Album Of The Week: ILoveMakonnen - 'ILoveMakonnen 2'

Written By Sam Murphy on 11/30/2015

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It’s crunch time for ILoveMakonnen. The success of Tuesday has well and truly faded and in any case it seems to have been adopted as a Drake track anyway leaving Makonnen in a position where he has to deliver something memorable. Luckily, ILoveMakonnen 2, his second EP positions him as a rapper who could easily bag a commercial hit while also pleasing his loyal cult.

Accordingly, the EP is almost split in half between the mainstream-leaning songs and the harder hip-hop tunes. He’s recruited big name producers like DJ Mustard and FKI to bring him those hit beats but the self-produced tunes and those by long-time producer Richie Souf also have an ayer of accessibility to them.

Unlike most rap efforts, this EP only features two other artists with Santigold and 1st stepping up on opener Forever. Forever is the second song we’ve heard from Makonnen and Santi in as many weeks after Who Be Lovin’ Me dropped last week. The latter is far more weird than the track that appears here which centres around more contemporary hip-hop production. Even Makonnen’s voice sounds the most in-pitch it’s ever been here, perhaps because he’s up against another vocalist. Laiden with acoustic guitars in the verse, it channels Ty Dolla $ign while also pulling off a triumphant, lighters-in-the-air chorus. Santi’s flawless verse softens the track and completes, what is surely the biggest hit on the record.

It’s surprising, given that we’re talking about the rapper who burst onto the scene with tracks about molly and partying on a Tuesday, that this EP is mostly about relationships. Second Chance could be the best sentimental hip-hop jam of the year, combining DJ Mustard’s hallmark, glitzy beat with Makonnen's half-croon, half-rap. “I liked you girl and I still do,” he raps bringing an honesty and believability that lacked severely on Mustard most recent hit - Nelly’s The Fix.

Drake has developed his own style by successfully undulating between rapping and singing and Makonnen seems to have done the same thing. However, while Drake goes for a more soulful, radio-ready tone when he sings, Makonnen goes for an off-pitch sound. Even when delivering his most accessible melodies, his tone is woozy and slightly off-kilter. At many time he sounds drunk but there’s something really emotional about that sort of style. Being Alone With U, for example, sounds like a 3am drunk phone call. Even though intoxicated it still feels sad in a Yung Lean sort of way.

This is again true of closer I Loved You - the most heartbreaking off the bunch. He relies on an emotionally-charged beat to give the song direction while he steamrolls through with an off-pitch but sincere vocal. “I loved you but I’m feeling so much better, you’re not putting me down,” he raps with the same sort of ego-free honesty that Kanye brought to 808s & Heartbreaks. This sort of song is Makonnen’s best lane and he travels down it time and time again on this seven song set.

The only time he really missteps is when he moves outside of this style. Flippin All Night sounds like a b-side from the Rae Sremmurd album with a tune similar to No Flex Zone and lyrics so ridiculous so ridiculous that they could rival Watch Me Whip. It sounds second class on EP where there is so much to love and makes him sound like a emulator rather than an innovator.

That doesn’t mean that he’s only good at delivering the emotional. He brings plenty of ego and personality to Trust Me Danny which tips its hat to Skepta’s, “trust mi Daddy” trademark. It’s really a tribute to the producer of the song Danny Wolf. Apparently Wolf is a young guy and this is Makonnen’s way of telling him that he’s going to make the beat famous. Given how convincing he is here, he may just be right.

Aside from the rare stinker, ILoveMakonnen 2 defines what to expect from Makonnen as an artist better than any. Soundwise, it’s consistent and while the off-pitch charm is still there, he refines it a little here presumably to widen his appeal. That said, Makonnen isn’t going to appeal to everyone like Drake does in 2015. His style is incredibly distinct and to those who don’t understand they may question its legitimacy. What this EP does do is highlight that those oddities are in fact his best qualities. He doesn’t shy away from it and as such 2 is the most consistent record he’s given us.

EIGHT OUT OF TEN.