Last week, Brooklyn-based producer/composer, Chris Felix, released his debut EP. Appropriately titled “This is New York,” the 7-track compilation gives listeners a glimpse into what life is like for an artist in the big city. Blending punchy hip-hop drums, eclectic R&B, pop, and jazz samples, and Haitian/Afropop music, Chris creates unique and catchy soundscapes through the 15-minute run-time. He brings on some remarkable talent as well to deliver a piece of work that is a brilliant showcase of artistic talent.
The opening track, “Noise” is just that – a singer holding an extending note with voice bites snipped in then an alarm, some rap lines, and sounds of the city. While there are no lyrics on this track, it sets the scene for what is to come by introducing listeners to some commonly heard sounds, which may otherwise be perceived as noise, that can be heard around the city. This gives way to “Noise, Pt. 2 (Poem)”, a quick and jazzy introduction into some of the frustrations one can experience in the city – the noise, the inability to shut it all out, and the desire for escape. A newscast sample runs in the the background, behind horn notes and breathy statements about the noise.
The title track is a thrilling collaboration with Wombino and Jackson Mathod. This was the first song I ever heard from Chris Felix and it’s what got me coming back for more. This is my initial review of the song, but as a quick recap – it’s a feel-good, piano-backed instrumental with a soothing hook from Chris and warming rap verses from Wombino about the complexities of trying to make it as an artist in the city with all the distractions it has to offer. There is also an impressive showcase of flugelhorn from Jackson.
The percolation of jazz continues into the next track, “Fade to Black,” with trumpets, piano, and high-hats creating a rich soundscape for some glossy vocals. Chris starts off the first verse singing about the repetitive 9-to-5 life and the disillusionment one might experience coming into the city bright-eyed but ending up jaded. Then Menlo Black harmonizes some life lessons – if you don’t come into yourself, the city will swallow you whole. If you don’t stay true to yourself, you will fade away and fade to black. Menlo’s effortless vocals and hard-hitting bars tie together over velvety trumpet flares.
Next up is my favorite track on this EP, “Sanctuary,” mostly due to the astonishingly beautiful vocal performance by Jae Franklin. The track has more of an R&B spin to it, a sultry blend between Jae’s angelic voice and grittier rap lines. It’s an effervescent song about a new type of love, a previously unknown love, that has blossomed from the safety one’s heart can feel in this sanctuary. It’s written as a love song between two individuals, but it’s also a love song to New York City.
“Fly Away” swoops in as the second to last track, complete with piano, deep strings, and soaring vocals. The set-up of the instrumental with the airy vocals makes you feel like you’re surrounded by clouds. Low-toned lyrics paint the conflicting feelings that have already been introduced in earlier songs – the new hopes imagined, the desire to escape, the comfort found, the tough love experienced, and the continued push to thrive in the city. A somberly slow piano and trumpet instrumental closes the EP, titled “Elegy.” A stripped-down yet expressive piece, it feels heavy and melancholic, particularly when compared to the rest of the tracks. But it works as a closer because it really slows everything down, drawing the whirlwind of emotions to a close.
Chris prides himself as a producer who uses his talents to showcase the talents of others. “This is New York” does just that while giving listeners a heartwarming feeling to embrace. It’s cautiously enthusiastic, exploring the often-conflicting feelings of life in the city. This jazz-infused hip-hop EP is the perfect pairing for a morning cup of coffee or tea. It traverses a multitude of musical art forms to unfold a story before your ears, pulling you into an unexpected journey that will leave you with a refreshing feeling.