Guilla, Photo: Mark Drew
I’m always a little amazed by the quality of music that could go unnoticed in Houston. When I first met Houston rapper and producer Guilla, he was placing the finishing touches on what would be called “Rap, Trap, and Drums;” his 2014 EP. When I first heard that release, I remember thinking how forward and away from traditional hip hop it all was. For most of 2015, aside from festival appearances, Guilla was locked away toiling on what would become his latest release, “Children of The Sun.” Alongside multiple joints he was working on, and taking time to drop a track on the “Nextwave” compilation, his focus on the album blew me away. Here and there I’d hear snippets and pieces that made me wonder what direction he was going in because like that 2014 EP, what I kept hearing was far and away different from what I was hearing in current hip hop. What emerged is another forward and future release from a guy who approaches hip hop music from a place outside the realm while keeping the drops and hooks on point. Originally set to be an EP, the producer and rapper added subsequent tracks to make the project an album. In eight songs, Guilla works with varying producers and brings another trippy and completely different from the herd album that feels bigger than everything else in music today.
Things kick off with the spacey and aggressive sounding “Stare Into The Sun,” where the rapper’s spit comes harder and harsher than anything he’s done in the past. The beat hooks you in immediately while this turnt and spaced out track pops in the background. Guilla is going hoarse in the aggressive nature of his flow where his heavy voiced nature feels legit like he’s on the cusp of falling over in the vocal booth. There are elements in his vocals that immediately make you realize that he’s come a long way as far as flow goes while he adds little nuggets of his personality and style to each word that furiously emits from his lips. He follows this with the space infused track “SuperNova” which features backing vocals from Say Girl Say. Though the song was originally on the SugarHill compilation, “Nextwave,” the intensity of the production alone shows that Guilla is onto something far and away from most rappers around. There’s a heavy hook underneath his anthemic vocals that keeps your ears interested from start to finish, while he finds a way to hit the mic with his usual quickness. The backing vocals from Say Girl Say work and add a whole new element that adds this spicy and tripped out foundation that lets you know that Guilla does hip hop differently than everyone else.
The third track in, “Saturn,” takes you further into the rabbit hole where Guilla drops a song that’s closer to a ballad. However, don’t let that dissuade you as the R&B influences coupled with Spanish guitar are met with an effects heavy beat. The result is a slow jam that you can make out to or pump from your backseat on a hot Summer night. He digs deeper on the pop hook heavy and essentially darkwave infused title track, “Children of The Sun.” Complete with auto-tuned vocals, Guilla keeps things on a different level where sometimes his vocals have a robot sound and takes the release into a space that’s beyond the rest of what’s happening in hip hop today. The same could be said about the following track, “Outerspace” featuring iLL Faded and Buckamore. Things kick off with a sound and a beat that don’t seem to exist in today’s hip hop while Guilla comes in with an immediate hook in his rhyme that links the catchy nature of the sounds that thump the track along. The verse from iLL Faded just adds to the mysterious vibes of the song, while it all feels like transmissions from a far away planet. When Buckamore comes in, you’re immersed in a sound that mixes R&B, electronica, and hip hop elements to craft its own vibe.
The beauty of this release is that Guilla never lets up, which explains the intensity behind the Kam Franklin featured track, “Cosmic Heartbeat.” Kam hits the mic hard showing a new side to her vocal abilities complete with a fast paced track that just makes you fall harder for her even more. When Guilla comes in, his vocals are more precise than anywhere else on the album. Fast spits that flow like spring water from a waterfall and a rhyme style that stays in line with what he’s become known for on his live shows, the track is one of the biggest standouts of the entire eight. When Kam slows down and drops her molasses thick voice, you almost feel like she’s calling to you and only you from the great beyond. The song his “hit song” written all over it, if not for how the two compliment one another vocally, but just from the fact that the song could get just as much attention in other genres outside of hip hop. The rapper goes softer on the following track, “Death of Tomoe” featuring the operatic vocals of Alicia Gianni. The track strays far from the everyday hip hop you’re used to hearing, while distancing Guilla further from the bulk of today’s rap industry.
Guilla closes things off with the more electronic sounds of “Old Souls.” Co-produced by Jonathan Chan at SugarHill, the track is a fitting closer to the album in that the song employs varying genres while Guilla drops a rhyme atop the varying beats within. The end result is unlike any rap album you’ve heard before. Much like Geoffrey Sumner’s often sampled quote, “this is a journey into sound,” Guilla dreams to take the listener to a place that incorporates influences from art, anime, and foreign films to create a world he’s inviting you to visit. “Children of The Sun” is just that, it’s a journey from start to finish that never lets up while twisting and turning soundscapes and vocal use they pay off in their ambition to form an album that wins you over with every listen. You can get your own copy of “Children of The Sun” when it gets released digitally Tuesday April 12th, or a physical copy at Raven Tower when Guilla performs his release party on Saturday April 16th. The all ages show will feature sets from Grammy winner Bizzy Thowed, Houston rapper Kyle Hubbard, the psych rock of Mojave Red, a DJ set from iLL Faded, and a DJ set from Mark Drew. The doors are at 6:00 and it’s 100% FREE.