On this magical interwebz people have the freedom to speak how they want and present themselves in any manner they choose. The only problem is people have the freedom to speak how they want and present themselves in any manner they choose. It’s not that hard for say, a rapper to be mistaken for Nas, or for an artist to start beef with a label mate. The point is nothing on the internet is ever what it seems. So when an artist’s name gains some buzz, it’s hard to find some real, actually analysis amongst the sea of “this rapper is the greatest since that last great rapper” or “best song since ‘Juicy’” Tweets. How are you supposed to know who to listen to if everybody is always telling you to listen to everything?
The latest name that seems to be buzzing is King Avriel. I hadn’t really listened to any of her music (until today), but I have definitely heard the name. Despite only releasing a handful of songs, she’s got a nice little buzz (no Lightyear). Is this a star in the making, or another product of premature internet hype?
Avriel is not your average R&B artist. When not making music, the 23-year-old can be found hitting the books. According to LA Weekly, she is on a full scholarship at UCLA, and she fucking earned it. Where most Tumblr pages are filled with stupid gifs, Avriel’s Tumblr is filled with essays she wrote like Analyzing channel ORANGE: A Textual Analysis of Frank Ocean’s Presentation of Black Queer Masculinity & Black Femininity (I’ve always loved how Frank challenges masculinity, but never really looked at his representations of women -- very interesting stuff.), poems, and book recommendations. Already I’m impressed and I haven’t gotten to the music. Nowadays, radio-friendly R&B doesn’t have too much substance, but there is a hope that an artist like Avriel can change that.
“Essentially, the video is about confronting my recent decision to challenge gender norms publicly, which resulted in the changing of my name to King avriel (purposefully with a capital “K” and lowercase “a”). There are several other coded messages beyond the two characters, such as the Decepticons shirt, the font, my hair style, my laptop, the styrofoam cups, the ski mask, the sound effects at the end, etc, etc, that I look forward to expounding on in future interviews.”
Man, “Judgement Day” is nice! It has a bit of a Frank Ocean's “Swim Good” kind of vibe to it (speak of the devil). I think it’s her most convincing, complete record. “Freedom” is great, too, but it’s only a minute and half long. She definitely has that new age feel with her synthy, ambient production, but her voice has some solid roots planted in R&B; it’s vibrant yet powerful. Obviously, this is only a small sample size, but even in just a few songs, she’s shown flashes of something truly great.
A smart, young, talented, thoughtful R&B star with a focus on real issues without being too preachy? Is she worth your time? Abso-fucking-lutely!!! As an American Studies scholar, I play close attention to the way masculinity and femininity are represented in hip-hop and R&B. Spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty. I’ll admit, as much as I love my job, I struggle with finding a balance between being politically correct and enjoying the music. I don’t have an answer, but it’s great to see promising, socially aware artists like Avriel getting as much buzz as your local drill rapper.
I’m really excited for more thoughtful and transformative R&B from Avriel, and if you’re digging it too, we’ll do our best to keep the goods coming. In the meantime you can hit her with a Twitter follow and check her SoundCloud for even more music.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]