As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Scion Rae was steeped in the music of hip hop legends like Nas, Big L, and Busta Rhymes, but his love for writing was an accidental discovery. After moving to East Orange, New Jersey, for high school, an epiphany came in the form of a weekend poetry assignment from his sophomore English teacher. Though Scion hadn’t had much of a prior interest in writing, he found the poem flow from his pen with a natural ease. Upon handing it in the following Monday, his teacher was blown away. He got an A on the assignment, but the real encouragement came after she posted the poem on the board outside his classroom. His friends couldn’t believe it was his work; the unexpectedly positive response gave him the motivation to delve deeper.
When Scion first started writing raps, he wanted to emulate the knotty, inventive collages of MF DOOM. He found DOOM’s ability to create characters while remaining autobiographical enthralling, creating immersive, often nonsensical stories that were still personal and revealing. Channeling his hero, Scion pens vivid lyrics, full of colors and images that melt into each other like a DeepDream animation. He allows his rhyme schemes to tumble around within a verse, often stretching past a more conventional bar structure while creating thickets of internal rhymes. Much of his writing is deceptively simple in construction, dense yet direct, revealing greater depths the more you listen. There’s a disarming vulnerability to his work, a clear-eyed willingness to be honest about everything he’s feeling.
“No Strings Attached” and “Indigo,” Scion Rae’s new singles for Dangerbird Records, are what he describes as a “journaling experience.” They represent an evolution in Scion’s songwriting: An embrace of hooks. “When I’d show my music to people, they’d be like, ‘This is amazing,’ but they wouldn’t be able to repeat anything. They didn’t know what I was talking about,” he says. “I wanted to make it more digestible without losing the context.” Both tracks are lush and enveloping, combining the low-key complexity of Scion’s writing with a keen pop sensibility. He experiments with rhythm and texture, citing Tierra Whack and Tyler, the Creator as significant influences on his sound.
The two songs are perfect complements of one another. “No Strings Attached” finds Scion with a reticence towards relationships, documenting his dissociative tendencies when people get too close. Producers Genaro Ortiz and $ir Williams, along with Scion himself, create a sprawling, four-minute epic. Their production mirrors Scion’s emotional peaks and valleys, moving from a moody ambient beat to airy trap before resolving into minimal, orchestral R&B. He dismisses the idea that anyone is truly meant for another: “My ends might not meet, but I’ll still go after it/ If I meet my end, we crossed paths by accident.”
“Indigo,” which adds Griff to the production team, surveys the aftermath of his broken relationships; over the track’s swirling synth pads and clicking drums, Scion comes to the sober realization that he’s always tried to “fit plan A into plan B.” He’s more hopeful here, optimistic that recognizing one’s injurious patterns is the first step to changing them. Together, the two singles tell a deeply relatable story: The space between you and your reflection can be as wide as a gulf, but you can find yourself if you reach across it.
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