Album Review: Aporia by Deezy

Hip-hop artist Deezy gets the whole team together for a dynamic extended play of visual storytelling on Aporia.

With lamps switched off and a blue air in the hotel room, Deezy sits alone. He runs his detached wedding band over his fingers in deep contemplation of the night’s events. A soft Rhodes piano melody plays out as “Aporia Pt. 2” draws to a somber close. Perhaps this is what Marilyn Monroe meant when she said, “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”

Aporia, the latest project by 405 area hip-hop rising star Deezy, is a visual album in five parts that grapples with work/life balance and the temptations that come with success. As the title suggests, these difficulties can pull and tangle until one is caught in the throes of cognitive dissonance. It’s a conundrum that Deezy knows all too well.

The visual EP, which released episodically on YouTube and is streamable in its stunning entirety, chronicles 24 hours behind the scenes of a hip-hop career. Bookended by two flashy music video shoots, a drama of domestic distrust unfurls, and at the very center is the aforementioned hotel room scene. That solitary moment is reminiscent of the rock bottom in the classic hero’s journey character arc, just one of many points in Aporia that shows a firm grip of its three-act structure. Creative director Nicole Allen-Fisher and video production crew Imageline Studios know their stuff.

From the start, Deezy strikes big with trap banger “Doin Thangs”, a fitting opener that boasts work, productivity, and success. Against a hard-hitting beat, the video showcases the rapper doused in sophisticated lighting as he plays to the camera with authority. There is also an alluring video vixen here who gets ample screentime. All of this, which seems like routine rap video indulgence, is actually setting up the plot and themes of Aporia without first-time viewers even realizing it.

“Doin Thangs” ends, but the video continues into a surprise second half. As the more heartfelt “One Day” from Deezy’s 2017 release E.O.D. plays in the background, viewers are introduced to the artist behind the art, decompressing on set after the shoot with his crew. As one member of his cameo-filled posse goes live on social media, though, Deezy is caught in the background with the video vixen from before getting a bit too close for comfort. His partner, watching from home, is none too pleased.

This sets the rest of Aporia into motion. “Aporia Pt. 1” shows the inevitable heated argument that follows at home, complete with an opening voiceover interrogating about “bitches that we see putting numbers in your phone.” This leads to “Aporia Pt. 2”, where Deezy checks into a hotel and hits up one such number, wavering in his fidelity. “Watch Me Make It” and “Count It Up” then show the artist clearing his head and finding a way back to work on both his professional and personal priorities. 

Without giving away any more plot points, suffice it to say that Aporia is a yarn weighted in themes of responsibility. The proverbial spotlight can be so bright that those who chase it can easily overlook the gears and pulleys doing the work backstage. Those mechanisms don’t move independently. It takes a great deal of self-care and work ethic for an artist to stay ahead of the game without flaming out. Aporia is a study in personal life relationships, but this slice of the working musician pie is representative of a whole heated spectrum of conflicts that arise as one flies closer to the sun.

Deezy indeed soars on Aporia, a project in which his expert flow and lyricism are front and center. His deft rhymes are tight, but it’s the content within the lines that elevates them. When he isn’t basking in the limelight on cuts like “Doin Thangs”, he’s thoughtfully carving into more complex topics on less aggressive tracks like “Watch Me Make It ft. Triston For Dummies”.

Sacrifice, escapism, and the pursuit of inner peace are all weighed on Deezy’s artistic scale. However, lyrics like “This beaten path is not my purpose; I drive and reverse it / Sometimes life will take a storm to rewire the circuits” drive home what may be the biggest message in Aporia. Only those who carry forward and weather the hard times will come out on the other side spiritually richer (and perhaps financially richer as well, if closing number “Count It Up” is to be taken at face value).

In a recent interview, Deezy said, “I’m kind of all over the place with my content sometimes. … People, we’re not always in the same mood.” While that may be the case, it doesn’t register here with the full moving picture of Aporia. Quite the opposite is so. It’s a project with measured focus, where every piece serves a part of that picture.

At least, that’s true with the visual album. It provides a throughline that unifies Deezy’s music into a cohesive whole while underlining its themes with an abundance of atmosphere and symbolism. From set-pieces like the empty church in “Watch Me Make It” to small details like the errant wedding band in “Aporia Pt. 2” (which is subtly missing from his ring finger during the entire episode), the music videos go over and above to build a story from the songs they showcase.

Conversely, however, when separated from its visuals, Aporia doesn’t connect as neatly. In addition to the YouTube episodic release, the EP is now also available in its audio-only format on streaming platforms. Here, the songs are presented without the context of a story, and while the themes are still very much present, the way they relate to one another is less spelled out.

Where the visual EP makes a clear distinction between Deezy the myth and Deezy the man, the audio EP is an indistinguishable cross of the two. That works in a different way, no doubt, but it ultimately finds less structure and resolution than the visual album does. Those more inclined to the storytelling of Aporia might do best to think of the audio EP as a soundtrack to the videos rather than a main course of its own.

If there’s one minor critique that sticks, even with this caveat, it’s the musical treatment and tracking of “Aporia Pt 1” and “Aporia Pt 2”. They essentially have the same beat, the same structure, the same length, the same chorus, and they are tracked back to back. While the single verse of each approaches the central idea (“I don’t think I want this shit right now”) from different angles, they aren’t disparate enough to warrant separate tracks unless possibly they were interspersed throughout a longer project to echo one another. As is, one must wonder why they were not simply edited together and released as one continuous song.

Perhaps this was done at some point, and they were split into halves later to accommodate the separate music video settings, which would make plenty of sense. Still, though, something could have been done in the production to flip the sample or change the beat to prevent a feeling of copy/paste deja vu. This is especially evident in the audio-only version, where one might easily do a doubletake to ensure “Aporia Pt 1” is not mistakenly caught on repeat. The most unfortunate part is that the 30-second intro on “Aporia Pt 2” is redundant to the point of being filler, a dreaded word for album connoisseurs. Stick with the videos, though, and those mild annoyances are lessened thanks to engaging story development and a shift in visual tone.

Aporia is big-league work with more moving parts than most music projects, local or otherwise. That Deezy and his team pull it off is honorable in itself, but that they do so with such aplomb is laudable. It’s evident that they poured deep reserves of passion and dedication into Aporia, and anyone familiar with Deezy’s work ethic probably won’t find this surprising. This is an artist that has been known in the past to have hauled merch in small clubs where his merch table was bigger than the bar. Projects like Aporia are just on a bigger scale in a bigger field. The work doesn’t change.

This commitment naturally lends gravitas to Aporia, elevating it from an art project to an artistic statement. This isn’t a look into what Deezy wants to be, but what Deezy is. Anyone can get some friends together to boost a reputation as in the epilogue to “Doin Thangs”. Real-life visual props like the loose-leaf child’s drawing in “Aporia Pt. 1” are harder to replicate and leave more of a lasting impression even in their brevity.

By the end, when “Count It Up” sees the hip-hop artist back in the lights, camera, and action, the braggadocious words don’t ring empty because viewers have been in on the 24-hour journey leading to it. They’ve seen the naturally lit handheld camera moments behind every slick slow motion shot. They’ve heard the doubtful internal monologue that causes every ring of self confidence to reverberate as a personal victory. The finale is earned.

Everyone has their version of a cold hotel room night. Many will find themselves gazing into a totem, searching for answers. Sometimes, the answers come freely, but other times, one has to move forward to find them. The proverbial grind is not without its inherent benefits, but it traverses little ground without a call to pursue. The best way to hear the call is to listen for it in the silence that predicates the symphony, and in that way, maybe aporia is a tool for the wise. It can spur clarity from confusion, sorting grey into yin and yang, and with any good fortune, perhaps that harmony can look and sound as excellently as Deezy does in Aporia.

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