ILoveMakonnen EP Review

Ethan O’Neal ’15

There’s a fine line between innovation and ignorance. Pushing the boundaries of convention can often end up in failure, and those who dare to be different take that risk. On his self-titled EP, Atlanta-based singer Makonnen Sheran, better known as I Love Makonnen, toes that line beautifully. The eccentric singer, who has been recording since 2008, came into the spotlight earlier this year after forming friendships with Atlanta producers Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, and 808 Mafia. Over the summer, an unlikely partnership with Canadian rapper Drake on the track “Tuesday” brought I Love Makonnen to the front page of countless websites, and a wealth of fans were drawn to him after Miley Cyrus shared an I Love Makonnen track on her Instagram. This wildly successful summer culminated with Drake signing I Love Makonnen to his own label, OVO Sound.

ILoveMakonnen EP is largely responsible for this rise to relative fame. While not the singer’s first release, ILoveMakonnen EP is by far his most polished. Both sonically and thematically, the EP stands above shoddier past releases such as Drink More Water 4. In large part, the overall strength of the EP comes from the pounding, menacing instrumentals, although Sheran himself adds a lot to the appeal of the release. However, that appeal is hard to recognize at first. At first listen, ILoveMakonnen EP sounds like a joke. Everything about the EP, from the lyrics, to his voice, is weird enough to turn away most listeners. Even the cover of the EP, which sports I Love Makonnen’s mascot (a bizzare, patterned doll’s head), is puzzling. I Love Makonnen’s voice, strained at times, resonant at others, initially sounds out of place amongst the bass-heavy trap instrumentals he sings over. I Love Makonnen sounds like a cross between Depeche Mode and Wiz Khalifa, but he pulls off this fusion of genres surprisingly well.

The EP is confusing to begin with, and it doesn’t get much clearer beneath the surface. Over the course of 7 songs, I Love Makonnen sings about partying on weekdays, his success as an artist, and lost love. The half-serious, half-joking tone of the EP while initially jarring, is nothing if not entertaining. I Love Makonnen is weird enough to set itself apart from other music releases, but it never quite becomes too weird. I Love Makonnen fashions his own style, and his music is all the better for it.