracks on J.Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only” and Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” When Lenae and Lacy initially linked up in 2017, they clicked immediately. Lenae’s soulful vocals paired perfectly with Lacy’s psychedelic-funk beats. Thanks to Lacy, Lenae was able to find her signature sound on this project.
The standout song on the album is “Sticky.” Lenae’s vocal intonations and swift changes in cadence morph unexpectedly well with Lacy’s smooth, guitar driven beat. Its catchy “woo-hoo-hoo/spinning, spinning, round and round/Sticky, sticky, off the ground” chorus highlights the versatility of Lenae’s voice, as she rides the flowy beat. On “Closer,” it is easy to see SZA’s influence on Lenae. Lenae reminisces about a past relationship with a boy as Lacy provides a psychedelic guitar riff. Her coos and falsettos carry authentic emotion, which is refreshing to hear. Lacy comes out from behind the scenes on “Computer Luv,” providing background vocals and accompanying Lenae on a duet. The duo sings, “I shed a tear down/My face, drip and drown/My feelings into this one text/I wonder what is next/Will I catch real feelings for you?” This song captures how artificial falling in love over the internet can be, and how it often leads to disaster. “The Night Song” oozes confidence, as Lenae details how she looks and gets ready for a night out. She matter of factly boasts, “People like to stare/I don't/really care what you think/Oo, I like my hair today/I look to the clouds, and they waving hey.” The fifth and final track on the album, “4 Leaf Clover,” once again features Steve Lacy on vocals. The two go back and forth discussing the insecurities of being in a relationship and the jealousy that often follows it. Lenae’s soft vocals are subtle but impactful. Her relaxing tone throughout the album gives “Crush EP” an aloof vibe, but it carries impressive songwriting and production that tests the boundaries of its genre. “Crush EP” is primed to be a breakthrough record for Lenae.