Named as one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Artists to Watch” this month just a week after his wildly anticipated sophomore album Transgressor (Quite Scientific Records) dropped to an outpour of local and national praise, Flint, Michigan native Tunde Olaniran is making seismic waves with no end in sight.
Much like Olaniran himself, Transgressor is ambitious. The album treads on territory once explored by pop/hip hop/rock greats, but through his own vocal ferocity and audaciously layered beats. Olaniran manages to pave a path all his own (and in doing so, has reset the bar for breakout artists and seasoned vets, alike.) Transgressor achieves a rare feat: each track stands confidently on it’s own. Although the album is bound by a consistent textural experimentation, this allows each track to resonate with a unique reference point. Freddie Mercury vocals here. Early Missy Elliott vibes there. With Antony and the Johnsons meets Yeezus with a kiss of Squarepusher scattered throughout.
Trangressor is theatrical and strange, but never boring. The track “KYBM” incorporates pulsating tribal drum rhythms and chanting, yet there are moments that feel like a Baz Luhrmann film as heard on “Don’t Cry,” and others transport you to church like the standout breakup track, “Let Me Go.” These influences make Transgressor hard to categorize but help keep the album consistently curious. “Experimental pop/hip hop is the simplest way to categorize my sound,” Olaniran explained to me on the set of his music video for “KYBM” this past February. “I’m always trying new sounds, new ways to use my voice. But I like how it’s a little crude at the same time. With Transgressor I try to limit myself because I don’t want it to sound super polished.”
My favorite example of this methodology is the album’s alternative-broke-baller anthem “Diamonds” featuring iRAWniQ and Passalacqua. With lines like “I’m a fiend for a discount/ while I dream of a penthouse” and “Ima keep it real/nothing in my pocket but a $5 bill/guess I’ll go to Taco Bell and get a combo meal” (even including a line referencing the mass water shutoff controversy in Detroit) Olaniran makes even the downtrodden and relevant, funny. “At my core, I’m a ridiculous person.” He explained. “I don’t want to denigrate other artists or music but it can seem a little heavy handed when you’re trying to get a message across. I don’t want there to be a barrier. I want you to have music you can enjoy.”