Crossovers are the story of popular music in 2022, and in their new single “Man in Black,” AztroGrizz are fusing country and hip-hop in what feels like one of the more seamless combos I’ve heard this April. While this mixture of genres isn’t a new concept these days, AztroGrizz isn’t simply layering rapped verses atop a country sample and calling it a hybrid – they’re integrating melodic elements of both styles to give us something entirely fresh and original. The lyrics have an almost acrylic texture beside the soft string play in the background here and scarcely does it ever feel like we’re listening to something that’s been chopped and screwed on the board.
The melodies are the greatest binder between the themes in this single, and I found the harmonies to be some of the warmest of any I’ve come across in this style of a track in a while. “Man in Black” references some deeper emotions with its verses that sting hard enough to make the entire track feel like a sunken ballad, but the optimistic vibe of the instrumentation guiding these vocals really helps to make the composition feel united and geared towards positivity rather than anything dark.
Of all the main components of this single’s charm, I think the lyrical delivery is by far the sharpest. This isn’t a track that has been constructed around a beat or even a marketing goal – AztroGrizz wants to paint us a portrait here, both simple and decadent in nature, and you can tell they mean business just by the way that they’re half-crooning these words to us. It’s not quite the stripped-down hip-hop of the old school, but there’s a lot of neo-soul and pastoral melodicism in the bones of this song that makes me appreciate how much these players care about the foundations of both styles.
AztroGrizz’s video for “Man in Black” keeps the frilly props to a minimum and brings some life to the lyrics at the same time, which certainly seems to be difficult for a lot of their closest competition to do this spring. You can’t fake the wholeheartedness of the visuals here, and I don’t feel like the narrative within the music is lost in the swagger present on-screen – quite the opposite, if anything. Hybrid songs often feel like a bit of a novelty next to puritan tracks, but that just isn’t true of this single.
After listening to what AztroGrizz can do in “Man in Black,” I must say that I’m pretty curious to hear what they’re going to do for their next major release, being that this song puts their aesthetical direction right in the middle between two very polarizing opposites. Unlike their peers, this isn’t an act that leans toward one influence over another but seems to be crafting out something we can’t measure beside anything else instead, which is both brave and commendable in today’s music scene. They could outgrow the underground sooner than you might expect, and a track like this one makes me believe their time is coming.
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