*Photo credit: @chapmanimperialphotos on Instagram
By: Kevin Crandall
There is a certain feeling that is inextricably linked to the idea of summer drives at dusk—a feeling of total presence in the moment and untamed, unabashed hope for what’s to come. Stay Up!, the latest single by DMV rapper Kwajo, gracefully captures that sentiment, placing you in the driver’s seat with the windows down as you cruise beneath a pink and purple sky. Kwajo has been bettering his pen and flow since his last single, I GOT, garnered him a second place finish and high praise from Jacques Morel and Mario (aka AnnoyingTV) on Genius’ Cosign Live back in January; with Stay Up! he brings a more polished flavor of the melodic sound he debuted in 2020.
Running at just over three minutes, Stay Up! is the hip hop equivalent of vanilla soft serve with sprinkles on a balmy summer evening. The track begins with slightly distorted instrumentation that gives the feeling of rays of sunshine glancing through moving windows, then drops into a sensual, hollowed-out drum pattern, allowing Kwajo to float over with a variety of cadences. The Virginia emcee spits a cool and comfortable array of bars, ranging from introspection of his journey as a musician and his personality as a go-with-the-flow type, to commentary on rap beef and a plea to uplift instead of tear down. His chorus is the epitome of sunset vibrations, with anamorphic, layered vocals sliding in and out as if they were sunlight reflecting through clouds. Exclamations of “stay up” and “stay out” ground us in the present moment, blissfully living life “till we get it right.”
Kwajo invokes the spirit of influences such as Smino, Saba, and Chance the Rapper on this track, and with it presents the world with a sunset anthem up there with the likes of Amphetamine and Summer Friends by those aforementioned. The mellow flows are masterful and the bars are as thoughtful as ever, showing consistent improvement from his previous endeavors and his drive for greater heights. Kwajo has a bright future in the hip hop world, and with the promise he has shown with his past two singles, his debut album will be sure to make waves whenever it arrives. For now though, we must make due with what we got, so go get some soft serve and a few friends, and bump Stay Up! while admiring the serene beauty that is twilight.