When local hip-hop artist Tairey was featured on the cover of City Paper last November, he said of his then-new release, Celestial: “I want this project to remind me that it is OK that I don’t know who I am right now.”
Now, less than a year later, he’s released a follow-up, Atmos. Does he have a better idea of who he is this time around? “Definitely, yes,” he says over the phone. “I have more confidence; I’m more assured that this is what I should be doing.”
Atmos is more sophisticated than Celestial, but feels like a natural progression. Both records are built around chilly electro beats — think the Weeknd without the misanthropy — but Tairey’s mid-vocal-range rap-singing is more reminiscent of someone like Drake, as is the emotional subject matter. (“People ask me who my songs are about,” he says. “I never tell them, of course.”)
For Atmos, “We paid more attention to detail,” Tairey says, referring to his longtime collaborator Sam Conturo. “It’s a lot more of us understanding what we want to do and executing it better. We learned how to put more energy into the music.”
The rapper had a chance to show off that energy at last month’s Thrival festival. He’d performed in 2014 as well, in an earlier time slot, and festival organizers immediately asked him to return in 2015. “Then, after my performance this year,” he says with a smile in his voice, “they asked me to perform next year.”
The new record has received plenty of positive feedback from listeners. Tairey says that one young fan admitted that he was nervous about the new record: He was afraid it wouldn’t match Celestial. “At first, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to match it either,” Tairey says, noting that, for a while, the pressure he put on himself to make something “better” was a little paralyzing. “But when we listened to Atmos for the first time, I thought, ‘Wow, we did it naturally without having to try.’”
Of course, inspiration comes all the more easily once you’ve put in the work, and Tairey has. “[This is] literally all I do all day every day,” he say. “I’m not in school, I don’t have a job. I just make music.”
For more information, visit taireymusic.com.