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Eric Axelman: An Introduction

BrownxRISD

Eric Axelman: An Introduction

Rodell Jefferson

Review by Rodell Jefferson

Eric Axelman claims many titles—hip-hop activist, filmmaker, educator, social entrepreneur. Between recently wrapping up a nine-city tour with his group The Funk Underground, and leading his own non-profit organization called Pushed Learning and Media, it’s obvious that Axelman has a lot on his plate. It’s amazing that amidst all this he’s managed to put together Too Much, his debut solo album.

I have a brief history with Eric Axelman — and by “history,” I mean that I dropped my Brown ID on Thayer Street and Axelman found it and got it back to me. Being a recent Brown graduate, Axelman must have understood the ($25) hassle of losing a Brown ID. Shortly after this, in the same way Axelman stumbled upon my ID on Thayer Street, I stumbled upon his self-directed music video for “Talk Too Much”.

At first, I thought it was the striking visuals I enjoyed the most — intimate shots of nature and psychedelic splashes of color. Then, I thought it was the hypnotically relaxing production that Axelman raps over. But after multiple listens, it is undoubtedly Axelman’s distinctive flow that excites me more than anything.

On “Talk Too Much” Axelman’s rhymes sound pure and genuine, words spilling out one after another. “The clouds in the sky are like kites to me / move around and around so perfectly / like thoughts, just like circuitry,” he raps in a sing-song tone. Like circuitry indeed, Axelman jolts from one idea to another, using wordplay to string together vivid images.

Too Much will be accompanied by five self-directed music videos altogether. If the visuals and sounds of “Talk Too Much” are Axelman’s exploration of one end of his musical spectrum, “Too Much Space” is its exact opposite. His flow is chaotic and unforgiving, and the production gives the song an erratic personality. It’s difficult to imagine the two visuals as separate — instead they come across as twins, each representing one side of Eric Axelman. With three more videos on the horizon, I wonder what other sides we will see.

Axelman’s videos have garnered tens of thousands of views already; he has traction and people want more. Luckily, he appears ready to put it all on the table in Too Much. We are all wondering “Who is Eric Axelman?”, and Eric Axelman is giving us his answer. Too Much is a showcase of his artistic range and his willingness to experiment with the sounds of hip-hop.

However, Axelman doesn’t seem to be afraid to dig into more traditional sounds either. On “We Had A Party,” he flexes his storytelling ability, rhyming his way through his own hip-hop origin story. Brown students will find themselves familiar with many of the song’s landmarks, such as  meeting a friend in “a class about black music by Tricia Rose,” and being invited to “a jam on Waterman Street.”

Axelman is even willing to slow it down and give you something for all your “chill” playlists out there. On “Nice To Me,” arguably one of my favorite tracks, Axelman lays down bars like a carefully written love note, and the production provides a certain sort of coziness — the song is heartwarming and puts butterflies in your stomach the way a love song should. His smooth rhyming is also accompanied with a refreshing dosage of singing as well. I wouldn’t mind an EP of Axelman sing-songing his way through tracks just like this.

Eric Axelman doesn’t appear to be an artist willing to be trapped in a box. Too Much is a collage of thoughts and artistry, and there’s a special sort of pleasure in pulling apart the different sounds that make up the whole piece. Too Much is an introduction, and invites you to get to know it better. So in the same way Eric Axelman stumbled upon my Brown ID — I advise you to pick it up.