One night late last year, while I was deep in the rabbit hole of SoundCloud, I found myself instantly captivated by the opening vibrations of “Jenny.” All these months later, that singular moment when I was first opened to the sonic offerings of Irie Lee is still so vivid in my memory. Almost immediately, the search was on for any and all music the enigmatic artist had available. Much to my dismay, there was – to the best of my investigation – only one album out. Fortunately, that album (Yellow Forest) quickly emerged as one of my favorites of the year. To this day, it stays in rotation on a daily basis.
Although I’m not sure I can capture in words exactly what it is, there is something so authentically unique about Irie Lee and the music he shares with the world. In a landscape clouded by trends and copycats, Lee comes forth with a sound that resembles no contemporary. Perhaps there are influences woven in his music, but one can’t listen to Irie Lee and pinpoint an artist or a style he Ctrl+c’d. With each stroke of his musical brush, Irie Lee continues to pave out a path that is uniquely his own. To me, that is an endearing quality in and of itself. But, beyond the individuality and authenticity encompassing his art, Irie Lee manifests enchantingly wondrous music, saturated with emotive displays of picturesque storytelling coupled with mystical, ethereal sonic backdrops.
When “Long Way Home” dropped earlier this year, it was as though my musical prayers had been answered. Lee, who keeps a wildly low profile, seemingly favoring his anonymity over spotlight and fame, had unceremoniously kicked off the roll-out of his next project. And now, after releasing one more single along the way, Cyan has been officially liberated from the vault.
Featuring 10 songs and running for just shy of 30 minutes, Cyan is yet another example of Lee’s ability to use his music to draw buried emotions from deep within the psyche of his listeners. From start to finish, the project serves as an examination of the human spirit, reminding listeners what it means to be – and feel – human. While Cyan is a rolling tide of emotions, rising and crashing through a variety of feelings, at its core the album is a reminder of what it means to truly feel and experience those feelings. Lee transcends mere music, instead using the vibrations contained within the project to tell a story and, in a sense, offer up a call to action. It’s a reminder, an embrace and an act of solitary understanding wrapped up in 10 beautiful, unique and vibrantly emotive chapters.
“Costa Del Sol”
From the very beginning, Cyan sets the stage for the forthcoming journey, bringing listeners to the crashing waves of the ocean. We hear seagulls as the calm, atmospheric, metronome-esque production allows for the brooding saga to begin. Lee’s vocals are slightly distorted, almost faded, leaving “Costa Del Sol” with an overcast aura that lets in just a glimmer of light. It’s peaceful yet tiptoes on the edge of melancholy – hopeful with a foreshadow of despair.
“But You” (feat. Joshua Stephfon)
Quickly, the entire vibe changes as “But You” erupts into an energetic bop of a record. The reflective, mindful and contemplative prose is delivered in a buttery smooth fashion. The inclusion of Joshua Stephfon results in a track that’s multidimensional, a perfect blend of uptempo R&B and seductive crooning.
“Moor Melanin” & “Soul Fly”
Cyan continues to pick up the energy, the music becoming anthemic in the smoothest of ways. “Moor Melanin” is highlighted by the jazzy production. As the joint merges with “Soul Fly,” listeners are experiencing Lee’s journey alongside him. We’re able to see the muse who inspires his words. We can feel the same emotions that are emerging from our protagonist. The instrumentation finds fidelity with Lee’s prose, leaving the audience standing in the moment – there is no barrier separating the listener from the artist. We are there with him and, in an eerie way, we are able to put ourselves in his place.
“The Night” (feat. Moflo Music)
“The Night” is promiscuous, standing prominently as the most gentle version of vulgar one can imagine. It’s mood music; seductive, sexual and sensual but remaining totally respectful the whole way through.
“Sax on the Beach” (feat. Brazzy)
Even without words, Lee is able to set the tone and continue the telling of his story. Listeners pick up on the vibe of the instrumentation – the sax and mild percussion – and decipher the before, during and after of what is going on. “Sax on the Beach” features light dialogue, almost indistinguishable, but as the music fades we hear the dropping of gems and wisdom bombs.
“Long Way Home” (feat. theMIND)
“Error// (Empty Track)”
“Error// (Empty Track)” showcases the purity of Lee’s vocals, offering an emotional display of love, sacrifice, raw connection and the pain/hurt that accompanies those feelings. There’s waves of emotion on full display, coupling with the stirring instrumentation to present a mournful tale of letting go.
Wow. If nothing else on Cyan does it for you, “Seaside” will make you feel. The conclusion is revealing, personal and – to be honest – caught me off guard. I was not expecting the striking openness of the track and this unexpected nature elevated the impact “Seaside” had on me personally. It really works to wrap up Cyan in a powerful and meaningful fashion, bringing everything full circle as one part of Lee’s journey closes.
It’s a wavy ride, man. I’m just really grateful for that night Irie Lee’s music entered my life. It hits different – it’s raw, real, pure and authentic. Each track tells a story, and all his stories forge together to reveal something greater. If there’s one artist you might not be listening to that I think you should start diving into, it’s got to be either Irie Lee or Rudy. So start listening to both *Kanye shrug*.
Cyan is available now on all your favorite streaming platforms.