A rich luxurious style defines Lend Me Your Ear’s effortlessly cool “Forbidden”. Well-named, the seductiveness of the sound permeates every piece. Stylistically Lend Me Your Ear proves to be a true hybrid, bringing together jazz, funk, soul, all anchored by a hip-hop framework. They do this through an embrace of the unexpected, switching off vocals and blending genres with ease. Layer upon layer filters into the mix resulting in a sound that positively pops.
Klein Klimp’s steady and playful flow recalls Andre 3000’s elastic delivery. A perfect rhythm his delivery serves as the very heart of the album around which all else revolves. Production has a glowing warmth to it courtesy of the deft hand of Stank XM. Stank XM’s vocals opt for a different approach than Klein Klimp’s, going instead for a sense of intimacy. The keyboards employed throughout show off Sam Cabot’s impressive talents. Hallmarks of Sam Cabot’s playing recall Stevie Wonder’s gentle yet memorable touch. Quite delicate at times, Sam merges the classics of R&B with an undeniably modern flair. At times conjuring up the greats like Bill Evans alongside the flawless production of some of Frank Ocean’s recent work, Sam proves to have impeccable chops. Going for an urbane feeling, Nate Earthsong’s powerful saxophone playing feels reminiscent of Kamasi Washington’s subtler efforts.
It feels impossible to listen to the album and not think at least in passing about Outkast. A huge influence on their sound, they go for a poppy take on a hybrid form of hip-hop. Back when Outkast released “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”, Andre 3000 and Big Boi brewed up a mild form of controversy: was it hip-hop or was it pop? This resulted in a number of hip-hop stations at first refusing to play the album, citing it was not proper hip-hop. Had they continued to not play it, then Outkast would have reached a much smaller audience. Judging from how Lend Me Your Ear’s “Forbidden” sounds, the hip-hop community at large is better for it. Beyond the obvious Outkast influence are smaller touches, the surrealist lyricism that draws from MF Doom and the wilder animated approach of Gorillaz.
“The Goddess (Intro)” sets the tone helping to begin the album’s “Goddess” trilogy. Casey Dion’s playful vocals filter in and out of the mix on the swagger of “Luv EXP”. Klein spits fire while he combines personal narratives, references to folk tales, with a stream of consciousness take that feels visceral. Heavy beats hit hard on the late-night vibes of “Perfume” with Moda Magic adding to the expansive spirit, with sound that wafts up into the sky. Incredible funk rolls through the stately grooves of “Forbidden – Remix” with fine saxophone thanks to Nate’s attention to detail. On “Gushy” Remidi gives the song a hard-edged quality. Gentle and palate cleansing “The Goddess (Interlude)” sweeps by in an ambient bliss. Neon-hued keyboards intermingle on the woozy “She Walks”.
Easily the highlight of the album “Rainy Day” feels gorgeous. An instant classic, Katie Jae’s voice meshes flawlessly with the bossa nova trappings of the arrangement, with Masta Ace’s contribution adding to the softly celebratory atmosphere. Samples give “Stay Educated” a psychedelic dusty quality along with Backbone’s optimism. “Righteous” embraces a defiant stride as piano and saxophone become one. Elastic grooves anchor the sly title track “Forbidden” with Casey Dion’s contribution a true joy. With “The Goddess (Outro)” they close out the Goddess trilogy and the album as a whole.
On a contemporary approach, Lend Me Your Ear’s style fits in nicely with the Internet’s album “Hive Mind” and the sunny disposition of Janelle Monae. The Internet and Lend Me Your Ear are similar in many ways, like their modern take on funk, as well as the oftentimes cryptic lyricism that proves to be so seductive. Within the entirety of the album Lend Me Your Ear embraces Janelle Monae adherence to a framing theme, in their case a certain pining and yearning that emerges throughout. Nor is Lend Me Your Ear’s theme necessarily romantic their desire is deeper. Their striking modernity pushes the concept of hip-hop forward, with even their origin story of Klein Klimp offering an Uber ride to producer Stank XM feeling apt. A questioning attitude defines everything about their lyricism, genre-blending, even the simple yet effective album art. By using a burning apple, that original representation of a desire for knowledge, the album has a certain intensity to it.
Done with such grace, Lend Me Your Ear executes their vision flawlessly on the otherworldly “Forbidden”.