“Like how could you do that to me / Like I skipped the fall I wasn’t planning to leave” croons a humble 301icon in the opening lines of his new single “Love Songs,” currently out everywhere smart hip-hop is sold and streamed. In his words, 301icon has nowhere to hide from the emotion he’s putting on the table for everyone to see and ultimately judge, but that seems to be just fine by him. “Love Songs” jumps out of the speaker and attacks us with its happy-go-lucky groove and reliably poppy hook, and although it’s as hip-hop as anything coming out of the underground scene this spring, it’s got more of a retro bend to its manner of a melodic swagger than anything the genre’s establishment has been producing in the last year.
There’s a more complex set of poeticisms in play with “Love Songs” than any of 301icon’s previous material had, but this isn’t to say that I came into this review with low expectations for what I was about to hear. For the last three years that have gone by since his peers started getting some press for some of the more experimental singles the genre has heard in a while, this is a rapper who hasn’t stopped reforming himself and finding better (and more efficient) means by which he can express the emotions in his heart through the harmonies in his music. “Love Songs” resembles elements of the more melodic half of mumble rap for sure, but side by side, this demonstrates a lot of practiced wisdom that 301icon didn’t have at the start of this odyssey.
The backing beat doesn’t have a lot of polish on their parts as far as the master mix is concerned, but I think this was the preferable route to go for the concept being used in the framing of “Love Songs.” The romantic component of the lyrics is sweet, but with a lot of bright, sparkling melodies in the foreground, I don’t know that it wouldn’t have come off as a little saccharine by the time we get into the chorus. By keeping the background instrumentation a little gritty, 301icon is reminding us that he’s still the same lyric-slinging poet who could have captured hearts in the underground going as far back as the mid-2010s era.
Honest, ambitious, and artistically assertive of who he wants to be as a songwriter and performer, 301icon’s “Love Songs” is the most mature work this guy has issued to date, and it’s absolutely one of my new favorite hip-hop songs this April. There are a lot of different times and situations that call for an artist to expand on their greatest ideas, and right now is a moment I would encourage 301icon to take advantage of before the window of opportunity has passed him by. He’s on a roll lately, and while his momentum is as strong as it is at this season, I think it would be prudent of him to give fans the full-length album that they’ve been craving for a few years now.