RIYL: Kanye, Childish Gambino, Led Zeppelin, Kendrick Lamar
“Genre-bending … swirls together fat-bottom grooves, anthemic pop hooks and party-life swagger … run like hell to get The Wall.” – SPIN
“With its overdriven riffage and big-ass drums, ‘DNA’ has more in common with Led Zep than anything on rap radio.” – Entertainment Weekly
“Voli can no longer simply be referred to as a rapper. … His musical aspirations align with being something transcendent. He’s spent his months away honing a sound that’s distinctly unique, allowing him to craft meaningful music that draws influence from a variety of genres and is able to connect with a broad audience.” – The Music Ninja
“The broad range of the composition is evidenced within the first thumping second. Voli refuses to abide by genre stipulations, blending elements of classic- and prog-rock, rap and R&B.” – Interview
“Mesmerizing flow, fresh lyrics, inventive production and undeniable pop sensibilities.” – Daddy’s Hangout
“Voli prides himself on being different. He’d rather stumble through the dark in search of his own path than bend to anyone else’s rules.” – DJ Booth
“A strange fever dream.” – Under the Radar
“Real life music.” – 2DopeBoyz
Feb. 19, 2015 – Entertainment Weekly premiered rising pop/hip-hop star Voli’s new single “DNA” yesterday, writing that the genre-bending artist has “more in common with Led Zep than anything on rap radio.” Voli’s forthcoming breakout album, The Wall, drops Feb. 24.
Artist, producer, musician, rapper, singer, songwriter, recluse, rebel, innovator—Voli is all these things, illustrated in his cross-genre collaborations with musical entities ranging from J. Cole and Young Guru to Bebe Rexha, and most significantly in his career as a solo artist who refuses to accept conventional musical paradigms.
Though there are classic art-and-prog-rock elements at play in The Wall (Voli’s ambitious self-produced project four years in the making), and though he name checks Pink Floyd in his song “DNA,” the legendary band wasn’t on Voli’s mind when he came up with the title. “It’s actually from a Will Smith interview I saw with Charlie Rose,” Voli explains. “As children, Will and his brother were tasked with building a wall for their father’s shop. At first, they were overwhelmed, but they continued to lay the bricks each day for almost two years. They finished it through dedication—one brick at a time.”
– Listen to Voli’s “DNA” at Entertainment Weekly and below
The Wall holds many shades of meaning for the Jersey-born (and now L.A.-based) Voli. In part, it’s about his journey as an artist, about growing slowly, carefully, and taking the time to build something that lasts. “I am creating a foundation for myself—musically, professionally, personally,” Voli says. “Each piece of ourselves is one brick in that wall. And it’s not always the easiest thing to hold it together, to find that mortar, to find that glue.”
The Wall is also about Voli’s tendency—for good or ill—to isolate himself, to build a wall without so that he can travel deeper within, following his whimsy, chasing his muse unfettered… yet at the expense of a more secure, less-bohemian lifestyle. “I feel a constant pressure to work and create,” Voli says. “I have to do whatever it takes to get better, musically. But the isolation is a double-edged sword. It can be difficult—there’s a lot of sacrifice involved. A lot of going against people’s expectations of what you’re supposed to do, and who you’re supposed to be in life. In a way, the wall is also there as a barrier, to protect myself. You go through so much doubt when you’re on this path, it tears me up a lot of times, but music makes me so happy—I don’t want to do anything else right now.”
On yet another level, The Wall is about tearing down the barriers that compartmentalize music and culture and getting at what connects us instead of reinforcing what divides us. It’s a notion hinted at by Voli’s mentor Young Guru in an off-the cuff speech at the beginning of “Good Die Young”—“What makes it all connect? You have eight billion stories [in this world], all separate, but somehow they go together.”—and it’s also reflected in the record’s sonic and stylistic diversity.
“The face of hip-hop is changing,” Voli says. “Not that The Wall is a hip-hop album per se, but there’s definitely rap in it. And I want some kid from the inner city to listen—and maybe the rap is what pulls him in, but then he starts listening to the musicality of it, and has his mind opened to rock & roll. And vice-versa, those people who are drawn in by the rock & roll will hopefully be opened up to the rap side of it and to all of the other sounds going on.”
From the blend of krautrock-style synths and classical piano at the start of lead track “Fear of God” to the dark lyrical raps and the opening sample’s call to “deny our programming,” The Wall wastes no time in letting listeners know that all bets are off—that if you can expect anything from Voli, it’s the unexpected. The album is a constantly evolving sonic statement, incorporating hip-hop, rock & roll, prog, indie electro-pop, experimental drone, modern R&B, reggae and Middle Eastern desert romps alongside wailing guitars, massive pop hooks and a decidedly punk ethos. And the unconventional lyrics—about college debt, coping with twentysomething malaise, and what it means to unpretentiously channel James Dean’s iconic rebellion—are delivered with a precision flow and a cinematic flair.
“My tastes have expanded,” Voli says, giving a large share of the credit to his musical foil and closest collaborator on The Wall, his guitarist Gavidia. “The music has become more sophisticated, more layered and, lyrically, more personal. This is my most cohesive, focused and representative project to date.”
The Wall also features guest spots from three distinct, amazingly talented females—experimental NYC artist Marz Ferrer (“Ratatat”), Ming of cult Philly hip-hop group The Spooks (“A Life Worth Killing”), and rising retro-minded indie star Misun (“Burn Everything”).
Making The Wall has been an admittedly therapeutic process for Voli. “There are times when I feel like I’ve grown and learned so much,” he says, “and there are also times I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing at all. Just writing about these subjects and getting it out there feels like I’m detoxifying myself. But I’m still searching. I see people all around me searching, and I don’t know if you’re ever supposed to stop looking, stop questioning things.”
It’s this penchant for seeking, this desire to question the status quo that underlies Voli’s early-rock-&-roll- and-punk-channeling attitude on The Wall, which is explored directly in “DNA.”
“Being a rebel is as simple as doing what you honestly want to do,” Voli says. “As an artist you’re constantly putting yourself out there for major criticism. Me, personally—I’m stubborn. The second someone tells me I can’t do something or that I’m not good at something, I’m going to prove them wrong. That’s where the rebellion comes in. I don’t think it has to be tied to anger—for me, it’s not. I’m just gonna do what I’m gonna do. People are always gonna try to fit you into their little box, but you can’t let that happen. You can’t let anyone else determine what kind of artist you should be.”
To set up an interview with Voli, or get your hands on press passes, advance music, hi-res photos, album art or videos, contact Baby Robot publicity director Steve LaBate.