Producing art is a battle; an incessant tug-of-war between two opposing parties. One side represents purity: an artist’s fight to maintain integrity through creating beauty that reflects their vision, mindset and soul. Purity’s antithesis, commercialism, doesn’t always adhere to that vision, mindset and soul, and submits to simpler products to satiate the public's desires. The battle to channel integrity and commercial appeal is difficult.
On this battlefield, soldiers typically, unfortunately, surrender to the latter side despite their true allegiance. However, this same battlefield produces heroes—those who can embody integrity and appeal. Melo Makes Music is standing on this battlefield, head held high, on the verge of signing a peace treaty between these two sides.
The 21-year old Chicago musician is the manifestation of his city’s creativity—a progressive one that inspires growth. Kanye changed the course of Hip Hop; Chance dismantled the myth that major labels are necessary for career advancement; Melo is developing his unique aesthetic and sound to follow in their innovative footsteps. He might be categorized as “Hip Hop,” but his influence and artistry extend well beyond this genre.
Melo’s appearance alone presents a stark contrast to prototypical Hip Hop musicians. Round-rimmed glasses frame his face; a bull nose ring hangs above his scraggly facial hair, which connects to his thin braids, usually confined under a dad hat. A variation of ripped, manipulated denim or leather hang off his body as he takes a drag of his cigarette. Melo looks like he’d be more comfortable at an Alice In Chains show than a Gucci Mane concert. Understanding his influences and background, that all makes sense.
Having a musically inclined mother aided Melo’s development. She always stressed the importance of having a broad pallet by introducing him to diverse artists at a young age, which planted the seed for his musical curiosity. Names like George Michael, Michael Jackson, Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana—frequent companions on their school commutes—watered that seed into the genre-bending entity that is Melo Makes Music. His music has no limits, no definitions; just a wide-open future.
The first Melo track that I heard was his hit, “Murphy’s Law,” off his upcoming project, Nomads. A mysterious, borderline ominous voice greeted me at the song’s entrance. Apprehensive, I wasn’t sure if I should walk in the door. But then I inhaled deeply, and was pulled into Melo’s house of music by my nostrils like Mickey Mouse smelling a pie cooling on a windowsill. The door slammed behind me. Electricity was out. Trying to find my bearings, I was in an unfamiliar musical territory. Eyes squinting, I could see a small beam of light coming from the upstairs. I followed that light. I reached the top of the stairs and suddenly, I was consumed by brightness.
Martin $ky’s smooth, melodic production provides the song’s cinematic vibe. Melo uses his unconventional voice to reveal his perception of Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Melo’s witnessed a host of negative circumstances, leaving him jaded and expecting the worst out of situations. His intriguingly texturized vocals play jumprope with cadences that find Melo slowing down his flow to mirror the beat’s softer moments, and speeding it up during the song’s intense pockets to remind us of his flow’s vicious bite. Martin $ky’s production perfectly complements Melo’s voice to create great, alternative music—currently enjoying over 121,000 SoundCloud plays. They’ve developed a mature chemistry thanks to a history of collaboration, dating back to Melo’s first EP, Sessions.
Melo’s musical curiosity started by playing the guitar and piano at age 14, but he didn’t begin pursuing it as a career until about two-years ago. While away at school, he felt empty and unchallenged; working towards a life he didn’t believe he should be living. His last few months at school were his introductory period to recording. This time allotted him the confidence to exchange an education for his music dreams and begin recording Sessions. This 2015 three-track project offers a raw insight into Melo’s unique style. He dances with a medley of flows and tones, ranging from his traditional singing to deeper vocals reminiscent of a less exaggerated A$AP Rocky on “Purple Swag.” Sessions features production from Martin $ky, Knox Fortune (featured on Chance The Rapper’s “All Night”) and MikeyPaul. This project’s rough edges fence in Melo’s talent, and foreshadow his bright future; one that hinges upon his alternative flair.
Without question, George Michael and Nine Inch Nails whispering in his ears contributed to Melo’s nonconformist music. But Melo is a limitless artist. He doesn’t exclusively rely on traditional musical influences to curate his sound; he finds beauty in different mediums. Melo endeavors to incorporate cinematic qualities into his music, citing Hans Zimmer as a huge inspiration. He appreciates Hans’ scores and their ability to captivate the viewer while conveying a movie’s emotions. It’s a quality he hopes to inject into his upcoming project, Nomads.
The tentative title, Nomads, represents Melo’s struggle between liberation from pursuing his musical dream and being broke without a solidified home—feeling lost, helpless. He feels that this situation accurately depicts a struggling musician’s plight, but isn’t talked about in Hip Hop for fear of perceived weakness. He wants to right that wrong. Melo’s released three singles so far, including: “Murphy’s Law,” “Evicted” featuring Kweku Collins and his most recent drop, “Drain U” featuring Ravyn Lenae—all three are Martin $ky productions. In a strategic marketing initiative—and playing into his love for movies—Melo released a series of clips on his Instagram that contextualized “Drain U’s” message: feeling exhausted, frustrated, drained. A release date hasn’t been announced, but expect Nomads to drop fairly soon.
Melo is firmly standing on the artistic battleground, surveying the landscape's duality: music industry victims lying lifeless; artists with integrity starving. He stands in the middle of these two extremes. By adhering to his vision's unconventional, genre-encompassing sound, coupled with his skyrocketing popularity, Melo has carved out a fruitful path for himself. As Weezy and Biggie proclaimed, the sky is the limit.