Medhane shows sound mastery

Rap artist Medhane and his new album “Cold Water” create a powerful sound experience for listeners that not only sends them through a journey of various ideas but also delivers a powerful message of defiance and independence.

Medhane (pronounced: meh-donny) released his latest project, “Cold Water”, on May 26. Medhane is an independent rapper and producer from Brooklyn and member of an Earl Sweatshirt affiliated underground hip-hop collective that includes MIKE and Navy Blue (aka professional skateboarder Sage Elsesser). 

“Cold Water” is Medhane’s first full length project since 2019’s Own Pace and second 2020 release following the 15 minute “Full Circle.” Medhane, who produces his own tracks under the pseudonym AFB, shares production with frequent collaborators Navy Blue and Chuck Strangers among others. 

“Cold Water” is Medhane at his absolute best. With 15 tracks spanning 36 minutes, it is thematically concise but disjointed enough to explore a variety of flows, samples and ideas. The beats are congruent with past Medhane releases featuring sparse jazz, blues and soul samples chopped and looped over fairly simple drum patterns. 

Medhane doesn’t rap to the beats. Rather, he floats around, between and through the warm horns, flutes and pianos cascading through your ears. This is music to sway to; I often caught my head nodding back and forth, or loose between shoulders like a metronome matching the rhythm of waves crashing against Brooklyn piers. 

“Cold Water,” like much of Medhane’s catalogue, is about being young, black and gifted, independent and powerful, navigating a city and a system that seems determined and unable to stop you. 

This is your early 20s on tape: understanding that even while all you’ve ever wanted is days away, time seems to stumble over itself, looping like jazz samples forming a whirlpool of cold water. 

The following quotes are excerpts from these motifs, pieces of the scrapbook that comprise the album. 

On track 10, “Truth & Soul,” Medhane repeats, “clock ticking I’m willing / my mission try healing.” Track 13, “Don’t F**k Around,” begins with, “Mamma said listen when they send signs / Listen to the universe to get mine.” Track 2, “No Cap,” showcases poetry perfectly apt for our current situation: “Fuck the pigs free my n****** out the chains / Just the other day couldn’t feel / Nothin real / Took a minute for them cuts to heal / Scarred still.”

Track eight, “Na Fr,” is undoubtedly the best song I have heard all year. Producers Alexander Spit and Super Miles weave short piano chords and a deep sub bass into a backtrack that I would have on repeat even if Medhane didn’t grace its length. 

Production aside, Medhane is excellent and raw, rapping about trauma (“Another notch on my belt / Earned stripes through the trauma I felt”) and black excellence (“Strong melanin I shine when the light hit”). “Na Fr” is an instant classic, and I am unashamed to reveal it has been on repeat for days. 

 Medhane is a mouthpiece for a generation. His work is a symbol of a culture and collective consciousness that, while distinctly New York, pervades cities throughout the nation. “Cold Water” is a perfect project, a must listen. I implore you to set aside 36 minutes and listen to the future.