Reviewed by: Max Miller
The cover of Hamilton, Ontario-based rapper/producer Emay’s Sinner, Songwriter EP features five stylized faces — masks, one might venture to guess. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a writer resorting to the rocket scientist cliche to figure out they probably represent the record’s five tracks, each featuring a collaboration with a different producer, and each dramatically different for it.
Opener “Landscaping”, for example, is backed by a stuttering piano loop produced by collaborator Resolved Dissonance. The song has a calm, determined vibe that comes through in Emay’s direct yet unconfrontational flow. But with the following track, “Refresh”, the tone shifts abruptly as Hut’s unpredictable beat provides an altar at which a newly-animated Emay rails against racism and homophobia, concluding his analysis of society’s ills by proclaiming that “the page is frozen and corroded and needs a refresh, and the only other option is to regress.”
Closer “Solitude”, featuring Hollow Pigeons, stands separate perhaps more than any other track. The beatific beat grounded in flamenco acoustic guitar lines and pseudo-gospel vocal incantations backs Emay’s stream-of-consciousness musings on life and death, including nods to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and, almost inexplicably, Lost’s doomed flight Oceanic 815.
The Sinner, Songwriter EP only lasts for 18 minutes, and it feels even shorter as each new track undergoes a seismic shift from where the last left off, leaving the listener anxious for more. Emay proves himself both a chameleonic songwriter who thrives amidst any musical background and a talented curator who has wrangled up a formidable team of progressive beatmakers.