Silver junior Swami Sound is back and turning up the heat for these cold winter months in a genre-blending collaborative Valentine’s Day release, “PiNK,” alongside rapper and Steinhardt junior Eddy.
Swami (Marcus Harley) and Eddy (Eddy Henriquez) live and breathe the rich musical heritage of the Bronx — this heritage being on full display with “PiNK.”
While the chemistry and synthesis between the two artists on “PiNK” is apparent from the very beginning of the song, Harley and Henriquez’ musical backgrounds could not be more different.
During his senior year at Central Park East High School, Harley played bass in a cover band that he and his friends started for their annual talent show. His band covered popular songs like “Sk8r Boi” by Avril Lavigne, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down and “Hypnotize” by System of a Down — not exactly the hip-hop that he’s producing today.
Henriquez on the other hand was always a fan of hip-hop and has been writing lyrics since his early days at Fordham Prepartory School. Once Henriquez started at NYU, he decided to fully commit to the craft, joining the freestyle club Rhymez in his first year, of which he is currently president.
An eclectic fusion of hip-hop, funk, Japanese pop and vaporwave, “PiNK” is the musical manifestation of Swami and Eddy’s respective artistic visions.
Initially conceived amidst the pressure and procrastination of the spring 2017 finals season, “PiNK” began as “Pink no Orugoru” — a standard remix of Tatsuro Yamashita’s 1982 hit song “Music Book.” Around this time, Eddy started planning for his debut project, “The Color EP,” which led him to ask Swami for an instrumental evocative of the color pink.
Swami sent over “Pink no Orugoru,” and the rest is history. Eddy fell in love with the beat, and they recorded the first verse soon after, releasing a demo version on SoundCloud around mid-July. Deciding the song still needed tweaking, Swami scrapped the demo version and started from scratch.
It wasn’t until this past November that the two began adding some of the song’s core elements like the second verse, chorus and backing vocals, all courtesy of Eddy, with the exception of those from Yamashita’s original song.
“As the summer went on, we didn’t have a chorus,” Swami told WSN. “It wasn’t until last November that I convinced Eddy to sing on the song, but this was after we put out the demo … it was still very undone.”
After three weeks of mixing and mastering, flow tightening and promotion over winter break, the final version of “PiNK” was ready for its highly anticipated Valentine’s Day release. The end result is an unlikely marriage between hip-hop and J-Pop — a funky, dance-inducing love song with pink-laced punchlines and crossover appeal.
“PiNK” is a difficult song to define sonically. It’s clearly a hip-hop song, but like much of the early hip-hop that bubbled in the Bronx in the late ’70s, it is heavily supported by its funky backbone. At the same time, the song is essentially vaporwave — a genre of electronic music typically defined by its sampling of Japanese music from the ’70s and ’80s.
As for influences, Harley has recently taken a liking to ’80s Japanese pop artists like Yamashita. For Henriquez, artists like Toro y Moi helped him gain confidence in his singing, while technically and lyrically, rappers like Childish Gambino and André 3000 inspire him to strengthen his skills.
“I like to stress having bars,” Eddy said. “I can’t do the current trend of rapping now. I could do it if I wanted, but it’s just not me.”
In the oversaturated market of trap oriented hip-hop, Swami and Eddy offer up a fresh take on old traditions while staying true to their own styles.
You can hear “PiNK” on Eddy’s SoundCloud.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 5 print edition. Email Kamau Little-Tree Holston at [email protected].