by Dom Jones
I first met Terrell Hines in my freshman year at Berklee. He was a quirky drummer and member of the group Wake Child, who I would later find out was also a talented rapper. Until recently, the music that I’ve heard from Terrell has been with the aforementioned group, and a clear mix of the group’s personalities. I was excited when Terrell announced his first solo single, and even more elated when it was released. Check out his first single “3.99 (model 1)” below:
While I wasn’t surprised by the candor of this single, I was pleased with his formula for communicating the messages to his audience. The sound is genre-bending, meaning that more than just hip-hop fans will be able to relate to and enjoy this first song. The hook, a repetition of “the things we’ll do for 3.99,” is a searing critique of the way gluttony has overtaken much of our morality. It’s a strong stance to take for a first single, in a musical landscape where many of the messages are empty or damaging, but knowing Terrell, I wouldn’t expect anything less. When his second single was announced, my timeline on Instagram went a little crazy, with everyone posting the cover art, which said to me that his first single had made such an impression that many wanted to get behind his second single from the start. Listen to “On Fire” below:
When the song started, I let a sigh… the hook sounds like much of what you hear in mainstream hip-hop today, but the sense of worry I have is quickly replaced by by a wry smile. Of course, Terrell has cloaked his message in a palatable hook. The listener is reeled in by that, and then hit with more messages critiquing our society. There are a lot of biblical and church references in his music, suggesting a sense of spirituality, but his music is more rebellious than preachy. He refers to himself as a rebel in this song, and talks about people wanting answers, but the media keeping everyone blind. This song is another genre bender, mixing hip-hop, with an almost rock-country sound. This speaks to Terrell’s musicianship, as we hear organ and what sounds like a tambourine in the background. Both of these instruments are staples in the black church, and lend another level of prosody to the music.
Ultimately, the way that Terrell is choosing to construct his music is an excellent lesson in not diluting a message for the sake of popularity. Both of his singles are awesome, yet “On Fire” seems to take it to the next level, mixing genres, pushing forward his already candid critiques of society at large, and doing all of this with a sound that is unique and original to the artist. I was personally so tired of hearing the same thing in hip-hop, so Terrell is a breath of fresh air. Even the so-called “conscious” rapper has become musically boring. Terrell Hines brings something sonically fresh to the table. Indeed, he seems to be “on fire.”