The nine track album, “Lenox Ave” by OHENE, is described as an ode to Harlem, pre and post gentrification. It is about the optimism, the vantage point, the inner turmoil and subsequent change of a man in his natural habitat. “This mixtape means a lot to me because it represents my return to my roots,” says OHENE. “Tough times built a tough person.” Besides his big and small-screen credits, Actor and Musician OHENE CORNELIUS has opened for Das Racist, Danny Brown, and BK Wildlife among others. He is the owner of the lifestyle and culture brand, HARLEM RIVER YACHT CLUB, and is also garnering attention for his comedy show SmokesNJokes.
OHENE’s verses are poetic and methodical, with meaning to every line, as the album details his earlier life and origins, as well as the joys, ambitions, fear and stress of growing up as a black man in Harlem during the nineties. This is quite literally one of the most brilliant hip-hop recordings I have heard in the last few years.
Every listen reveals another layer of lyrical and musical intricacy. Although we’re in a dismal era of the genre currently, this could be one of those instant classics. OHENE gets well thought out ideas through his songs in innovative ways.
OHENE’s most mesmerizing skill is telescoping between macro observations and close-ups on himself and his community, something he does with incredible power all throughout “Lenox Ave”. The complexity of its vision, shows an artist on a creative peak.
As you fully absorb the album’s production science, its textural depths, and its ever-evolving balance of personal and political metaphors from the heart of Harlem, you can’t help thinking that the scope here is much grander than its setting.
From the moment the album opens with “Let’s Go Harlem”, significant tracks place OHENE’s scintillating verbal skills front and center, as he boggles with his capacity for reflection, his ability to fuse black music’s past with its next generation.
Reflective about his place in the world, as a black man, and as an American, OHENE whips through a set of thought-provoking tracks – from ‘Healthier Squared’ (feat. Mandella Eskia) and ‘40 Acres’ (feat. Sidney Fenix, Phantm Phuego & Vic Levert) to ‘Talk My’ (feat. Paco the G Train Bandit) and ‘Believe in Love’ (feat. Sol Rebel), these tracks place OHENE firmly in the pantheon of top-tier conscious emcees.
Plush synths and stuttering drumbeats meet booming basslines, shimmering jazzy pianos and eloquent soulful vocals, as the mixtape’s features add dynamism and variety to an all-embracing sound. Combing the personal with the political in stunning fashion, OHENE turns Harlem’s woes into moments of pride, personal growth and self-reflection.
‘Need You Remix’ (Miss Dukes feat. Ohene) presents a moment of sheer rhythmic elation, before OHENE turns it down a notch on the head-nodding ‘Glo Up’ (feat. Paco the G Train Bandit). The tightly constructed rhymes will keep you locked in.
Listening along to the soulful ‘Coming Around’ (feat. Vic Levert) as OHENE flips syllables as quickly as the ear can catch them is a joy, and the creative storytelling carried out in his shifting flows feels satisfying and complete. ‘Sky Diver’ (Kassa Overall feat. Ohene) comes through passionately and unflinchingly, rolling out like a futuristic parable on growling synths and sprawling pianos.
As a storyteller and craftsman of a highly conceptualized album, OHENE speaks frankly about his world, at the same time illustrating how it related to the rest of America. In the music of OHENE CORNELIUS, we’ve got a lot to learn about the past, the present, and especially the future. Over time many things will change, yet somehow others remain intrinsically the same…