In a bedroom converted into a studio on the outskirts of Auburn, Ike Watson sits at his desk with the intensity of a mad scientist, mixing and mastering tracks. It is here, at a desk surrounded by various keyboards and sound equipment, that Watson spends the majority of his time.
“We only get 24 hours in a day,” he says. “If you sleep for eight, you only have 16 left. Then you go to work for eight, and you only have eight hours left to grind. Some people come home from work and watch TV until they go to sleep. And that’s life. I’d rather use those hours to create. I live in the studio.”
Watson has been working to perfect the sound he’s presenting in his new EP, To Venus From Mars. With this project, he takes part in a new wave of R&B music. We’ve seen examples of this movement both locally and nationally: Bryson Tiller’s Trap Soul, Dave B’s Tomorrow, and Drake all over Views, just to name a few. Watson blends melodious raps with libidinous low-frequency instrumentals to create an interesting hybrid sound that’s starting to take off in the culture at large. “It’s a cross of rap, pop, and soul. Even a little blues,” he says. “It’s all intertwined—rhythm and blues, but it has a rap feel.”
Watson’s five-track EP takes listeners on a journey through a modern-day love story. He opens with “Still Working,” the record’s lone party track, in which he meets a suitor in the club, and he concludes with “Bitter Sweet,” a track that chronicles the breakup.
The stand-out track, “Little Things,” exhibits the merits of the sing/rap style Watson experiments with throughout To Venus From Mars. The song shows Watson’s knack for crafting extremely catchy hooks, and the beat, also created by Watson, is subtle and sweet without overpowering the lyrics. On “Bitter Sweet,” where he outright raps, Watson blends romanticized lyricism with feather-light piano keys echoing over bass. Even without him singing, the track feels cohesive with the rest of the record.
As more rappers turn to singing and vice versa, the margin that separates the two is blurring into obscurity. With artists like Watson pioneering this new sound, we will continue to see sing/rap (without AutoTune, hopefully) move into the space formerly held by traditional R&B. With To Venus From Mars’ clever lyrics and hooky self-produced instrumentals, Ike Watson makes his mark on this new age of R&B.