On May 31 local rapper Kweku Collins was one of more than 700 teenagers graduating from Evanston Township High School. While most of his classmates had summer to look forward to before going off to college in the fall, Collins was jumping straight into his professional life. At the beginning of April the rapper publicly announced he signed a deal with Chicago indie hip-hop label Closed Sessions, which began seeding the Internet with lushly produced cuts from Collins.
On his debut EP for the label, July’s Say It Here, While It’s Safe, Collins showcases an auspicious level of introspection. On the autobiographical “Howl” he gives an evenhanded account of this stage in his life, equally invested in his single-minded devotion to his music as he is in the sacrifices he’s made by opting out of higher education. As Collins mulls over the not-too-distant future on “Howl,” he lays bare his fears early on: “They got professors and I got the label, but I’m afraid I’ll be forgotten.”
Collins continues exploring his emotional vulnerability with his most recent single, “Memorial.” The rapper’s light on detail, but his voice suggests insurmountable pain. Gentle, humming synths lightly blanket the track while pitter-pattering, polyrhythmic percussion nudges the track along. Collins has an ear for drums—he told Passion of the Weiss writer (and Reader contributor) Tosten Burks that his father is an African and Latin percussionist—and it shows on “Memorial.” Lively and skeletal, the percussion on “Memorial” reminds me a little of gqom, an underground-house subgenre from South Africa that’s lighting up regional file-sharing networks.
Collins released “Memorial” a couple weeks back, before playing a set in New York for international pop-up party Boiler Room. The MC is back in town and playing his first headlining show tomorrow night at Subterranean; WebsterX and Boathouse, who contributed to Say It Here, While It’s Safe, open the show along with Mally.