Of all the local hip-hop releases that have come out during the past week few have left as much of an impression as Moon Shoes, the debut EP from Ravyn Lenae. The 16-year-old is an R&B singer, not a rapper, but as evidenced in the credits for Moon Shoes, hip-hop has a major presence on the EP.
Lenae recorded the EP at Classick Studios, a west-side recording spot that’s played host to a long list of Chicago hip-hop veterans and rising acts—Crucial Conflict, MC Juice, Really Doe, King Louie, Sasha Go Hard, BBU, GLC, Katie Got Bandz, Rockie Fresh, Lucki Ecks, Vic Spencer, and all the heavy hitters in Save Money, not to mention a long list of others. Lenae’s main collaborator for Moon Shoes is a 19-year-old producer named Monte Booker, who’s been working closely with Smino, a rapper who recently decamped to Chicago from Saint Louis.
Booker infuses Moon Shoes with subtle touches of hip-hop music. His chattering, stumbling percussion nudges languid songs along without upsetting the EP’s gently flowing vibe. Lenae slips into each song with poise, deftly cooing and showing off her range while letting the instrumentals beneath her breathe and blossom. On the skittering opener “Venezuela Trains” she rolls out firm, pointed lines that resemble rap bars between the song’s diaphanous, alluring hook. Yes, Lenae’s an R&B singer, but she’s got a flow that’s fit for hip-hop’s ever-expanding boundaries.