Personal songcraft can tell us a lot about the artist involved. From the stylization of a mix to the colorizing of a harmony, when an artist of a certain pedigree finds their personal outlet in a lyric, you know sparks are going to fly, and that’s precisely what transpires in the new single “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else” by Smilez. “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else” is by far one of the more experimental indie rap tracks I’ve heard this July, but hardly a step away from the successful realm of its lead MC. In a nutshell, Smilez shows us he can play with poppy yet balladic rhythms as well as he plays the G part here.
The backbone of this track is the lack of percussion. Constantly the most texturally expressive component on the bottom half of the mix, the keys create an evocative force to be reckoned with only equaled by the suffocating reverb post-chorus. There’s not a lot of space between the piano and the vocal track, but this feels deliberate on the part of the producer (our leading man himself); he’s looking to yield additional physicality in this piece, and by pushing things together as intensely as he does, it makes it impossible for us to evade the musical blows.
Lyrically, I think Smilez breathes a lot of emotionality into these verses that simply would not have existed were they to be presented by a different vocalist. He’s got so much passion coming into this song, and even when he’s at a point where it feels as though the piano is going to swallow him whole, there’s never a moment where his voice isn’t the most commanding feature here. The mix gets as much out of him as it can in “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else,” and the adept ability to do so is worth a round of applause all by itself.
I don’t know whether it’s because of the chemistry in the material itself or just the time and experience he’s built up in his professional life, but Smilez has never sounded as confident as he does in this single. This isn’t to suggest that he was somehow lacking in swagger before his most recent release, but if you go back as far as his hit collaboration with 69, I don’t think you’ll find another song that boasts the kind of energy this one does. He’s come a long way in the past few years, and this could be the first stepping stone toward his most exciting era yet.
If this is just a glimpse of what the future holds for Smilez and his one-of-a-kind style of music, I’m going to be looking out for more of his content as the rest of the year begins to take shape. “Mentally I’m Somewhere Else” sounds, feels, and plays like something out of a new man’s playbook, and if you ask me, it couldn’t be arriving on the market at a more important time in the history of hip-hop. Smilez is on the ground floor of an emerging generation in his genre, and chops like his are exactly what we need right now.