I first heard DC rapper Sir E.U on Rob Stokes’ album from earlier this year. That release, a collection of soul and R&B-influenced indie rock, featured the rapper in two songs and, incidentally, was co-produced by Tony Kill. Perhaps that was the project that brought the two artists together, a stroke of serendipity that would lead to the creation and release of their ten-track album, African-American Psycho.
Whatever the circumstances that originally forged this union, the meeting of their minds feels momentous for both the rapper and the beat maker. No doubt they’ve individually dabbled in the experimental before—Sir E.U, for example, recently put on a 25-hour performance—but this feels notably different from any of their previously released material. African-American Psycho plays like a loose concept album, and together, Sir E.U and Tony Kill confidently push boundaries within and outside themselves, without much care for whether you’ll be able to follow them into their new territory.
Truly, the record feels like a psychotic breakdown, mixing electronic production with bleak beats that create an at times subtle, at others overt, but almost always present feeling of distress. The distorted, overblown treatment on everything from vocals to percussion makes it hard to understand the discrete elements in each song, which is part of the trick; tracks like “Let Me Tell You About My Dog” and “No Sex” are loud, overbearing, and confusing. But the production also lends itself to the frantic, almost manic tone of the album as a whole.
Sir E.U’s vocals mostly serve the beats, but his virtuosic ability to mold his own voice and inject tricky emotions into it—or erase all emotion from it—make him a standout. In “Ultra,” his erratic mumbling adds a strangely smothering effect to the propulsive beat, while in “Lower Self (For Freaks Only),” his voice sits in a low, sinister register uncomfortably close to the ear, and he takes shallow gasps for breath as though his lungs are being slowly crushed. In “No Tax,” which features LeDroit and Nappy Nappa, unintelligible vocals are layered atop one another to the point that it feels schizophrenic.
Even the most danceable track, "Cha," feels dense and busy, and Sir E.U seems to lose steam by the end of it, his vocals fading into the background. Hearing this, combined with their contributions to the Rob Stokes album, makes African-American Psycho feel like even more of a feat. It seems these two can do pretty much any genre they please, and it's hard to say where their ideas will take them next.