By Jacob Ezra
Massachusetts artist Jxylen has shared his debut album PROJECT MAYHEM, a mind-expanding journey through gritty, abstract hip-hop soundscapes. A versatile collection of songs that are otherworldly and yet simultaneously deeply emotive, this project is refreshing in its honesty and willingness to explore unforeseen territory. With cacophonous, nocturnal instrumentals and vivid lyricism that revolves around thinking for oneself and being critical about society as a whole, PROJECT MAYHEM is already shaping up to be one of the year’s most thought-provoking new releases in underground hip-hop.
The opener “BURN THIS SHIT DOWN!” sets the tone for the record, with moody, expansive vocal samples that are texturally gritty, ringing out atop clashing percussion. Apocalyptic in tone, this track creates a mystical, dark backdrop that suits Jxylen’s baritone vocals perfectly, as he kicks off the EP with some raw verses that show his sharp ability to critique society and deliver touchingly introspective lyricism. “BURN THIS SHIT DOWN!” transitions smoothly into the esoteric “JACOB’S LADDER”. Here, Jxylen delivers powerful line after powerful line atop an ethereal instrumental from Jadooks centred around swirling strings and graceful guitars. This track has a distinctly spiritual feel, with a depth that is often missed in today’s musical landscape.
“MEMENTO” brings in icy keys and subtle vocal samples that give it a layered feel, as heavy percussion pounds beneath. Jxylen’s vocals are highly dextrous and dynamic, as he flows smoothly atop the Nomstks-produced beat with a series of evocative verses. An album highlight appears in the vibrant banger “SALVADOR DALI PAINTINGS”, a psychedelic track that finds PROJECT MAYHEM reaching towering heights with a behemoth instrumental from The Heretic that rattles the speakers. This beat is stellar, containing kaleidoscopic samples centred around dazzling harps and strings. Moreover, Jxylen’s verses here are scorching, packed with focused, descriptive lyrics delivered in engaging, elastic flows.
PROJECT MAYHEM closes with another album highlight in “BLXCK SHEEPS CLOTHING”, which slows the pace down for a more laid-back yet equally nocturnal and moody joint. Here, bittersweet, ruminative keys glow within a dark soundscape, conjuring an image of finding a light in a pitch-black night. Matching the tone of the keys, Jxylen’s verses convey a subtle sense of hope, as he dissects his life and position in the world, making the listener feel a little less alone among the chaos of our modern times.
An expansive, psychedelic offering, PROJECT MAYHEM is relentlessly dark and yet never feels as if it sticks to a gloomy mood for the sake of it, instead coming across as emotionally layered and refreshingly authentic. Spiritual and emotive yet raw and cacophonous, this record exists in a grey area that can be hard to come by in a world where pressure exists to categorize and deduce. The fact that Jxylen achieves this so naturally on this album is an impressive feat, and is part of what makes PROJECT MAYHEM one of our favourite records this year. If you want a project that is thought-provoking and esoteric and also personal and relatable, it is likely that PROJECT MAYHEM is for you.
Producers: AUR, Jadooks, Nomstks, NTVRME, The Heretic, OLEHEAD
Engineered by: Jonas
Listen to PROJECT MAYHEM now: