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“Road To Damascus” by Chris Waters

In his new single “Road To Damascus,” hip-hop’s intriguing new face Chris Waters isn’t flowering up vocal harmonies with a lot of lyrical gusto – on the contrary, he’s going as simple as ever, stripping away the luster that too many of his contemporaries have been purely reliant on when making new music of their own in the last year. Rather than hanging onto meaningless filler as a means of bridging the gap between conceptualism and mainstream appeal, Waters is going barebones with the compositional integrities here and sticking with something he knows how to do exceptionally well – speak from the heart. No big-league poeticisms are coming between the artist and audience in this performance; there’s just honest emotionality and everything that comes with it.  

The vibe here is centered on the beat, no question about it, but this isn’t to discount what the melodicism Waters is producing with the microphone in his hands by any means – quite the opposite, truth be told. There’s a lot of energy that he’s drawing off of the percussion, to begin with, and as we get deeper into the core of the track, the aesthetic is shaped more by their exchange than it is any specific lyric being sung to us. We’re never left with a singular experience in this song, but instead the kind of multidimensionality some critics had feared dried up around the time that Soundcloud rap started to get airplay on mainstream radio. This is an artist who knows how to use his versatility, and that’s obvious from every angle in this piece.  

Waters’ voice has moments of coming across a little rawer than it probably needs to be, but this is the only way to make the most of his evident passion without overstating his heartfelt delivery in the grander scheme of things here. There are a lot of ways to be overindulgent in pop music, and even within hip-hop, but I don’t know that it’s easy to step away from a song like “Road To Damascus” without understanding how unique an efficiency-forward player like this one is to discover. He isn’t forcing his point nor having to invite a lot of extra fluff into the fold; his emotion and the story he’s telling with it are enough to connect with the audience well after the music has come to an end.  

I wasn’t listening to Chris Waters as much as I should have been ahead of this release, but now that I’m a little more in touch with what he’s up to in the studio at the moment, it’s not likely I’m going to be able to stay away for very long. This is a funky, verse-centric performance that has all the makings of a crossover millennials and zoomers can celebrate together, but with one twist – it isn’t playing into the model so many other hybrid releases have in the past few years. This is a thoughtful work from a compelling artist you need to keep on your radar, particularly if you like provocative songcraft as much as I do.  

Mindy McCall



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