Within the first minute of to(u)., Chicago rapper Femdot chuckles, his laughter warm. Though it’s a very small detail on his new EP, it’s reflective of who he is: Always friendly and smiling, always personable. While brief, to(u).—premiered today exclusively on DJBooth—is a sunny jaunt through former and current love interests, pegged by his distinctive sound where he bridges nostalgia with modernity.
Through a steady stream of releases, Fem has managed to carve a space for himself in his city’s rap scene. to(u) is the third offering from him this year, a follow-up to his EPs fo(u)r and thr(we). Like his previous projects, to(u). picks up similarly nuanced thematic and sonic threads, where the emcee continues to self-reflect and share his outlook on relationships, planting himself in the aesthetic stylings of the '90s and early '00s.
This aesthetic, coupled with his low-slung, deep cadence is less telling of his age; Fem sounds like a veteran emcee, but he’s only 21. As a child of the '90s, much of his catalog is a dedication to that decade and the next: His has a resounding lyrical strength, and his boom bap-inspired drums are consistent (with production courtesy of Mike Wavvs, D.Phelps, and Shaan Mehta, as are his acknowledgments of artists like J Dilla, Musiq Soulchild, and Busta Rhymes. On to(u)., after the first two boom bap-leaning cuts, his sound shifts to R&B.
Though he sounds seasoned, there are still moments where he reveals his youthfulness: On “totheoneoutsouth,” he samples the 2004 Usher and Alicia Keys song “My Boo,” and on “totheoneovrthere,” he samples Usher’s 1994 song “Can U Get Wit It”; on “totheonebckntheday,” he makes a handful of cultural references pertaining to Chicago, using slang like “link” and mentioning juking—and he gives a nod to the 2001 Hardball soundtrack.
to(u). is a study in revitalizing nostalgia, proof that Fem is a young emcee with an old soul—and that he is fully confident in his aesthetic.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo/Art Credit:Chollette (Femdot) & Shiv Narandas (cover art)