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Darius Marquis weaved RnB, Retro-Pop & Gospel into a Folklore Serenade with ‘Fairytales’

Like every good folk tale, Darius Marquis’ standout single, Fairytales, alters the mind through expansions of the imagination. The slick with soul and swathed with experimentation release exists between the borders of genres, exploring untrodden intersections of RnB, retro pop and gospel, allowing Fairytales to unravel as an exploratively sincere extension of candour.

Fairytales nuancedly exposits how stories shape our perceptions of the world while we’re too innocent to experience the unfair brutality of it only for those illusions to be shattered, one shot to the heart at a time. The Houston-based artist and producer charted these emotional themes with folk-esque eloquent ease, allowing the poetic fragments of introspection to flow throughout the hazy instrumental currents with melodious ease. With gospel infused into the grooves, the melodies endlessly ascend beneath Darius Marquis’ honeyed harmonies which bring luminescence to the most bitter-sweet facets of life.

If there was as much justice in the world as fairytales would have us believe, Marquis would be a #1 phenomenon.

Stream Fairytales on Spotify now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Pop plunged to new emotional depths with Bekah Wilbourn’s debut single, Go Numb

Bekah Wilbourn’sGo Numb‘ envelops you in a world where vulnerability meets a sonic revolution. This debut single from the El Paso native is a journey through the heartstrings, plucked and resonated in a symphony of emotion and sound.

The track begins with gentle guitar strings laying the foundation, upon which Wilbourn’s vocals weave a narrative of emotional rawness. As the production escalates, the listener is drawn into a rhythmic stupor, a blend of moodily turbulent synthetics and a compelling backbeat that commands attention.

As the song progresses, Wilbourn introduces chamber pop orchestral layers, amplifying the emotional resonance, and elevating the track to an almost cinematic scope. The interplay of 90s pop influences with forward-thinking sonic elements ensures that ‘Go Numb’ resonates with a sense of familiarity, yet ventures boldly into uncharted territories.

Lyrically, ‘Go Numb’ is a poignant reflection on the all-too-human desire to retreat into numbness when vulnerability becomes a battleground. Wilbourn captures this sentiment with raw honesty, offering a mirror to our own experiences of emotional turmoil.

Bekah Wilbourn, with ‘Go Numb’, carved her own niche with a blend of introspection, innovation, and undeniable musical prowess. This single is a bold statement of intent from an artist unafraid to bare her soul and push the boundaries of pop music.

Go Numb was officially released on March 15; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Spotlight Feature: Tago – D.A.M.N: An Eternally En Vogue Hip-Hop Anthem of Resilience and Enlightenment

Elevate your rhythmic pulses and bolster your resilience with “D.A.M.N,” the latest euphorically elevated hit from Tago, the Texan titan of hip-hop. The track is a seismic shift in the musical landscape – not by pandering to trends or pursuit of viral fame – but through unflinching perseverance to remain authentic and uplift music fans from all walks of life.

The cross-over appeal is unreal. Between the modernised grooves, which expose Tago’s electronica influences and determination to produce anything but pedestrian beats, you just can’t help but catch the fever of his positivity as he proves that while life might throw curveballs, it’s the grit and grind that keep you going.

Crafted by the multi-platinum producer whose name is fated to become synonymous with longevity in an industry where stars often flicker out as fast as they ignite, D.A.M.N is a firestorm of soul, wisdom, and exhilaration. This track is a bold declaration that Tago isn’t just playing the game; he’s setting the rules, delivering a sound that’s not just for the moment but for the ages.

Merging the raw, unfiltered essence of old-school hip-hop with a glimpse into the genre’s future, Tago’s invitation to embrace your journey towards self-actualisation and peak individuality is irresistible.

Tago Said:

“When I wrote D.A.M.N, I was going through a lot of trials and tribulations and it had me feeling like “DAMN”. In a sense, you can say the feeling of struggle is what created the track.

In this record, I’m trying to convey a story of resilience and inspire others to not give up on their dreams or themselves despite the pain, pressure, and people’s expectations. Always be authentic and never fold under pressure because diamonds are created under pressure.”

D.A.M.N will be officially released on all major platforms, including Spotify, on February 29th, followed by the upcoming accompanying official music video, directed by the cinematic titan, Ori Evans. 

Review by Amelia Vandergast

I AM Cricchi shared how he became a conduit of hope through his eclectically authentic discography in an exclusive interview with A&R Factory

Born in southern Maryland and now based in Texas, Tyler Cricchi, known as I AM Cricchi, presents a compelling narrative in the music world. His journey, transitioning from a typical suburban childhood to grappling with substance abuse in his teenage years, underscores the stark realities that shape his music.

With his vast, eclectic and always raw discography, Cricchi has independently charted multiple times, showcasing his ability to blend genres from hip-hop to country. His music is characterised by its authentic lyrics and versatile delivery, resonating with a wide audience.  In this interview with A&R Factory, we delve into the world of I AM Cricchi, exploring his journey from personal struggles to musical achievements.

I AM Cricchi, welcome to A&R Factory! We’d love to know a little more about your most recent release, Weighted To Breathe featuring Caskey. What’s the story behind the single?

“Weighted To Breathe was written at a time when I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing chasing my dream in music, most regular people usually call it or consider a dream as such, ‘crazy’. The purpose behind this record was to remind myself and anyone else in a similar spot that if we waited or chose to give up, we’d be right back where we were, at a place where most wouldn’t want to be. Some might say at rock bottom. It quickly became one of the biggest solo songs of my career and shortly after I was blessed with the opportunity of having Caskey feature on it. That really proved my point and made everything come full circle because an artist with a much bigger influence and resume thought it was as dope as I did! NEVER GIVE UP!!”

Your upcoming project, The Road Back, talks about overcoming addiction; can you tell us more about the project and the inspiration behind the release?

“Addiction is a topic I hold close to my heart. I personally have been through the depths of hell while abusing drugs and running through the streets. This was my first project with The Lotto Tribe, and I wanted to make sure it was very special because I recognized that they believed in me, similar to the way I believe in myself. I reached out to a hometown producer Tilli Mack and told him I needed something to spill my pain on and thus this record was birthed. The writing aspect of it for me was just a matter of putting myself in the mindset of not ever wanting to go back to my old life. That’s why I’m so inspired after breaking away from it because I never want to go back to that life I used to be, stuck, in. In other words, I wanted it to be the music I wished I had when I was broken and hopeless

More than anything I wanted to create something that could save someone’s life or make a change for someone in a dark time and for me that’s what all this is about. The road back is never easy, but I hope this record gives someone, anyone, hope. It releases on May 3rd, 2024, worldwide, on the first Friday of National Mental Health Awareness month and is supported by the organization, To Write Love On Her Arms which supports mental health.”

How do your most recent releases compare to your past projects like; No Time, Runnin A Lot, I Gotta Grow, and Say Less Do More?

“I definitely don’t fit in any box. I make a variety of genres and I’m always exploring new sounds. The music I write is always dependent on the moment I’m in. Sometimes I’m happy and sometimes I’m not but that’s life and that’s what I put in my music. I don’t over-exaggerate or attempt to portray anything, I’m just me. If there is one thing that ties every song to the next it’s the authenticity of my story. Every song and every word was lived, meant and felt by me. In the end though, all my music is for everyone and anyone. I just want to bring awareness to my story, and my life and give others hope.”

How did you get into music, and where has your creative journey taken you?

“I got into music before I can even remember. My father is what I would call a “beast” on the guitar and loves to play. My dad worked a 9 to 5 for more years than I had been alive, and I never saw the same happiness he had when he was holding that guitar. That put a spark in me. It made me feel that maybe music was where he belonged, but he never tried or never could take the chance to be truly one with.

The ability to write started with my love for poetry in 2nd grade and continued through middle school. It wasn’t until I was in a juvenile youth center that I started to experiment with trying to rap on beats or write with a specific sound in mind. After that, writing music kept me alive through years and years of addiction and depression, almost daily wondering if I should live. It wasn’t until 5 years ago when I got sober that I started to clearly see the vision. Since then, I have hit the iTunes Charts twice independently. I’ve accumulated over a quarter million streams in 2023. I’ve done songs with legends such as Blind Fury, Caskey, Merkules, and many other amazing artists. Most of all I’ve been finding myself along the way and that’s something special to my heart.”

What role has the indie label The Lotto Tribe played in your career?

“That’s a chapter of my life that is just getting started, but something I’m really looking forward to. So far, it’s been nothing but love and solid continuous guidance from them. They continue to bring me confidence and opportunity. They have helped me align contracts with many industry partners and continue to put my name in the right places for growth. I genuinely appreciate them for their work so far and again, I’m very excited to see what the future holds with The Lotto Tribe!”

Which artists inspire you the most, and is there anything else that inspires you to create?

“Artist-wise, I’d say Caskey, Jelly Roll and LaRussell give me the most inspiration currently. The hustle and the constant innovation are something I respect and appreciate from all of them.

I’m inspired by different people at different times, but I often pull my inspiration from my own life. Whatever I’m feeling or whatever I’m dealing with at that moment is what I write about. Music is a way to cope and a safe space for me, so emotions often drive it. I’ll often base the lyrics, beat cadence and melodies off of just how I feel in the moment. Music is something that makes me feel alive and through it, I’ll continue to try my best to be my best.”

Can you tell us a little about your global distribution deal with Memphis’ Select-O-Hits? and being attached to The Orchard?

“This is another chapter of my journey that’s just getting started! Johnny Phillips has been extremely helpful in getting me set up over there at Select-O-Hits and I genuinely look forward to our future years together. They’re very well known from the days of his father Tom and uncle, Sam who founded Sun Records. They’ve also been influential in distributing Memphis hip-hop legends Three 6 Mafia and Lil Wyte. Even Jellyroll had projects through them in his early career. I’m just happy to be here in the now and be a part of something with such a history!”

What else is in the pipeline for you?

“This year will be my greatest yet. My biggest news so far this year will be the full rollout release for the single project with The Lotto Tribe, “The Road Back”. It’s one of my most meaningful pieces to date and I can’t wait to share it with the world. We also have shows lined up across the country including a SXSW visit here in Austin, Texas. I plan on dropping multiple singles and a possible full album once the vibe and timing feels right! There will also be more collaborations, big features and visuals but you’ll just have to follow me and wait to see what things I have in store! This is just the start for me.”

Stream I AM Cricchi on Spotify and discover more about the artist here.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Phil Coomer prescribed love as a drug in his latest release, All the Medicine I Need

The folk-pop evocateur Phil Coomer used all his award-winning song-writing stripes to decorate his latest single, All the Medicine I Need, with a sense of sentimentality that will see your soul swell with gratitude for everyone who sweetens your world.

As the orchestral strings quiver, the tenderly fingerpicked acoustic guitar strings amplify the warmth spilling from Coomer’s folky Americana harmonies which shine with crystalline soul as they emanate the soft and intimate folk vocal style of the late 60s and carry the same affecting mesmerism of Nick Drake.

Even when artists pen their own material, it isn’t a given that they will orchestrate something original; there’s never any danger of assimilative pedestrianism when you slip into a Phil Coomer folk score; just how it is possible for a salve for the soul to feel so expressively raw is an alchemic paradox that stands as a testament to his songwriting virtuosity.

All the Medicine I Need will be available to stream and purchase on all major platforms from 05/06/2024. Until then, you can stream the music video on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Pop Stunna twisted trap with tropic heat and soul in his standout track, Good Talk

Pop Stunna’s standout single, Good Talk, from his fourth album, Youth, is a vibrant rebellion against the conventional trap narrative. The Austin, TX artist unleashed a spectrum of sonic vibrancy with Good Talk, turning the trap genre into a canvas of tropical hues and soulful rhythms.

Good Talk radiates with a warmth that’s as rare as it is captivating in the trap arena. His bars, fervent and full of life, impale the track with energy so tangible that listeners are instantly locked into its impassioned groove as Stunna runs through lyrics which pay ode to the complexities you find in the people you fall for and find connection within.

Distinct from his contemporaries, Pop Stunna’s persona is a blend of cool composure and aspirational verve. His American-Nigerian heritage, extensive global travels, and academic achievements lend a unique depth to his music. This track is not just a listening experience; it’s a journey through Pop Stunna’s richly textured worldview.

The single stands out for its masterful fusion of high-energy raps and catchy hooks, a signature style of Pop Stunna. Influences from Jay Z to Nina Simone echo through the beats, creating a sound that’s both a nod to the greats and a bold stride into new territories.

Stream Good Talk on Spotify and YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

JAIZE became the voice of reason and rebellion in his standout rap track, FIRE.wav, ft Kwillo

JAIZE, hailing from ATX and one-half of the hip-hop duo Global Octopus, has delivered a potent and thought-provoking track with FIRE.wav from his eponymous EP. Featuring Kwillo, this single is a wavy meditation on the tumultuous times we find ourselves in, a reflection of the chaos and the quest for solace amidst it.

The track stands out for its unflinching stance on the humanitarian crisis in Palestine, a topic many artists shy away from. JAIZE, with his glitchy yet luxurious production, creates a soundscape that visualises the struggle to achieve mental equilibrium in times which normalise humanitarian crimes. His rap bars, delivered with a flawless and steady urgency, do more than just provoke thought; they ignite a fire within, challenging listeners to question and dismantle the oppressive constructs around us.

FIRE.wav is reminiscent of Kanye and Jay Z, yet JAIZE brings fresh conviction to the table while allowing his music to unravel as an authentic expression of himself.  This track is a bold statement, a testament to JAIZE’s ability to blend personal introspection with broader social commentary.

With his self-titled EP, JAIZE has not only created a compelling piece of music but has also positioned himself as a voice of reason and rebellion in an era saturated by superficial sonic themes. His hands-on approach to the EP, handling all the mixing and mastering for the first two tracks, and collaborating with Kwillo for the last three, showcases his dedication to his craft. He’s only going to get bigger from here.

Stream the JAIZE EP which dropped on December 15 on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Chemistry becomes biology in Anna Salman’s seminal indie dream pop single, Blood Rush

Anna Salman’s single, Blood Rush, is a masterful blend of tender etherealism and emotionally charged lyricism. This track stands out as a poignant exploration of the transformative power of romantic chemistry on our very biology. Salman’s indie pop sensibilities are on full display, as she weaves a narrative that is both intimate and universally relatable.

The delicate balance of dream pop and nuanced orchestral elements creates a reverb-soaked atmosphere that perfectly complements Salman’s introspective songwriting. Her passionate vocals, glide effortlessly over the lush, evocative arrangements.

Introducing Turaab’s vocals adds a compelling dynamic to the track. This duet opens a dialogue, exploring the complexities of a relationship that leaves Salman’s protagonist in an affectionate haze, a sentiment mirrored in the song’s rich tonal textures. However, Blood Rush is not just an ode to love’s euphoric highs. Salman skillfully acknowledges the duality of passion, acknowledging that the sweetest of synergies often come with their share of misery. This acknowledgement adds a layer of depth to the track, resonating with anyone who has experienced the bittersweet nature of love.

Anna Salman, originally from Pakistan and now making waves in the U.S., has already proven her mettle with her performance on Nescafe Basement and her nomination for “The Best Emerging Talent” at the LUX Style Awards. Blood Rush further cements her status as a formidable talent in the indie pop scene. 

Blood Rush was officially released on December 1st; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Synthpop’s silver-tongued evocateur, Cavono, exhibited his cultivated authenticity in his soul-draped single, Smooth Talking

The silver-tongued soul crooner Cavono has revolutionised the synthpop landscape with his deep, bass-y and baritone vocal lines in his latest single, Smooth Taking, which does exactly what it says on the tin.

By transcending the synthpop trend and staying unapologetically true to his urbane expression style, he delivered yet another elegant and cultivated track that will swallow you whole as you experience the smooth nostalgia-tinged melodies against the ardent backbeat, which exemplifies the singer-songwriter’s impassioned air that you’ll want to share time after time.

Before releasing his official debut single, ZELUS, in 2022, the Illinois-born, Fort Worth, Texas-based artist struggled to find a genre he resonated with, compelling him to craft his own delectably debonair sonic signature. By taking fragments from his favourite artists, including Dean Martin and DNCE, and carving out his own melodic niche, he became one of the most promising artists in 2023.

Smooth Talking is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Money and Image blazed across the Texas hip-hop scene with their infectious track, No Smoke

Escape into the urban aesthetic of the latest single and music video, No Smoke, by the two Texan rap legends in their own right, Money and Image, and lose yourself within the infectiously feel-good lyricality of the track that definitively proves conviction doesn’t always need to be a by-product of the aggression.

While the instrumentals find the sonic middle ground between jazzy old-school hip-hop grooves and wavy RnB pop trap, the vocals constantly shift in tone and pace to create a fully rounded hit that is all too easy to melodically roll with as you drink in the charismatically prophetic message which advocates pacifism.

The official music video for No Smoke premiered on October 21; stream it on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast