It is no secret that the international footprint of hip hop has grown steadily and mightily since its inception in South Bronx, New York project buildings. Today the genre is flourishing everywhere and there is no better example of its influence than on Adolessence, the debut album from West Londoner SURYA VARATHARAJAN. At first glance, the mention of hip hop probably provokes sentiments not unlike ones stated by wary suburban American parents in the late 80s, and the entirety of the 90s. For the most part, ‘Adolessence’ sets itself apart from what can be found frequently topping hip hop charts. SURYA cites hip hop luminaries such as A TRIBE CALLED QUEST as sculptors of his musical taste, and KENDRICK LAMAR for the lyrical substance and social narrative baked into much of ‘Adolessence’.
Modern, crisp, and energetic describes of the production up and down the track-list. Bracket by a few short skits sprinkled about the album are tracks that feature synth stabs, atmospheric pads and punchy drums dedicated to providing a necessary club-primed musical underbelly. SURYA’s grasp of some of the staples of modern hip hop instrumentation are not flawless, but he delivers enough of the genre’s modern trappings to fill-out the production.
SURYA’s vocal across a vast majority of ‘Adolessence’ is a breathy delivery expected of a raw talent but melodic enough to carry the day on most of the tracks. The standout track ‘Move It’ is by far the strongest display of what SURYA can do with a microphone in front of him as well as a highlight of the album as a whole. The vocals in the hook trace a loop that introduces listeners at song-open. The delivery is simply and provides the perfect earworm especially through the bridge.
The album’s driving narrative is admirable in its frankness but runs up against being too on-the-nose in places especially when it changes the point of view of the narrative from inner-dialogue to…well…anything else. ‘Seek Your Truth’ is a series grand refrains that do not benefit from the fall to –and recovery from- their corresponding verses which come off more monotonous than refrained; more akin to a lecture than a conversation. That said, these types of issues aren’t as glaring throughout the album, but are enough to disengage casual hip hop heads that stray from “bumping to the beat”.
Honestly speaking, neither the message nor the messenger holds back the potential of ‘Adolessence’. SURYA depicts social issues in a way few can, and even less entertain the thought of attempting. There is a quality to each song’s lyrics that shows how close to home some of these topics are to him and insulate his ability to communicate that in his own unique was. The worldwide MeToo Movement may very well ally within ‘Adolessence’ and the lessons it attempts to teach but beyond a social-justice niche there might not be enough meat in the pot to keep a broader audience coming back for second helpings.
You can find Surya's album, 'Adolessence', on Spotify here!