Every week, I spend hours digging through SoundCloud, looking for something I haven’t heard that’s worth my time; looking for art that will move me. I’m in constant search of relatability, stories that connect and music that makes a difference in my life.
An artist who has always checked off these boxes is Wrekonize, a rapper, singer and producer from Miami-based group ¡MAYDAY!. Listening to Wreknoize is like sitting down to have a beer with an old friend.
While longtime fans of the 33-year-old British-born emcee can rattle off Wrek’s bag of tricks—double time flows, soulful hooks, a unique musicality, and musicianship—his work as a songwriter is where the Miami native truly shines and it’s as a songwriter that Wrekonize consistently triumphs on his newly-released album, Into The Further.
From front to back, Into The Further is completely Wrek. There is a grand total of zero features on the album. Let that sink in. Not only is his Strange Music boss one of the biggest names in indie hip-hop, but just about every Strange album feels like a family reunion or backyard roster-only blunt session. But no features means no artistic compromises and no holds barred.
Into The Further finds Wrekonize at his most relatable, and stands as his most complete and strongest release as a solo artist to date.
Let's dig in...
Three Standout Songs:
Damn. There’s really nothing quite as satisfying as a quality single that hits it out of the park. “Nightmare (Yeah),” the lead single on Into The Further, is positively hypnotic, sentimental and yet unfamiliar, a perfect current day representation of Wrek as an artist and his musical journey up until now.
“Nightmare (Yeah)” is the kind of undeniable, engaging, and sonically satisfying record that made fans of Wrek’s work fall in love with him in the first place. Placing the song near the beginning of the album was a very wise decision. After “Nightmare (Yeah),” there’s no way you could possibly walk away until that last iconic “STRANGE” yell rings out.
In a recent interview, Wrek said you wouldn’t find this type of record on a ¡MAYDAY! project but I respectfully beg to differ. There are traces of his flow and identifiable beat precursors on Take Me To Your Leader and ¡MAYDAY!’s too-often overlooked mixtapes (HARLEM SHAKE REMIX, ANYONE?). Sure, those trap snares, that saucy sample and that spacy waviness after each “yeah” feels very modern, but this is all Wrekonize and it doesn’t come off as inauthentic.
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When a rock oriented, heavy guitar driven beat is laced with Wrek’s vocals, the result is always magical. Melodically, “Knuckle Dragging” sounds a whole lot like ¡MAYDAY! from five years ago. But again, the songwriting here is so solid that the rock guitar atmosphere doesn’t feel played out.
Maybe it’s because I’m working a day job at a bar, but man, this record connects on so many levels. The “you think you’re civilized” chorus is just as timely as the melancholic and explicit politics in “Nightmare,” and it strikes me as incredibly important considering our president is a (maybe) billionaire walking ego.
What makes “Knuckle Dragging” an obvious standout, though, is, again, its authenticity. Wrek is at the point in his career where he sure as shit doesn’t have to rap about the struggle day job he probably hasn’t held down in a decade. But that’s exactly why “Knuckle Draggin” is so endearing. It’s for and about you and me, the listeners, but it’s also for and about Wrek, the artist. This balance communicates a clear understanding between creator and intended audience.
There’s at least one chorus on every Wrekonize album that gets so stuck in my head that I find myself daydreaming about lobotomies and thought-cancelling headphones. “Unknown Number” features that chorus. Like so many artists who have had over a decade in the music industry to develop their sound and approach, Wrekonize knows how to use his voice as an instrument on a level that makes his singing truly special, easily turning a would-be good song into a great one.
The hook on “Unknown Number” is just so wet, so round, and yet so airy and raspy. This sound engineer deserves a twelve pack and a deep dish pizza sent to his apartment immediately. A lot of that is, of course, Wrek’s unique tonality and vocal control, but man, when he flexes that muscle, it’s always worth basking in for an extended period of time.
From a subject matter perspective, Wrek’s often been here before—reminiscing over women and relationships gone wrong, while dealing with the aftermath and figuring out something about himself and the world along the way—but as long as he keeps singing like this, I’ll keep bumpin Wrekonize hooks about girls.
Into The Further is, by far, the best representation of Wrekonize the artist, unfiltered and free, that the world has heard. The songwriting and music are more infectious than chicken pox and connect on a personal level throughout.
The decision to abstain from guest features was a very good call. Wrek is versatile enough in his flows and content possibilities that he deserved a full album to stretch his wings. Even without any special contributions, though, the album is weighed down in its Strange-esque runtime. 15 tracks aren't outrageous by any means, but a slightly scaled down version would have made for an even better listening experience.
That doesn’t mean Into The Further isn’t worth a ride all the way through, though. Give it a few whirls, let those earworms sink in, and pick apart those punchlines. This is a great example of indie artistry done right.