Eli Sostre is the face of a new underground movement in Hip-Hop. "I feel like [I make] late night drive music," the 27-year-old Brooklyn emcee told XXL.
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"It's mellow. It's life style music. People I've been compared to? I don't know I don't listen to comparisons...I'm better than everybody, that's how I feel." His amalgamation of R&B and rap with lo-fi production amassed a standing ovation of sorts, with his debut Still Up All Night seen as a changing of the guard in underground hip-hop. Alongside acts like Frvrfriday, Norman Perry, Pre Kai Ro, 451, and Soriano, (the latter two are collaborators with Sostre), the crooner has become a torchbearer for a genre that walks a thin line between rap and R&B, one steeped in hazy, minimalist production and dripping in melancholy.
Yet Sostre's latest project, Eros, sounds contrived. Songs like "Can't Have Both" and "Bad Luck" find the artist straining to experiment within the margins of his self-proclaimed genre, but Eros' 14-track runtime is mostly littered with recycled material. It'll be comforting for Sostre fans to hear him stick to the script, but those looking for an expanded palette will, unfortunately, find little to nibble on. He covers familiar topics: heartbreak, drug use, emotional unavailability. But treading such familiar thematic material feels irksome at this point in his career. "B*tch I got so many problems," he sings on "New Problems," "ride with my dawgs so I don't gotta solve 'em." On "Scene," he clings to a similar narrative: "I don't change, you don't change so I buy you big rings."
His resistance to growth is suffocating after a few tracks, even when he strikes the perfect balance on songs like "Free" and "Motorola." He has a kid now and announces it proudly in both the album's promotional trailer and cover art. But despite being a father and existing in a totally different musical world than the one in which he released his first album, Sostre continues to act like nothing has changed
Eros finds the crooner boxing himself in. It checks all the boxes of a Sostre album, but the moments that work are vapid and the moments that don't are overbearing. He doesn't seem aware that he's kickstarted an entire movement. "Sometimes I get too paranoid, don't trust a soul," he sings on "Come Thru." He has more support than he's willing to admit, and stardom is perched on his doorstep. All Sostre has to do is breathe and let other people in on the conversation.