Top Dawg Entertainment entered hip-hop as an independent record label with a roster of hungry, homegrown Los Angeles rappers. The starting four—Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock—all blossomed from underground beginnings to become renowned rap stars. Their accomplishments, along with the successful additions of Chattanooga rapper Isaiah Rashad and New Jersey songstress SZA, added to the label’s growing prestige.
For new signees flying under the TDE banner, that very prestige comes with a high bar of expectation and excitement. It’s one of the many reasons to be thrilled by SiR and his newly-released album, Chasing Summer. The Inglewood-born singer-songwriter and producer joined the TDE ranks back in 2017, releasing his debut, November, the following January. With a charismatic voice and distinctive songwriting, SiR quickly developed fanfare around his artistry. Listeners saw the potential for a new R&B mainstay.
Earlier this year, SiR followed in SZA’s footsteps by signing a joint record deal with TDE and major label RCA. Although success isn’t guaranteed, the Sony Music Entertainment-owned label is on a winning streak with contemporary singers and rappers. Pairing their machine, experience, and knowledge with SiR’s talent could be a star-making combination. Chasing Summer is the first offering from this union, one that opens a new chapter in the book of SiR.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. “Hair Down” ft. Kendrick Lamar
Commentary from a pilot. I wonder if this is a part of the theme. Loving the production. There’s instant warmth with a nice bounce. SiR’s vocal is as vaporous as weed smoke. It lingers above beats as if it’s untouched by gravity. Without hearing K. Dot’s verse, I see why this record was selected as the first single. Kendrick is rapping. It’s nice to hear his voice. A bit deeper than I remember. No alien voice. A flow switch. Even his tone switched. Kendrick is like a Swiss Army knife. He isn’t an overwhelming addition; he does a lot in a small space. Hopefully, a great visual will bring the song to life.
2. “John Redcorn”
I had to Google John Redcorn. I was surprised to see a picture of a character from the animated series King of the Hill. Production is great. The guitar chords and the tapping hi-hats are a nice contrast. There’s a moodiness to the tone of his voice, but the production is keeping it from being too heavy. It’s lighthearted but emotion-driven. This reminds me a bit of early Miguel or Nostalgia, Ultra by Frank Ocean. I wonder how the theme of loneliness connects with John Redcorn’s character. I need someone more knowledgeable than I to make a list of King of the Hill characters as rappers. Good song, I’ll return.
3. “You Can’t Save Me”
I love the song titles. Live instrumentation? SiR came in strong with the vocal range. There’s a lot of passion in his voice. Who is this on the drums? The production carries the same emotional weight as his tone. SiR came to show us that he’s a vocalist to be respected. “I knew you were a good girl.” JAY-Z told us what happens when a good girl is lost... she’s gone forever. SiR is singing like his words are true and he’ll never get her back. Heart-on-my-sleeve music.
4. “La Lisa” ft. Smino
Great pacing. No song is too long, and they all have captivated fairly quickly. “La Lisa” starts with urgency. Vocally, SiR sounds great. I’m interested in the production credits. There’s a nice, groovy chord progression here. Is that Monte Booker? I don’t think so, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. Smino! Their voices are compatible the way Jazzy Jeff was a perfect partner for The Fresh Prince. Smino has been on a nice feature run in 2019. This is such a strong verse. His flow is rolling across this beat like Tony Hawk skateboarding in his hotel room. Sharp and witty writing. SiR with some soaring notes to close this one out. Ha, who is that? She is roasting SiR. “That nigga can’t even move like Usher.” Okay, that one hurt me, ha.
A nice transition. I like the romanticism of smoking. A smooth record. Elegance. SiR doesn’t ever sound as if he’s trying to oversell himself. There’s a calm his voice brings, which pairs well with the easiness of his production. The palette is warm, guitar-driven chords or springtime keys with some pleasant drums. Pleasant is truly the best way to describe “Fire.”
6. “New Sky”
If you placed SiR’s production in a jar, it would glow a warm orange like the backs of fireflies. I would like a bit of a switch-up, but I’m not upset. This listen has been cohesive. Everything is functioning well. “New Sky” might be SiR at his most soothing. This reminds me of an Anderson .Paak record. I could easily imagine his voice over this production. SiR has mastered the art of rhythmic speaking. The verses for “New Sky” feel like a poetic conversation with an angelic hook. The hook and closing bridge are incredible. Not an instant standout, but I see this record being a grower.
7. “Lucy’s Love” ft. Lil Wayne
A slower build-up. Oh yeah, he’s got some attitude in his tone. Some bad weed has SiR pissed off, ha. This is more of a rap, and it’s enthralling. The lighter flick. I hope Lil Wayne raps for the rest of my life. Wayne’s textures start while SiR is still singing. This feels collaborative as if they were in the booth together. There’s a touch of Auto-Tune on his voice. A vivid vocal. I wish he projected more, but Wayne’s verse was strong. Cool concept.
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8. “That’s Why I Love You” ft. Sabrina Claudio
Elegant build-up. Love the drums. Man, this is such a pure R&B album. SiR isn’t trying to lean into any hip-hop aesthetics, nor is Chasing Summer touched by any pop influences. I commend the consistency. The passion in his voice. This might be my favorite beat thus far. Sabrina sounds excellent. Such a sweet, sensual voice. The tempo is great for the two. Duet hook. A good vocal mesh. None of the collabs feel forced. Everyone is meeting on a level playing field. SiR’s second verse and these back vocals. Structurally, “That’s Why I Love You” is the best-constructed record. An early favorite.
9. “Touch Down”
“Let your fears go.” Nice switch-up. And here’s the hip-hop influence. SiR is in a nice pocket with this slower, melodic flow. The backing vocal harmonies are a nice touch. He has a vision for these songs. Nothing sounds quite like the previous song. These drums are hitting. Not too hard, but not too gentle. A bit random after “That’s Why I Love You” but that doesn’t make it any less smooth.
10. “Wires In The Way”
A woman’s voice. She’s talking. Is she breaking up with SiR? There’s been an interesting theme of separation and disconnection. I love this writing. Poignant words are painting the picture of his feelings. The production is stellar. “I hope you call” has never sounded so sincere. SiR means every word. I wish this record was longer. Great song, though.
11. “Still Blue” ft. Jill Scott
A Jill Scott feature is a nice surprise in 2019. Oh man, a very slow, smooth production. SiR is deep in his rhythm and blues bag. He sings about real relationships. This reminds me of 6LACK. SiR is a romantic, but being a lover doesn’t mean there are no detours, roadblocks, or dead ends. Jill! There’s such a veteran sensibility to her vocals. They feel older but in a touching way. As if time has allowed her a gripping tone that’s not unlocked without reaching a certain age. Good song. A keeper.
12. “Mood” ft. Zacari
Nice to see SiR and Zacari link up. I’m not sure what language is being spoken, but it’s in a woman’s voice. I like this production a lot. I wasn’t expecting to, either. The trap bounce is great. Zacari’s voice is great, too. “Mood” might have played better in the middle of Chasing Summer. SiR finds a great pocket in the first verse. I hear a potential single. Such an infectious song. I didn’t love SiR’s second verse; I don’t know if it was needed.
13. “The Recipe”
The production hasn’t let me down yet. I love the textures of SiR’s instrumentation. Is that a sax? I’m pretty sure it’s a gorgeous sax. SiR is floating. Chasing Summer will sound excellent in Los Angeles. The album’s temperament feels like L.A. weather. It’s like that early sunset weather. There are some nice moods and vibes that are naturally set. SiR puts you in a sense of ease. Are those “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” riffs? A keeper.
“Take me back to L.A.” An homage to home. Chasing Summer is a surprisingly good companion album to bLAck pARty’s newly-released Endless Summer. Both records were made in Los Angeles, and both artists are on RCA. It’s not a coincidence that the two albums were released a week apart. Some introspection in his writing. I would’ve liked a bit more self-reflection. This is shaping up to be a strong close and one of my favorites. Some fresh keys at the midway point. More plane textures. Beautiful, to say the least. He loves a graceful arrangement. The pilot begins Chasing Summer and end Chasing Summer.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on SiR’s Chasing Summer
SiR’s sophomore full-length Chasing Summer doesn’t aim to be a blockbuster to end the year’s hottest season. Instead, the TDE signee focuses on relatability. He sings of romance and relationships not as a love guru, but as a thoughtful observer who knows the words and tones to translate situations into accessible songs. At best, you feel SiR. At worst, you know someone who will.
SiR is the everyman romantic. Women are a source of pleasure and pain—the poison and the antidote—and he tailors this gentle affection to the album’s saccharine production. Outside of a stellar guest feature line-up (Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Sabrina Claudio, Smino), the most glaring indication this is a major-label release are the rich soundscapes. From the vocal mix to the production value, Chasing Summer is radiant.
There are no big bangs or earth-stopping moments on Chasing Summer; it’s a collection of robust and well-constructed R&B songs. SiR knows his strengths as an artist and his identity as a singer-songwriter. Chasing Summer doesn’t feel like the arrival of SiR, not yet. It does, however, showcase the sturdy legs on which a promising career will stand.
By Yoh, aka YoH, aka @Yoh31