The next artiste(s) on Vision Inspired (VI) Music to release a tape have their work cut out by Robin Huws. His mixtape, HUES Vol. 1, released on October 30, is an exhibition of his talents- a singer, songwriter and producer- and, in the process establishing himself as one of the finest voices on the scene today.
I first heard of Robin Huws in 2015, during the album listening session for Adomaa’s ‘Afraba’ EP. She credited him for inspiring ‘Shii The Song’. The image of Robin Huws I formed in my mind was that of a grown guy, a producer of great professional experience. By the time the listening session was over, that picture had dissipated.
After playing roles in the music making process of fellow label mates, he released two singles in 2016- the confessional “Fading Dream’ and ‘See You Again’, an emo-stirring tribute to his departed mum. These two ballads gave listeners a glimpse of who he is: an artist whose strong points lean toward ballads/soulful renditions.
That is what his mixtape is about. It’s an exploration of other qualities he possess. The songs aside, his vocal range is absolutely phenomenal. And his ability to also tap into up-beat influences-hip hop, EDM, pop, dancehall- aside the usual ballad inflections are remarkable.
On this 14 track mixtape are built pavilions of reflections, reminiscing and self-belief. Robin muses about life, love, heartbreaks and steadfastness. The opening song, ‘Just Believe’, with its country/bluesy guitar licks help in propelling the very fatherly message of believing in himself and his talents.
The theme of self-belief is again visited on ‘Hues I’, where he sings, ‘you dictators of my craft/what do you want from my art? I’m not your slave/I’m gonna live free’’, an expression of defiance. His falsetto voice swings from venomous to somber, almost like a plea. ‘I can’t breathe under the weight of your expectations’, is a gross depiction of the pressure he’s facing. This unhinging self-belief is realized after his sub-conscience have pricked him on ‘Mr. Huws’.
Robin knows the genre of music he’s pursuing is not popular within the Ghanaian musical space, which is dominated by afropop and afro-trap leanings. Ballads/soul music, despite being a long known and loved genre is usually confined to the earphones, bedrooms or private ceremonies like weddings. The lukewarm reception the genre attracts, in recent times, could dissuade artists seeking to walk that path. For him, it’s not necessary how many times his songs would be played on radio, or how widespread the reception would be. The number of fans who’d enjoy his brand of music is enough for him.
Love in all its shades is treated on ‘’Hues’’. On songs like ‘Forgotten Love’, ‘Kimberly’, ‘Voice On The Radio’, Robin reminisces about a heartbreak and feelings for a new crush (Akosua Hanson, a radio personality) respectively. One could gauge how invested Robin is on these love-themed songs by how they come across. Take ‘Kimberly’, where he mentions her name 14 times on the hook (whoever she is, please, come fix his heart). The beat switch, from mellow to up-tempo EDM vibe is fit for the clubs. I hope someone would chop the vocals off, keep the hook and extend the beat. With music, some of the memorable moments are less about the flashy productions or poetic lyrics. It’s the tiniest of additions that stick with the listener. On ‘Voice On The Radio’, Tronomie (an artist/producer) became the alchemist, dropping the right dose of whistle on the hook to enrich its beauty.
‘Run’, a song featuring Maayaa, carries a this-is-my-imperfections theme. It’s a song about two hearts in love yet, their terrible past relationships are their biggest drawback. Maayaa opens her verse with an honest truth: ‘I won’t lie to you/I’m hard to love’. Her words draw bold comparison with Amy Winehouse’s ‘You Know I’m No Good’ (off her classic Back To Black album). At the end of her verse, she exhibits her nonchalance: ‘A promise is easy to make/ Three words are easy to say’. Rationally, a man who’s in for the short haul would bail out on dating a woman with such terrible scar. Robin chooses to stay, knowing he’s no better than her. He’s also damaged. Despite sharing his own flaws, he assures her of his unwavering commitment by boldly declaring: ‘I Won’t Run!’
It must be emphasized again that, Robin’s voice doesn’t only convey his thoughts. It also serves as an extra instrument in dragging the listener into whatever mood he’s exuding on the songs. His tone on ‘Forgotten Love’ is reminiscent of Ashe Howe. Sometimes, one hear traces of Justin Timberlake, Jon Bellion or Sam Smith on the record.
Voice range aside, one could also draw parallels between some of the songs on the tape with other classic tunes. The apocalyptic ‘Dear Diary’ with words like ‘meadows are turning red/ war cries can be heard’ and ‘a cold world consumed by greed’ sounds similar to the Diana Ross classic ‘He Lives In Me’. One can’t miss its gospel and happiness exuding vibe. The glow around ‘Dear Diary’ is like watching the moon set over a river in the evening.
‘Lifeless’, the bleakest song on the album, has Robin singing about harbouring suicidal thoughts. The song is a trip into consciousness of a man who has lost someone very close to him (I guess his mum). This situation does put you in a psychological state where alcohol and drugs can’t numb the pain. Like Frank Ocean on ‘Swim Good’, he drives to the beach ‘wishing the tides would drown out his mind’. Whereas Fu plays the ugly monster urging him to ‘take a leap into the blue’ and ‘make death the final goal’, Akotowaa, the light of hope remind him why he needs not to give up: ‘I need you to stay/ personified magnificence/ you take my breath away/ you can’t cut yours off in haste’, she adds.
‘Hues Mixtape Vol.1’ is an excellent work considering it’s the first body of work from Robin. The production and other aesthetics aside, some of the ‘interludes’, like Frank Ocean did on Blonde, are strong enough to stand on their own. However, I think songs like ‘Pretty Lady’.
Robin Huws is telling us that, he is on his own lane doing not what all expect him to. Rather, he does what he wants to do.
Buy HUES on aftown.com