Today marks the release of R.O.E.’s To Happiness, a long-anticipated five-track EP chronicling the Chicago emcee’s mindset since the acclaimed A Backpacker Named R.O.E.’s release in 2011.
It’s no secret that I consider R.O.E. — along with his producer J. Slikk and band The Soulvillians — my favorite discovery of 2014. There is a lot of hip hop out there, and once in a while you get lucky and stumble across people who are making waves and shaking up the scene with that coveted blend of thoughtful lyrics, smooth flow, killer production and charisma. These guys have what it takes to turn heads and compel people to slide on their headphones and listen.
The EP’s arrival lives up to expectations with R.O.E.’s signature artistic flow and clever writing and the natural chemistry between the lyrics and beats. There was a cohesive vision in creating this EP, and it delivers.
These guys have what it takes to turn heads and compel people to slide on their headphones and listen.
This is the ambient music you spin on a rainy afternoon when all you want to do is spend the day alone writing, creating, and thinking, with your vice of choice by your side. It’s chill, deep, and reflective. The underlying theme is, in essence, a positive outlook on the road R.O.E. walks today as an artist: traveling, reaching, not letting negativity get in the way. The production is slick and interesting, yet simple—often elevating the lyrics and pushing R.O.E.’s pensive message to the forefront.
From the man himself: “Over the last few years since my last EP, I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve traveled the country performing shows and had some success with building my career. Throughout it all, I kept asking myself, ‘Where am I headed?’ The answer seemed so broad that it was impossible to narrow down. So I decided to write a project from those thoughts.”
This is the ambient music you spin on a rainy afternoon when all you want to do is spend the day alone writing, creating, and thinking, with your vice of choice by your side.
“Long Way from Home”
As every first single should, “Long Way from Home” sets the vibe for the rest of the EP. It’s lyrical. Soulful. It has elements reminiscent of ’90s R&B. It carries a feel-good, full sound. The message is about paying dues, discovery, being dedicated, staying positive. The drums don’t kick in until about 1:06, allowing the lyrics to breathe and the listener to fully absorb them.
With a subtle nod to Lauryn Hill, “Beware” is an ode to stay positive and not let naysayers kill your spirit. “I know these killers got a plot for me, they thinkin’ of TuPac’n me, robbin’ me for all my intellectual property, don’t move sloppily, you comin’ better do it properly, that rare octagon the closest thing to ever stoppin’ me.”
This fun-loving jam will get you moving and win you over with lines like, “Haters gonna hate, and that’s a necessary evil” and “I hope ya’ll are feelin’ this, I hope ya’ll diggin’ this, and crank it up when the radio is kickin’ this, and in the club when the DJ is spinnin’ this, lose your mind when you’re hearin’ this.”
The hook in this song is one of my top two on the album; it’s so subtle that it keeps you coming back for more. Lyrically it’s a love song, but it has an ambiguous quality, and true to the rest of the EP, the story will visually unfold in your mind as you’re listening.
“Wake Up The World”
The final groove in the storyline ends the EP in the same tenacious manner it began. It sounds like it could have been a single off The College Dropout, and is easily a stand-out track that culminates the EP’s concept of happiness in the best way possible.
What’s the underlying meaning behind the EP’s namesake, To Happiness? It could be a toast. It could be a destination. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. In just five tracks, R.O.E. takes us on a short, yet rich and experiential trip through what it’s like to be him: an established artist walking the road less traveled, doing what he loves.
In just five tracks, R.O.E. takes us on a short, yet rich and experiential trip through what it’s like to be him: an established artist walking the road less traveled, doing what he loves.
Stream / Buy / Share
You can purchase the EP for $7 through risingoverenvy.com or on iTunes.
Chicago, make sure to check out R.O.E.’s free EP release show tonight at the Door No. 3. Doors open at 8pm.