Local Love: Hakeem
It seems like Houston’s music scene is filled with tons of electronic acts right now. Though we tend to hear the same names on repeat sometimes, one name that’s been grinding for a good while is Hakeem. These two make a hip hop infused sound that’s full of lush soundscapes and chopped vocals, creating something far away from those we hear so much about. On their new EP, “V,” the duo turns the heat up and crafts something fresh and on a whole new level.
The opening track, “Settle Dwn,” things kick off with traditional hip hop/R&B vocals that get met with a fuzzy bassline. In some genres that bassline would feel like a misstep, however it works here. The chopped and turnt vocals have the feel of a Summertime jam while a bassline thumps underneath a fuzzed beat. The duo incorporate enough hooks to keep your interest from start to finish between multiple vocals that go solo for a bit before they get met with that bass and beat mixture before things end with bells that make you forget that things are over. They follow this up with the slow jam vibe of “1998.the.movie.” Dropping in multiple clap beats with a thick bass drop and varying spaced out synths, the song feels closer to something you’d hear from Toni Braxton than you’d hear from today’s electronic producers. They keep up the pace of dipping various synths and sounds on and off, while the track grooves along. At the end they even add a mixed up vocal sample that sounds like a subway station at noon in any major city.
Around the third song, “I Don’t Need Tomorrow,” you should realize that Hakeem is doing things differently and every bit of it is gold. An acoustic guitar sample that gets met with soul vocals and three different beats that normally wouldn’t mesh all come together on the track. Though they cut in halfway through with a completely different song sample which they use to end the track off and begin the next; for the first time since I’ve seen this method used, it does so as if it were meant to be. They go further with this cut and copy method for “RoseGold,” where the break beats and cut up vocals forge their own sound. The whole implementation is a trip that feels like about ten different tracks were chopped up to create the song into something else. In fact, those vocals never fully come out as the duo place varying synths, sounds, and beats in and out to craft a different song from what they started. It’s something else however, when again they take the track to a whole new place in the last quarter, where it sounds like a completely new song.
The fifth song, the biggest standout of the six, “Let Me” employs similar methods, except here the hooks and catchy beats stay with you days after one listen. In the vein that R&B stars of the past have used various pitched vocals to create a sexy jam, Hakeem does so without every singing one note. The final track, “Farewell” keeps in line with the slow and sexy sensations that the previous songs bring forth. Though it’s just a bit over the two and a half minute mark, the varying vocals, the beats mixed with synths that dance atop a sultry bass, and the way they mix in a screwed blues track at the song’s closing while keeping the original vocals buried in the back of it all, is something insane.
In the end, these six songs come together to form something completely different while still sounding like something you’ve heard before. The way in which they blend various samples and sounds together create a world that you wish you could visit more often. This EP will be released on limited edition cassette and available only at Deep End Records in February as well. Keep your eyes peeled for Hakeem, as though they don’t play often, this album proves that they’re worth catching when they do.