by Gordon Henry
You probably don’t love your favorite album simply because it’s a collection of great songs. It’s something about that indescribable feeling you get whenever you hear it. The most skilled artists know that creating an album isn’t about individual songs. The best albums create a powerful experience for their listeners. With the release of Nazareth: Side A, Houston-based hip-hop artist, “Amadeus,” shows he’s well aware of this truth. But Amadeus isn’t just creating an experience for his listeners; he’s building an entire world for them.
On his 2020 debut album, DAYBEFOREFOREVER, Amadeus showcased his versatile prowess as a musician. Masterfully flowing over a diverse range of head-bumping instrumentals, Amadeus proved that he’s not an artist to be slept on. However, with his 2021 release, Nazareth: Side A, Amadeus shapeshifts into one of his alter egos: Nazareth Nocturne, or “Naz” for short. Within his music, we find that Naz’s personality is darker and more sullen than that of the outspoken, confident Amadeus. His musical style is
more raw and introspective, with a deeper, more strained vocal delivery. If I hadn’t already known, I never would’ve guessed the two albums were actually created by the same person.
Nazareth: Side A is a dark journey into Naz’s twisted mind. It features an eclectic array of soulful samples and pervading influences from the lo-fi hip hop genre. This project feels like MF Doom’s Doomsday meets MIKE’s War In My Pen with lyrical imagery akin to the likes of Earl Sweatshirt.
Naz’s 11-track debut album opens with an unconventional radio show skit hosted by “Landen” who represents the Houston rapper’s real-world self. He sat down with Naz for an interview, but to Landen’s dismay, Naz ostensibly does not speak outside of his music. Instead, Landen is forced to interview his other alter ego, Amadeus. In these hysterical radio skits, which were all improvised and recorded at once, Amadeus denies his alleged proclivity for white women and explicitly trashes on the Nazareth Nocturne album. The album’s tongue-in-cheek skits are a stark contrast to the rather desolate mood of the music. On the first song on the album, “OVERTHINK,” Naz warns listeners that we don’t have time to overthink the urgent state of our country. With the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans in the last year, the realities of police brutality are clearer than ever. To cope with these tragedies and his own personal struggles, Naz finds himself abusing alcohol and straying further and further from God’s grace. Naz shows his sentimental side on “sweeter,” a hypnotizing serenade highlighting the blinding power of love . It juxtaposes the following track , “daybreak,” where Naz showcases double-time flows while affirming that his morose, reserved personality doesn’t mean he won’t adamantly chase his dreams.
Perhaps my favorite track on the album is the penultimate song, “MAYBE” The track’s trance-inducing baseline compliments the dreamy keyboard riffs to make listeners feel like they’re floating through space. On this track, Naz tries to remain vigilant of threats, only attempts to “write his wrongs with a sharpened pencil,” and cleanse the demons residing in his psyche as he repents for his mistakes. Naz expresses his resentment toward the Lord, who has plagued his life with death and mental anguish, and laments about the brevity of life “as time rusts quicker than the toys [he] used to play with.”
Landen, the creative mastermind behind the Naz and Amadeus characters, is a 19- year-old self-defined “New Age Hippie.” He graduated high school in Alief, a neighborhood in Houston that has recently birthed a number of promising young hip hop artists such as Aaron May and ArmstrongWW. With his music, Landen hopes to show listeners “that their mistakes [don’t] define them” and encourages them to “always keep peace alive.” Landen has been rapping as long as he can remember, but only recently became serious about showcasing his creative capabilities. He intends to continue building on his musical universe, adding new characters and storylines.
On Nazareth: Side A, he teased yet another alternate persona, “BANDANA BOY,” who has will soon join Amadeus and Naz and contribute his own unique musical perspective to the narrative. The 19 year old rapper is a true visionary and clearly has a lot of plans for the future of his art. And I personally can’t wait to see what he has in-store for us next.
Stream Nazareth: Side A