Melodicism has arguably become as essential to rap as communicative rhythm always has been in recent times, and in the new single “UNKNOWN,” Olithvgxd delivers what could be the most surreal effort in melodic hip-hop to land on my desk this summer. Don’t get me wrong — while it’s undebatable that Olithvgxd already had a stylish sound ahead of this new track’s arrival, I can’t say that the postmodern elements of his persona were as audible in the master mix as they are in this specific performance. He’s toying with degrees of psychedelia and harmony that verge on alternative rock territory, yet remain contained within a progressive pop universe atop which artists of a more eccentric variety reign supreme.
The ambient influences on this song are pretty obvious even without having much of a background on the genre, and when we get into the verses, I think it’s more than clear just how important crafting a dreamy harmony was to Olithvgxd in this piece. It’s radiant and raw at the same time, and yet the tonality of the instruments never feels quite as real as the lyrics it colorizes so brilliantly. Much like stepping inside a fantasy, “UNKNOWN” doesn’t seem to play by the rules that apply in typical moments of our everyday lives.
This beat is quite controlled, but it doesn’t box in the lyrics so much as offer them an additional outlet for emotional reflection. There’s a lot of angst living in this percussive element, and it bleeds into the words in a way that no amount of melodic swagger from our singer could have circumvented — he wants for us to feel the burden on his back here. Olithvgxd is good at sharing intimate thoughts through nothing more than a sonic exchange, and his abilities are on perfect display in “UNKNOWN.”
There’s certainly a degree of confidence in the delivery here, but it’s just not as important to our understanding of the narrative as the textural presence of Olithvgxd’s voice is, and the latter is easily one of the most versatile parts of the whole track. He’s getting soulful here, and in a way that can’t help but sound edgier than what the competition tends to yield in their own dedicated studio sessions. You can’t teach this kind of spirit; you either wish you had it, or you’re like this young man and were blessed to be born with it.
“UNKNOWN” is a mind-bending sonic treat that has me looking forward to hearing what Olithvgxd is going to produce with his sound, and while he’s only been on my radar for a couple of years now, I can say that he’s grown a lot in comparison to what he was cutting pre-pandemic. Discipline is a game-changer, especially in this genre of music, and Olithvgxd appears to have it down to a science when he’s working the chorus harmony in “UNKNOWN.” Call it hip-hop or even trap-soul if you will, but the truth is that anyone who loves melodicism — regardless of scene affiliation — is probably going to dig what they hear in this single.