Aja began taking larger strides towards rap success with their debut EP in 2018. A full studio album came February of this year, and now they’ve granted us a Halloween-themed EP, created with fellow queer rapper, Shilow. The two rappers previously worked together on “Jekyll & Hyde,” the released single from Aja’s studio album, “Box Office,” and now have crafted this heavy metal-rap album, “Nail in the Coffin.”
The introductory track, “The Purge,” launches the EP into an industrial EDM trap beat. With no hook, no melody, the track hits hard through structure-less anger, led by slick wordplay and metaphorically-packed lyrics. “With it being a Halloween-themed EP, we wanted to come out with something kind of jarring,” Shilow said about the project. Coming from a metal background, Shilow provides a heavy delivery, making the song a physical experience—you can really feel it as you listen.
Aja sings about the transition of being known for Drag, and coming into the musician they want to be with lyrics like “I’m using the mac, but not the brush, no broom, but I sweep.” “The Purge” is the letting go, a bit radical and a bit rebellious, the introduction to an EP of pressure-release of outsider’s desires of artists’ self-expression, and coming into their own musical realm.
Featuring Kansas City’s hardcore, synth-wave metal band, Young Medicine, “Lost” is the nervous, emotional breakdown that follows the letting go. Shilow and Aja wrote this track after having been overseas. Everyone on their team struggled with what critics were saying about their project, something they had fully put themselves into. The negative comments began to pile up, and this track is the dark metaphor of being stuck in a maze, “can’t leave the way you left,” the self-confliction of feeling lost in self-discovery.
This EP tells a story, from letting go, to “oh crap what did I do,” to the reflection. Reflection in “Mama Chola,” the released single from this project, is a little more playful. Aja and Shilow made this song all about the delivery of each line. There’s a mean girls reference, then it ends with “hatin’ on something doesn’t make a personality.”
Shilow’s solo track is fourth on the album, “Body Count.” It’s an ode to Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhe, happily keeping the spooky theme of this EP throbbing. Shilow keeps with the usual word play, but steps out of his comfort zone with Jason murder references, noting the horror film villain with the highest body count. Not to mention the call and response in this track, bound to get trapped in your head.
“Haunted Haus” lures the EP into the second half, featuring Katie Jobes. With some more structure, this track is the most pop sounding on the album. Aja’s rap flow is very playful with Halloween-themed lines like “you a clown on the street, they don’t call you streetwise, they call you pennywise ’cause you cheaper than a nickel.” To me, “Haunted Haus” is the most Halloween-sounding song on the EP, and I will definitely be adding this to my spooky playlist.
Then comes “Paranoia,” Aja’s solo track. Aja explained it as being a ‘dear critics song.’ “I’m tired of responding. I don’t owe anyone an explanation… if you don’t think I’m this or that, then who cares.” A lot of people on the internet were poking fun at Aja’s mental and emotional health, so it sounds like they musically said, ‘you know what, here it is!’ This song is Aja acting out the idea of being full-crazy, comparing the idea of being paranoid about others, when it reality, Aja is paranoid because she has stage fright before a performance.
The final track wraps up the EP in a pretty little bow, or the final nail in the coffin. “Eulogy (Nail in the Coffin” takes the EP full circle to the lack of a true structure. The two rappers speak their own hypothetical eulogies, putting the last nail in their own coffins. The artist craft can feel as though they are being set up to fail from critics, no matter what they do. When you cannot possibly please everyone, it may as well feel like putting your career to its own death.
This EP is a huge transformative project for both Aja and Shilow. Coming into your true desires as an expressional artist can be horrifying. The two rappers play off each other’s individual wit and unique delivery throughout “Nail in the Coffin,” giving listeners what we really need: Halloween-themed, relatable music.
Find “Nail in the Coffin” on all streaming platforms, and music videos including “Mama Chola” and “The Purge” on YouTube.