Sawyer Young

Chattanooga hip-hop artist Sawyer Young, a Los Angeles transplant, creates a tangle of rap bluster and introspection while using experience as a crucible for his own musical ideologies. Deviating from the standard rap braggadocio (although there are times when a certain swagger seeps into the music), he operates from within an expansive rhythmic wheelhouse, one that connects the past to the present across genres and aesthetics but ultimately provides the necessary opportunities for Young to investigate his skewed hip-hop inspirations.

On his new mixtape, “Psychedelics,” he takes a collection of experimental hip-hop inspirations and filters them through the guise of youth and frustration. These songs unravel into knotty lengths of raw nerves and disillusionment-the music is appropriately complicated and dense, the kind of inspired noise that is all too rare these days. Constructing these massive lyrical missives from bits of guitar, piano, bass and intense percussion, Young discovers the inherent strength that comes from embracing these complex impulses.

He forgoes the typical tinny beats that so many other artists favor and actually works through some imaginative beat-driven mechanics, displaying an unusual awareness of what accounts for the emotional connections that have helped sustain hip-hop’s history for decades. His voice can transform from a bit of flowing mercury to a single piece of lightning streaking through the air in the span of just a few seconds, and it’s this display of verbal calisthenics that highlights his abilities behind the mic, as well as his innovative melodic arrangements. According to Young, “Psychedelics” is “a little rough around the edges, but I’m happy with it anyway”-and while I’m hesitant to argue with him, these songs do feel fully formed and alive, the kind of goliath musical statement that demands your undivided attention.


Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.