Noor has made a point of wearing his identity on his sleeve for the better part of his young career, but in the new record Phoenix, he attempts to explore a more experimental look within his artistry, to rather provocative results, I might add. Phoenix is feature-heavy, with the opening track “Sinkin’” sporting a lush vocal from JakeFromSpace that sets the tone for the remainder of the tracklist, but I wouldn’t say that Noor is hiding from the audience here. Contrarily, in experimenting with the limits and parameters of his sound and style, he’s finding a worthy counterpart in JakeFromSpace, Trippadelix (“Money on My Mind”), Morgan Gold (the two-part work “Conquest/Overthrown”), and Sasha Go Hard (“Long Live the King”).
“Money on My Mind” twists up a rather urgent beat and introduces us to the first bit of adrenaline in the EP, but as we press on to the title cut in this record, the definitive personality of this material begins to take shape. I don’t think this player is looking to simply blend the best elements of contemporary melodic pop, hip-hop, and R&B in his work, but instead, he means to cultivate something outside of the aesthetical norm that truly belongs to him and him alone.
“Conquest/Overthrown” is probably my favorite track here, largely because of the chemistry that Noor can develop with Morgan Gold right off the top. Rather than straddling the hook delicately, as the framework of the beat would imply she should, Gold is very aggressive with the chorus and shaping the melodic underpinning of the lyrics from the start of the song forward. She’s in complete control at the beginning, and when she hands off to her counterpart at the microphone, the transition is seamless – and vice versa.
“Long Live the King” and “Money on My Mind” are a bit more structurally ambitious, but the main theme of thinking outside the box remains consistent from one song to the next in Phoenix. Noor is an artist who doesn’t deviate from a creative path when he finds something that works for him, which isn’t to say that he can’t blend aesthetical influences with the best of them; after all, that’s what we find across all six of the songs included in this EP.
Phoenix concludes with “Who I Am,” a rather straightforward work in comparison to the other tracks here, but it ends things on a high note, all things considered. This is an abbreviated string of performances for Noor, but all in all, I think he makes it clear in this record that he’s not interested in living within a mainstream model for the duration of his career. He wants to be bigger than what the standard in hip-hop normally allows for, especially on the underground side of the dial, and he’s gone out of his way to establish a sustainable kind of rebellion in Phoenix that I could definitely get used to as both a music critic and a fan of melodic rap in general.