3 ½/5 Stars
You can’t talk about R&B and Soul music without talking about Detroit. And if you want to talk about the future of these genres, you gotta talk about the rising artists coming out of our city.
Born in the Motor City, Stoop Lee is a rapper/singer whose new EP The Blue Version Tape is proof that he deserves to be up next. Following The Yellow Version Tape in his current series of Pokémon EPs, his latest project is looking like it could be his biggest yet. His single Cerulean City generated tons of buzz on themed TikTok and Instagram, and his long-time fans have been waiting for more music since last year’s release. Now, after a packed-out album release party in Detroit’s Midtown, the newest installment of his nostalgia-based series is here, and it’s some of his best work yet.
“As corny as it sounds, [Pokémon] is kinda like a cool illustration of life to me.” Lee mentioned during his album release party, “In the midst of the game, once you finish a gym, there’s a period of time where you have to lock in, train, and level up before you can move on to the next level. I feel that’s like life in a way. You finish school and then you’re in this in between area where you’re trying to figure out who you are. And once you find you’re thing, then you can go to the next level.”
The Blue Tape Version reflects this idea perfectly. He manages to retain the nostalgic aspects of his previous work both lyrically and sonically while still displaying musical and personal growth. His Soulquarian influence is extremely evident throughout this project, but his sound is 100% his own. It feels like the natural evolution of what J Dilla and Dwele were working on in the early 2000s. A version of urban soul that’s perfectly hip-hop and perfectly R&B at the same time. On top of that, the features from artists Pretty Boy Aaron, Huck, Dayo Gold, and Curtis Roach all work perfectly with the flow and theme of the project.
It’s indisputable that Stoop Lee has a firm understanding of the kind of music he wants to create and how to create it. However, it’s hard to listen to both the yellow and blue tape and not wonder where he could take his sound next. With a clear mastery of Neo-Soul, it feels like a little experimentation would benefit the Detroit artist a great deal moving forward. Everything in The Blue Tape sounds and feels good, but there’s something in the quirky production choices and vocal arrangements in songs like Player 2 and Cerulean City that hints at a version of Stoop Lee that is one part Soulquarian successor, and one part something entirely new.
All things considered, this five-track/twelve-minute EP is probably Stoop Lee’s most well put together project to date. Everything from the great features to the smooth production to the relatable theme makes this a special addition to his discography. And with his next project, The Red Tape Version already being teased, the musical future of Stoop Lee looks bright.