Mixtape Review: ‘Won’t Be Long’ – Eyeconic

Polish-born Teesside native Eyeconic is arguably one of the most underrated hip-hop artists in the North East. His style is dynamic and somewhat unpredictable, as he often jumps from sub-genre to sub-genre on his records; yet a lot of his deeper work tends to get ignored in favour of his grime bangers. However, ‘Won’t Be Long’ might just be the tape to change all of that.

 

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The short and sweet seven-track project acts as the full-length follow up to his breakout 2017 mixtape ‘Sink or Swim’; a hefty 15-track epic that saw infectious grime dingers like “Lewandowski”, “New Flavour” and “Spit One Lyric” swim to the top, and deeper cuts like “In Their Net”, “Alone” and “S.O.S” sink under the radar. As great as these high energy hits are, they often don’t give the listener a lot of insight into who Eyeconic is as an artist or what makes him tick. Take “Spit One Lyric” for example, a track that’s often showered in praise for its ability to inject pure adrenaline into a lacklustre crowd; it’s a great track for that reason, but it feels pretty faceless in comparison to the entirety of ‘Won’t Be Long’.

With ‘Won’t Be Long’ Eyeconic has bravely dropped the grime bangers entirely, opting for a slicker, more cohesive project that sees the ex-TGF rapper at his most emotive and musically experimental. Eyeconic plays with trap beats of all varieties on the majority of the tracklist, from the emo/SoundCloud-wave vibe of “Shine” to the dark Altalnta hi-hat atmosphere of the titular track “Won’t Be Long”.


“When it feels like you’re under attack, don’t bow down keep your honour intact / I’ll let you ponder on that, but don’t be giving up now, I know you’re stronger than that.” – ‘Shine’, Eyeconic


The boldest track production-wise is arguably also the least ‘experimental’ on the project; the breezy piano and stuttered boom-bap drums of “Dear All” stands out as the least out there sounding beat, but it’s the perfect backing for what is an extremely personal closing track. “Dear All” is home to the most potent lyrics on this project, as Eyeconic calls out family, friends and musical collaborators by name, in a lyrical open letter of admiration that addresses how these people have played a part in his journey through life. Eyeconic also faces his mental health struggles on this stunningly candid track, rapping “It’s therapeutic to reinvent myself, I’m stood looking at the souvenirs from the last time that I went through hell / Trying to balance the savage side and my gentle self / Writing rhymes with this pencil helps with my mental health.”

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“Midnight Interlude” is another standout cut from this project, as it sees Eyeconic fully embrace an ‘auto-crooner’ style vocal that combines well-heeled tuning effects and whiney, melodic vocals; a callback to ‘808s’ Kanye paired with the on-the-nose emo sensibilities of Lil Peep.  It’s definitely a little out of Eyeconic’s comfort zone, but he executes the sound perfectly, without sounding like another emo-rap rip off plucked from the saturated Soundcloud conveyer belt. The theme of reinvention and rebirth again features on this track, as Eyeconic ponders “Who am I? Who am I? / I have to unify, does killing my old self count as suicide?” It’s left to the listener to work out if Eyeconic is referring to ‘killing his old self’ in terms of his past bad habits, his past musical style or both – which would make a lot of sense considering the lack of grime on this tape.

‘Won’t Be Long’ definitely feels like a landmark project for Eyeconic, an end of a chapter that both reflects on the past and simultaneously looks to the future. Sonically, the tape paints a picture of an artist that wants to push his creative boundaries, disregarding the boxes or constraints that have been placed on him by past successes; if Eyeconic wanted to build on the acclaim his grime tracks have gotten him, he’d of made a project filled with wheel-up worthy, gun finger evoking bangers – ‘Won’t Be Long’ isn’t that. Part of the reason this genre-jumping style works for Eyeconic is the fact that his voice is so unique, so distinct, that it’s instantly recognisable; he never falls into the trap of trying to replicate, he merely takes a style and makes it his.


“It’s therapeutic to reinvent myself…” – ‘Dear All’, Eyeconic


Above anything, this project more than proves that Eyeconic is one of the most dynamic artists in the region. Where will he go next? Will he ever settle on one style? You get the feeling not even he knows the answer to those questions, and that’s what makes him such an exciting prospect.

Words and Photos by Johnathan Ramsay
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