As the world waits to hear the new project from Mill City Collective‘s own rhyme slinger/singer Nate Millyunz, we were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of the project under the condition: listen to the album from front to back in one sitting. Up for the challenge, I sat down & took down my initial thoughts on the first listen to Love & War.
With an ambient intro that rolls in like fog on a forgotten battlefield, Millyunz roars in with some of the hardest bars that many have ever heard him spit. Mixing fiery against the devils of the day (the constant polarizing news cycles, soulless cash grabs & cops killing kids without consequence), the track closes with the titular lines “if they kill me in the heat of battle, I pray to the Lord my soul to keep” proving that he rode in on a warhorse. The mood switches up to a lighter tones thanks to Simon Hodapp‘s impeccably intricate productions that sounds like it could be on a pop station’s playlist as well as ruminating through Low End Theory in Los Angeles. Quickly switching up into a hype soundtrack to the parties that stood too epic for the hangovers, Millyunz keeps a melancholic subject matter in focus while masking it with the bravado, a balance that looms over every high school party from back in the day. Slowly revealing a love scorn concept, the sonic progression from Hodapp is captivating as he incorporates elements of boot stomps, harmonicas and high-noon whistles amidst a warm island vibe. All set to the tune of the lyrical narrator’s self-deprecation interjecting itself among suave raps like the lyrics to a classic Atmosphere song. With powerful ballads showcasing his range as a performer, the pain intensifies leading the listener to the dark place within the mind of Millyunz as he wrestles with the lovely memories of his former flame while staring out over an oceanside cliff for answers.
Returning with the hiss and driving guitar, Millyunz’s whip-fast flow does not miss a single trap snares as his depression leads him to find solace in the bottle. Erratic yet poised, the star quality cadence adapts to gunshots and Purivian flutes while dismissing his place in the spotlight. After sobering up & smashing the rosy images of what they once had, the tone changes from searching for the love of another to the love of self, over triumphant and juking production that compels the listener to cheer for the sonic and personal growth. Feeling refreshed and unphased, Millyunz allows his ego to finally stunt on the lames and ruffle up some feathers as he now knows that he is only in competition with himself.
Closing on the famous dialogue between Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday from the movie Tombstone, it’s apparent that Love & War is the fully realized Hip Hop western that fans didn’t know that we wanted. Once an elusive theme due to the offputting racism that permeates in the subtext of Western films and the tired tropes of puffy-eyed hillbillies billowing sadness from various pickup trucks, Millyunz and Hodapp tapped into something so visceral and versatile that it has cleared a lane for tender-hearted ballads of the Grand Ole Opry to meet the face-paced grit of Grand Central Station without complaint. Reminiscent to the classic Kool Moe Dee single “Wild Wild West,” it pairs the same attention to detail within his verses while Hodapp’s production allows the words to shimmer throughout. Unflinchingly honest in the ways of the “Black Hearts” while keeping the door open for commercial success, Nate Millyunz proves that even the most heroic don’t always have to be stoic and that this war is meant to be loved.
Love & War is set to drop Friday, June 29th on iTunes and all streaming platforms. And don’t miss out on the Go953MN sponsored Release Show at Skyway Theater’s Studio B with the album’s producer/engineer Simon Hodapp, Kashy, Sake Red and hosted by Mr. Peter Parker.