‘The Eephus’ EP Suggests Wonderful Sounds to Come from Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records [REVIEW + FULL STREAM] @JanelleMonae @Jidenna @Deepcotton @StBeautyband @RomanGianArthur @wondaland

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With just two albums under her belt, Janelle Monáe is already widely and deservedly regarded as a musical visionary who possesses charisma, confidence and style in vast abundance. In the nearly two years since the release of her most recent LP The Electric Lady, Monáe has been diligently channeling her creative passions toward something greater than her own career: Wondaland Records. After a few years of running the imprint, Monáe’s label inked a development deal with Epic/Sony this past February. In celebrating the partnership, Epic CEO L.A. Reid adamantly explained that “Janelle is a boss! She’s the first female label boss that I’ve met who is like P. Diddy and Jay Z and Andre Harrell. She’s the first female cut from that cloth.” High praise indeed from an industry legend.

Late last week, Wondaland issued its first official non-single release in the form of The Eephus, a 6-track EP designed to showcase the label’s impressive crop of new artists, which includes JidennaDeep CottonSt. Beauty, and Roman GianArthur. For those not familiar with the reference in the title, an eephus is a baseball term for the unorthodoxly high-arcing, sluggishly slow pitch that typically catches most batters off guard. If you’re fortunate enough to have witnessed a pitcher hurl an eephus toward the plate, you know that the ultra-rare pitch is truly a wondrous sight to behold. Similarly, the Wondaland family is defined by its artists’ uniquely non-conformist approach to songcraft. And like the elusive pitch that it draws inspiration from, The Eephus will unquestionably force listeners to take notice of the tremendous—or “awe-inspiring,” according to Reid—talent on display.

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Most of us are likely familiar with the EP’s two lead singles that have circulated for a handful of months now: Jidenna’s debut single, the unforgettable “Classic Man” featuring GianArthur and Monae’s hypnotically catchy “Yoga,” which also features a guest verse from Jidenna. Both tunes are expertly executed, undeniably infectious bangers and two of the strongest singles to emerge this year.  Included as a bonus track, the solid remix of “Classic Man” featuring Kendrick Lamar turns the grit and swagger of the original up a few welcome notches.

The three less recognizable songs that round out the affair are admittedly a mixed bag. The opening track “Let’s Get Caught” by the self-proclaimed “punk prophets” Deep Cotton is unquestionably the highlight of the three, due to its rollicking falsetto funk that contains echoes of the Purple One. The atmospheric, measured groove of “Going Nowhere” allows the St. Beauty duo’s soulful vocals to soar, making for rather pleasant fare. GianArthur’s “iKnow” hints at the vocalist’s promise, but regrettably, the track is just too bland and ultimately falls a bit flat.

All in all, if there’s one overarching drawback to The Eephus it’s that the whole affair is too abbreviated at 5 tracks plus the bonus remix, and it’s arguably buoyed by the more recognizable “Classic Man” and “Yoga,” both of which are now months old. Nevertheless, considering its primary purpose, the EP is a superb primer for the Wondaland collective’s many talents and a harbinger of great sounds to come from the label. Moreover, as the Wondaland crew’s recent support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in Philadelphia and Washington DC reinforces, it’s reassuring to know that they possesses spirit and substance to match their style and sophistication, all qualities that will serve them well as their respective careers take flight.

Notable Tracks: “Classic Man” (Remix) | “Let’s Get Caught” | “Yoga”

Grade: A-

BUY Wondaland Presents: The Eephus via Amazon | iTunes

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