“Can I kick it?” Those iconic words are uttered by Tunji Ige in the first seconds “Change That,” the bombastic opening track from his latest project Missed Calls—and although it’s impossible to hear the words and not think of legendary rappers A Tribe Called Quest, Tunji is doing far more than hero worship here. Impeccably modern while also possessing a singular, original sound, Missed Calls is the latest missive from the Philadelphia triple-threat phenom, a bold and swirling soundscape from a young and exciting talent.
Missed Calls follows last year’s intriguing The Love Project, and a lot’s changed for Tunji since that breakthrough release, which included the seductively nocturnal underground heatseeker “Day2Day”: the 22-year-old rapper/singer/producer went on tour with The Neighbourhood and jumped on alt-pop sensation Christine and the Queens’ “No Harm Is Done.” Most importantly, he left college to pursue music full-time, just one of a few experiences that Tunji brings to the table throughout Missed Calls’ seven tracks.
The Love Project was recorded around various locales in Philadelphia—including his parents’ house and his West Chester University dorm room; the majority of Missed Calls was also completed in Philadelphia, with extra work done in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Paris, the last where Tunji was touring with L.A. alternative crew The Neighbourhood late last year when tragic terrorist attacks struck the city. The experience of being present during such pain and horror seeps into the dirty guitars and blown-out sonics of “Fired Up”: “It felt like some classic stuff, but then it turned dismal very quickly—but it made the song even realer, too,” Tunji explains on working on the song at the time of the attacks.
Musically, Missed Calls is a blend of the light and dark, with gritty tones and off-kilter beats rubbing up against production and melodies that sound bolder, brighter, and even more fully realized than the impressive material featured on The Love Project, from the sultry, pulsing R&B of “War” to the titanic churn and tumbling percussion of the anthemic stunner “On My Grind.” Work on Missed Calls began shortly after the release of The Love Project, and although the project is self-produced similar to the last one, this time around Tunji had a secret weapon in the lab, too: fellow Philly dude Noah Breakfast, who acted as executive producer on the project and brought the same magic to the studio that he’s brought to artists like Big Sean, Jeremih, and Ellie Goulding.
“He’s one of the greatest beatmakers I know, but he’s a great producer too,” Tunji enthuses on working with Noah. “These are complete songs, without error—we got them to a very nice place.”
You can hear the pair’s hometown influence spread across the Philadelphia-centric slang that dots the laid-back stutter of “Bring Yo Friends,” but the most personal moment of Missed Calls arrives in the form of its closing track, the reflective and irresistibly funky “22.” Over a bed of ear-pleasing chirps, lockstep drums, and floating guitar textures, Tunji summarizes his whirlwind year so far and gets real about the hip-hop landscape while also presenting what he refers to as “a ballad for a girl, and a ballad to all my friends to tell them that I’m here for them.” If that sounds ambitious, then you’re on Tunji’s wavelength: ““I want every generation to hear this project and resonate with it,” he states. “I want it to be timeless music.” Accordingly, Missed Calls is an expression of pure drive and focus, the next chapter for one of hip-hop and R&B’s brightest emerging artists right now.
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