Yesterday, Lance Skiiiwalker fully revealed himself. Once thought to be Jay Rock’s alter ego, the mysterious new TDE signee quietly released his full-length debut Introverted Intuition on Monday.
Joining TDE both blesses and curses an artist. Immediately, they hold company with hip-hop heavyweights like Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and others. But with that company comes an expectation of greatness. Lance comes into the roster without much prior work to judge him by. While he released work as part of the duo The Rocketeers and featured on several TDE tracks (ScHoolboy Q’s “Know Ya Wrong,” “His And Her Fiend,” Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled 04” and several Jay Rock tracks), Skiiiwalker’s abilities as a solo artist remained in question upon his signing. With this release, Lance must answer one question: is he worthy of his place in the TDE roster?
Skiiiwalker chooses to answer this question in a different way than his compatriots. Introverted Intuition lacks the social urgency of To Pimp A Butterfly, the internal struggle of The Sun’s Tirade. Instead, Intuition explores concepts of human behavior and love. Its title refers to the Jungian concept of intuition, and how introverts and extroverts behave, absorb information, and direct their efforts differently. Despite the heavy implications of its title, the album (fortunately) doesn’t delve deep into the Meyers-Briggs debate suggested by its title. Rather, it explores familiar musical themes through Skiiiwalker’s strange lens.
Sonically, the album occupies territory somewhere between the Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and the experimental beats of Odd Future offshoot The Jet Age of Tomorrow. Much of the album is marked by slow, spaced-out instrumentation. With instrumentals heavier in electro-funk than jazz, trap, or boom-bap, the album’s production is a departure from TDE’s other offerings. It’s an extremely synth-heavy work, at times recalling FlyLo’s Cosmagramma. But the element of the music that shines through strongest is Skiiiwalker himself, his voice used two-fold. Weaved into the production, Skiiiwalker’s pitch-shifted vocalizations and vocal samples magnify the ambiance on many cuts here (notably “Sound,” “All Stops” and “Attraction”). This is to say nothing of his actual vocals. Strange and soft, Lance’s voice is far from perfect, but his understanding of it is. Skiiiwalker never makes the mistake of trying to push his voice beyond its limit, something other hip-hop artists can’t seem to avoid (looking at you, Mac Miller). Often harmonizing with himself, using pitch-shift, and subtle auto-tune, Skiiiwalker creates vocal melodies strange (“Toaster”), beautiful (“Advantage”), and in-between (“Lover’s Lane”). Skiiiwalker understands that he isn’t a traditional TDE artist, and runs with it, cutting through in his own way and spinning the formula of other instrumental and funk heavy hip-hop artists.
While this album makes a great case for Lance as a weaver of musical textures, it doesn’t do much for his reputation as a lyricist. Most of the tracks here are sparse for meaning, going through the same motions as love songs gone before. “We lay out, baby, come and run away with me/ Lock you up, find the key,” he sings on “Could It Be.” The lyrics rarely go any deeper than that. This isn’t to say the album is vacuous. It has substance, just substance that many artists have tread through before. Some tracks unravel brief narratives to the listener, such as on “Stockholm,” a track that tells the story of an obsessed man who ends up kidnapping the object of his affection. “All Stops” tells a tale of world-weariness, but the most affecting track is most definitely the previously-released “Speed,” a story of love and drugs that takes advantage of hip-hop tropes. Beginning with Lance singing to a woman about “keep[ing] the party jumping,” the track shifts instrumentation and mood halfway through, and finds the speaker realizing the dulling effect drugs has on his love for the woman he addresses.By inverting a song about partying and allowing listeners to see the flip occur, Lance creates the album’s most tender moment.
All in all, Introverted Intuition isn’t the best release this year, but it is one of the better ones. Meticulously crafted and unique, the album is an oddball gem and a worthy addition to the TDE catalog. Through it, Skiiiwalker establishes himself an accomplished artist who still has room to develop, something to be expected of him this early on in his solo career. It’s a promising start, and hopefully one that can be delivered on in the future.