By: Allison Lapinski
Closed Sessions and BoatHouse dropped Our Latest Compilation, Produced by BoatHouse on Jan. 27, a project culminating in 8 tracks, 9 artists, and an unimaginable amount of talent. Whether or not you are familiar with the importance of compilation albums to the Hip Hop community, this record lives up to the legacy of those before it and introduces a more inclusive atmosphere of rappers from Chicago and beyond.
In an interview with Rubyhornet, BoatHouse explained that the beginning stages of the record were shaped organically by his relationship with each collaborator. “We set up some shows with people on the project and the day after the show, we would have them come in the studio and do something from scratch.” Since joining the label in 2016, BoatHouse has grown into his role as producer at Closed Sessions. The compilation is his most ambitious project yet.
BoatHouse further examined how he was able to harness each artist’s perspective into one continuous story: “We really just wanted something that was Hip Hop at its core. We weren’t going for anything too left field. The difference between the old tapes and now, is that we have one producer, me, who is putting it together, which helped in getting that similar sound but also with some variety. And it was all about sitting down with those artists and working closely with them, which is important for me.” By working at a microscopic level with each song and performer, BoatHouse achieved a balance between cohesiveness and individual expression.
Bringing rappers of all walks of life together, while simultaneously preserving the uniqueness of each track is something that the compilation album provides. However, the mere existence of this album begs the question–what does a compilation record even mean in 2020?
For one, compilation albums are a symbol of unity between old and young, transcending city or coast. BoatHouse commented that “It was really dope to work with all different kinds of people. To see what New York Hip Hop sounds like with Kemba, and see what underground Hip Hop looks like with Open Mike Eagle, to see Detroit Hip Hop with Curtis Roach.” As music becomes an increasingly global and shared space, compilation albums offer a platform that cannot be found on a personalized playlist or even a mixtape.
The compilation album additionally has a legacy of inspiring both artists and producers. ShowYouSuck, the artist behind the final track, notes how compilation albums shaped his early career. “I found a lot of my favorite artists through compilations in the past. The Early 2000s, when you look at compilations like the Violator Comps, 1 and 2, those are great.”
BoatHouse adds that compilations were the gateway to his contributions in music. Now being the producer on the third Closed Sessions compilation, and the first one since 2012, BoatHouse admits he’s been referencing those albums for years. “I’ve been a fan of the process for even longer than I’ve been apart of the label, so knowing that, it felt awesome to be the next continuation.” BoatHouse expanded that he began the project thinking, “let’s make it as much of a BoatHouse project as it is a Closed Sessions project.”
Since we have entered a new decade and all, it makes sense that Our Latest Compilation is not entirely traditional, in the sense that these songs are charged with distinct emotions and lyrics from what you would find 20 years ago. For instance, new Closed Sessions signees Mother Nature push boundaries on the compilation on their track “Naughty by Nature.” Women in Hip Hop have found themselves in positions of power only as of recent. Kleva and T.R.U.T.H narrate a reference to both their namesake and the classic Hip Hop Jersey trio, spitting in the chorus, “mama by nature / naughty by nature.” The duo reiterated in a statement that “We weren’t really writing anything specific to the compilation, but felt the nostalgia of the late 90’s early 2000’s. We wanted to approach it with the witty intelligence we’re used to.” Joining so many empowered women who are at last finding acceptance into the music industry in 2020, their story is only beginning on this compilation.
ShowYouSuck similarly speaks a truth that has been overlooked in Hip Hop until lately on his track “Unpack Something.” The Chicago-based artist opens up about mental health awareness and seeking help through therapy.
The Chicago-based rapper reflected how “that song is like a therapy journal of topics that I’ve been going through with my mental health. Something that I’ve been wanting to do in my music is to talk about that but at the same time, not to make it upbeat, but just make it enjoyable and not such a downer. I definitely haven’t mastered it yet. This song is really one of the first public forays into more serious music. All my past music has been far more tongue-in-cheek. But this is me putting a foot forward and a whole new sound. And instead of trying to make the mental health talk more coded, I was more like let me try and make it as upfront as I can.”
Although being candid about mental health is a brave step for an artist to take, it comes with its disadvantages. Advocating for mental health is a daunting and uncomfortable role for artists to take on because it allows outsiders to put a microscope on their wellbeing. Show revealed his fear of the burden of awareness, as he termed it: “I was worried that if I was open with certain things like mental health, that when I went out people would want to talk to me about those things. I was worried about putting my mental health and therapy out there, that people would just want to talk to me about that because they connected to that. That’s something I’m still trying to work on because that has happened to me, but I’m also appreciative because everyone has been so open about it.”
“Our Latest Compilation” has opened the door to a realm of possibilities coming into this new decade. With stellar beats, a cast of incredible talent, and a nod to Hip Hop predecessors, you’ve got nothing to lose.