Bro, I’m tired of y’all sleeping on the icon that is Makonnen. I’ve been trying to say for years he’s one of the most underrated auto-crooners in hip hop. Everything about this guy is out of the box. I love his melodically simple sound; when I first heard him I compared him to a good r&b artist learning how to rap. His verses are so simplistic in the best way and his flows are addicting. He’s like the Cyndi Lauper of modern-day hip hop; his music’s basic structure and his tongue in cheek approach to writing lyrics make his music sound super fun without trying hard. He’s one of the artists that proves you don’t need a complicated instrumental and really deep lyrics. A lot of times people would prefer to listen to something that just sounds and flows well; it is apparent Makonnen is having fun with his style of music, which makes it infectiheard His new album out now is one of my most anticipated(I will review it later this week) and I hope it propels him back to the superstardom he initially achieved when Drake remixed his smash “Tuesday.”
Makonnen was born in South Central Los Angeles and grew up in an area that was a melting pot of races and styles. He has stated his block was known for huge rager parties that featured unusual music for the good, such as techno and Cher. This upbringing seems to have influenced his pop sensibilities and affinity for strange instrumentals. Makonnen fell into a party and drug-filled lifestyle at a young age, and was kicked out of many schools growing up; his dad was always on his case as a result of this, and they didn’t have a great relationship. At 13, he moved to Atlanta with his mom following his parents’ divorce. His mom was the first person who believed in him as a musician, helping him record his first mixtapes. He fell further into this drug-ridden lifestyle in Atlanta, and when he was 18 found himself in the worst situation at the worst time. While his buddy was super fucked up messing around with a gun, Makonnen tried to get it away from him, setting the gun off and ultimately killing his best friend. He was put on house arrest for two years while he awaited his trial following this incident. Since he couldn’t do anything(he literally couldn’t leave the house), he started up a blog, called “The Newness.” this blog was his first major step into the music industry.
Through contacting artists via email and getting interviews with people like Lil B and Miguel, Makonnen gained a following through his blog. He also started putting free music online, creating weird music videos using mannequins he designed in cosmetology school. He still uses these strange mannequins for album art. In late 2012, he started to gain underground vitality with his unique and melodic alternative and R&B infused melodic trap music, with the songs “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” and “I Don’t Care About Anything Anymore” especially making waves around Atlanta. Around this same time, he started collaborating with Awful Records(who I talked about in my piece about Father).
Collaborating with Awful Records proved to be a big catalyst for the careers of Father and ILoveMakonnen. In 2014, they released two of the biggest underground trap hits of the decade, “Look at Wrist” and “Nokia.” both of these bangers have one of those creepy distorted ringing trap instrumentals Father seems to favor, and his and Makonnen’s strange and simple flows sound so well together. “Wrist” also has one of my favorite Makonnen lines: “I’m booked to all these shows. I cook for all these hoes. We turned a neighborhood kitchen into a five-star stove. Superchef Makonnen I might sprinkle serotonin. Be careful what you rollin’ cuz my wrist so God damn potent…” If you haven’t heard these bangers, please stop sleeping and get on that. Around this same time, Drake released a remix to Makonnen’s iconic hit “Tuesday.” This remix propelled Makonnen to a level of the game he had not yet reached, and gave him the opportunity to sign with OVO Sound. Unfortunately, this signing was not as beneficial for his career as it should have been.
Makonnen’s time with OVO proved to be more detrimental for his career than helpful. Besides for the party single “, I Like Tuh, ” he didn’t release music for about two years after Tuesday. He has stated that OVO Sound wouldn’t let him release any music, which would not surprise me because I have heard that before from artists formerly associated with them. When he was finally released two EPs in 2016, I Love Makonnen 2 and Drink More Water 6, a lot of his hype had died down and they did not do as well as they should have. Regardless of their success, these two EPs have some great songs, such as “Sellin’” off of ILM2 and “Forever” off of DMW6. “Sellin” is a typical trap banger rapped in Makonnen’s sing-songy and almost childish style. The hook of this song is so infectious, and I can’t get it out of my head when I hear it. “Forever, ” which features Santigold and is produced by FKI 1st, is more of a lovey-dovey R&B trap song, and shows off Makonnen’s versatility. This song also has a super infectious hook, with Makonnen crooning “I needed a love that lasted forever, For how long? Forever.”
In late 2017, Makonnen was rumored to be making a full-length collaborative album with Lil Peep. Unfortunately, due to Peep’s untimely passing, this record was never finished. We did end up getting a couple of singles out of their work together though. As Lil Peep’s estate has been releasing posthumous music of his over the last year and a half, 2 singles from Makonnen and Peep’s collaborative album have been released. “Sunlight on Your Skin” has more of a typical Lil Peep vibe to it, with both artists sing-rapping over a somber emo rock instrumental. Makonnen really captures the feeling of the track with this line: “Where I wanna be, again and again. Is along you and me, skin to skin.” The other song by this duo, which actually features the band Fall Out Boy, is called “I’ve Been Waiting.” I love this track. It has this upbeat and happy alt-rock vibe, and I wish Peep could have made more music with artists like this. After the release of those two tracks, Makonnen started releasing a slew of singles in 2019, which led up to his new EP, M3, which was just released last week. I am going to do a review of this project later this week, so I am not going to talk about those songs right now.
I have felt like ILoveMakonnen has been one of the most underrated hip hop artists for a bunch of years now. His simple and captivating flows just draw me in, and I love the multitudes of sounds he creates. I hope this new EP and music he is going to release in the future finally propel him to the top of the game as he deserves. To listen to his music, click the Spotify linked below.