Release Date: 25th March 2012
Julian’s face is in full clear view and not shrouded with mystery, so I was surprised to find out that Black Heart was actually the latest release to come out of Toronto’s XO crew. And you know how much they’re all lovin’ the crew right now. They’re probably gonna love this too.
Although the mixtape has a more conventional sounding RnB vibe than I would have expected from the crew, the themes remain similar and the powerful yet elegant production by Mat James and Tre Mission, a Canadian grime artist (yeah, that’s news to me too) is both relevant to the current state of the scene and looking towards the future.
Julian starts off the mixtape with Intrinsic Worth. Easing us in nicely and setting the tone, a relaxed atmosphere with sex and drugs but no rock’n'roll is introduced as he sings in a manner and flow which hint at his hip-hop background, and is nice to hear in this context. This is followed by the already widely known Joy, a more traditional love song still laced with the same atmosphere which continues throughout. Julian has the potential to develop lyrical content to compliment the already beautiful atmosphere he has created, but he does have a few lyrical gems are scattered throughout the mixtape already and a definite beginning of some interesting lyrical themes on Pace It ”She took it like I new her forever/ And I gave it like I new her forever.”
As perfect night-time listening, Black Heart has the power to put you into the relaxed state that Julian himself seems to be in, drug-induced or not and Ascension is definitely the highest point of the mixtape. Before you ask, it’s not a Maxwell cover (so don’t ever wonder) and is thematically completely different too. In this case, “ascension” is not referring to a woman who is the “highest of the high”, but to getting high, and the beautiful layered harmonies that echo through the typically dreamy ambience and chilled beat make you want to do just that.
Although Julian shares similarities in sound and content with traditional RnB, the atmospheric mood he has delivered is what navigates it away and makes it unique, and his self-proclaimed darker side or “black heart” means that his debut mixtape is definitely in keeping with and possibly even enriching the already established and majorly addictive XO brand. There’s absolutely no reason not to have a listen below and get the free download for your evening chill sessions. And watch out for the development of Julian and the rest of the crew this year because Toronto seems to be at the heart of pioneering RnB music these days and you just never know what’s next to come.
My Rating: 7/10