INSIDE MAZE KOROMA'S OSIRIS / by CHAPTER MAGAZINE

Photo by Anthony Taylor

An Editorial by Ann-Derrick Gaillot

In these days of 24-hour media consumption, most often we just listen to our favorite music as we go about our day. We develop a go-to collection of albums and playlists that have become the soundtracks to our lives and, in some ways, background noise. Maze Koroma’s latest release may very well become part of the soundtrack to your life, but never background noise. Listening to Osiris is like stepping into some other, fully developed world without preparation or forewarning. Slowly, you learn how to speak the language. The best way to describe the album’s overall vibe: imagine you’re cross-faded within an early ‘90s video game where you’re always on a boss level and you may or may not be losing. Throughout the album, I get the idea that the Eyrst label artist is eager to share his world with others, but won’t be wasting any time fluffing pillows to make folks feel comfortable.

He explains it best in the first line on the album’s opener “Ain’t Sweet (feat. Zoo?)”: “Let me know ‘fore I ‘cause the ruckus/ Next thing you know, shut down your function.” And, indeed, he does start out by shutting it down on this track, cycling through beats like they’re disposable, keeping the listener on guard.

This destabilization is a tactic Maze uses repeatedly on Osiris. On songs from the form-defying “Rebels” to the album’s closer “2002, Pt. 2 (feat. Soopah Eype),” he only gives you so much time to get in line with a certain rhythm or tempo before switching it up to his next musical train of thought. “Unplug your device,” Maze demands on “Rebels,” daring the listener to wake up. And, while this kind of speed of transition means failure for many albums, it only highlights the wealth of musical style and innovation he’s offering us.

 

To access the full soundcloud player through mobile devices, please turn sideways!

 

In early February, @SourMaze shared some insight with his Twitter followers on his, then unreleased, album: “Osiris is only 20 minutes long but meant to be listened to in one setting and easy to run it back over and over”.

The suggestion makes sense. The album leaves you feeling as if you may have missed something, but in the most intriguing way. It’s easy to keep on repeat. With every listen, you hear a new facet to a song or a new lyrical pun you missed the first time around. Though it’s shorter than my bike ride to work, Osiris is denser and more substantive than most of the drawn-out big-budget films that were nominated for Oscars this year. It’s like Maze is keeping you on your toes to help you remain present, a worthy goal for an audience hypnotized senseless in a cycle of infinite scrolling and Netflix autoplay. And while he isn’t immune to the mesmerism of the screen, as he explores on “Electronic,” he’s better than most at stepping back and taking a full look at his modern condition.

If only all of us could be so aware.

Ease isn’t the main force driving Osiris. It’s an enduring agitation that reveals itself not only in the album’s range of beats and rejection of traditional strong structure, but in its lyrics, as well. Lines about incarceration and intoxication intermingle with adages from childhood such as, “I always look both ways before I cross the street,” and the soothing hook from “Curfew (feat. Blossom)”: “Before you go out that door/ make sure you don’t forget your curfew.” Perhaps my favorite song on the album, “Curfew” is a sonic oasis right in the middle of the journey where Maze is at his most conventional, but, perhaps, also his most lyrically vulnerable. It’s on this track that Maze most explicitly paints a picture of the frustrations of being a young black artist trying to come up in a society that’s out to kill you.

 

To access the full soundcloud player through mobile devices, please turn sideways!

 

It is a wild ride, but is, also, the soundtrack for the wild ride we’re already on. As a black 20-something living in the U.S. (combined with the particular brand of veiled racism the Pacific Northwest does best) what I appreciate most about the project is Maze’s ability to both highlight the tension between youth and adulthood, becoming and not becoming, and the resistance and complacency that is part of my and my friends’ everyday experiences.

There’s nothing comfortable about it, it just is.

Are you ready for Osiris? I can tell you right now, the answer is probably no. But that makes you the perfect listener. I’ll be bumping Osiris on repeat for a while, with each listen, falling more and more in love with it, but never feeling that I have completely consumed it. Ultimately, this is what I’m finding intriguing about Maze. He’s laid out a rich world for us on Osiris, but hasn’t let us look through his bag to find the map. The mystery there is exciting, it’s awakening, and it’s keeping me tuned in.

Check out Osiris on Spotify or iTunes.

Photo by Anthony Taylor