Jesus, did February 24th have to drop this many albums?
Obviously with this much music being released, it would be a disservice not to give my opinion on something. It could have been the new Stormzy album Gang Signs and Prayers, it could have been the new Oddisee album The Iceberg, or literally any of the 20 albums that came out last Friday. But, fortunately for me, it was the debut LP from LA duo THEY. And why was that fortunate? Because Nü Religion: Hyena is banging, and everyone should do themselves a favor and listen to this album ASAP.
You may be thinking to yourself right now, “Well, this album can’t be that good, he’s just overhyping it.” But no, I’m not.
This album is fire for a multitude of reasons. First off, THEY. know how to put out a smooth listen. From the wordplay to the production, Nü Religion: Hyena is blissful. Straight vibes only. I thought this was going to be a strict hip-hop album, but to my surprise, Nü Religion: Hyena is more of a mix between R&B and hip-hop. According to their website, THEY. call it “Grunge&B”, which I can definitely get behind.
With this seemingly new genre being thrown at us, what can we expect? Well, really it’s just a mixture of bangers and soothing R&B. Even with the disjointed nature of the album, and the variation of dynamics, it maintains consistency. The first three tracks (not counting the introduction) are proof of this: we get a laid-back crooner, a banger, and a fluid pop-trap number, respectively. They’re linked by punchy rhythms juxtaposed with airy, ethereal melodies.
This consistency relies heavily on production. Producer Dante Jones excels at creating an atmosphere that makes the album shine distinct. The grimy, dark beats that are present on every track are incredible while avoiding repetition. From the blaring horns on “U-RITE” to the gritty guitar on “What You Want”, Nü Religion: Hyena is in your face from beginning to end and doesn’t hold back.
This new wave of a genre that seemingly didn’t have life past the mid-2000’s has its definite hiccups and diamonds. When it comes down to it, the beats are great, but on an R&B album, the vocals need to be great too. Fortunately, the sensual voice of Drew Love can calm all those fears. I got some serious Anderson .Paak vibes on some of these tracks, even without the gospel influence – both singers have a natural sense of melody that actively plays with the production.
In what could be dubbed as “SexPop,” artists like dvsn, 6LACK, and the king himself The Weeknd are trying to bring back grime and vice to the Billboard Top 100. Although THEY. are not outright part of this movement, Nü Religion: Hyena certainly draws inspiration from modern records like House of Balloons. THEY. certainly don’t break the trends of “SexPop”, but that isn’t a bad thing. There are actually some creative lines on this record, like “Check my cerebellum I can tell ‘em”, or “Tryna call the shots but you ain’t even got the gun/ Tryna play with fire/ ended up just gettin’ burned.” All of the hooks are fantastically catchy, too.
I seriously haven’t been able to stop listening to this record since its release. Even with a couple of filler songs that are OK at best, the whole album is so catchy that they are only a minor blemish by comparison. It hooks you in straight from the beginning and has staying power through its versatility. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing “U-RITE” played at every club in existence. THEY. are about to blow up, and it’s all going to be thanks to Nü Religion: Hyena’s polish and catchiness.
Written by Max Borushek