Photo of Elton Aura in a knit cap and glasses
Credit: Jhaylen Cherry

Vocalist and producer Elton Aura is part of a network of Chicago artists who’ve modified hip-hop by splicing the grounded mood and melodicism of old-school R&B into its DNA. For nearly ten years now, one of Aura’s frequent artistic partners has been producer Phoelix, who’s brought a smooth sensibility to collaborations with three of the midwest’s best new MCs from the past decade: Smino, Saba, and Noname. Aura works solo too, and he should soon be mentioned in the same breath as those marquee names—especially if he can hold to the high-water mark he set with his new EP, Vert(EGO). Aura builds his tracks on crisp hip-hop percussion arranged in clattering patterns, which can seize your attention with even incremental changes. His swinging rhythmic foundation sharpens the impact of every other musical element. He opens “Slow” with ghostly layered vocals that seem to summon the humid horns and snaking guitar line that enter next; those voices reappear throughout the song, as though they’re haunting it. Aura is a limber vocalist, able to rattle off bars like he’s dominating a freestyle open-mike battle and then shift on a dime into smooth, tender singing. Vert(EGO) excels because of his fluidity, and when he decides to go big with a pop number—such as “Meantime,” with its house-leaning thump, honeyed vocal hook, and supple funk keys—he’s liable to take out a long lease in your head.

Elton Aura’s Vert(Ego) is available through his website.