Ravyn Lenae: Hypnos
As hypnotic as its title suggests. Ravyn Lenae has the aural aesthetic of '60s mod without the drugs. It's simple but smooth, a sweet curving of her soprano voice around notes that seem to be casting an addicting kind of spell. The type of incantation that keeps you dazed and overstimulated. "Venom," indeed. Hers is a sweet poison that blooms in the blood as soon as the needle pierces skin.
Hypnos is certainly an intoxicating follow-up to the spice and seduction of 2018's Crush. It's beautifully rendered R&B that leans into the elements that compose the genre's contemporary traditions. Elements of Afrofuturism spiced with Bollywood theatricality. Nods to '60s pop and '70s metaphysics. Leaning into the more ethereal elements of R&B and giving us lovely soul music wrapped in that lilting and lovely lullaby of a voice. (Harkening back to the likes of Deniece Williams and Minnie Riperton.)
The album ends on an elegant piece of balladry the likes of which would make the late Mrs. Riperton start whistling notes down from the cosmos. "Wish" is a powerful piece of music that cements Hypnos as one of the most interesting R&B albums to come out of the last couple years. Lenae sticks true to her soul, doesn't bend to the whims of trending genre conventions (namely "baby singing" to sound shy, girlish and "innocent" in a way that seems intended to earn a listener's trust). She puts the full range of that soprano on display and sings from the very depths of who she is. And it's as glorious as anything I've heard in a long while.
Hypnos is the direction R&B needs in order to remain timeless. The current trends are just that: 15-second sensations that ultimately don't have any historic longevity more than noting them as a period in time when music become, once again, boringly one-note. This is an album out of time: both acknowledging the past while incorporating composition from another time altogether. A gorgeous work of art that hopefully gets the attention and love befitting something of this caliber.