I was in love once. Looking back, it’s hard to reconcile the actuality of those days with the dreamy, nebulous feelings that arise when I try to recall specific moments from the relationship. Entire periods get blurred into snapshots, and whole matrices of thoughts, emotions, and dilemmas are distilled into blurry webs of association. On Morimoto’s debut project, For Me & Ladie”, the Western Mass rapper-producer/singer-songwriter explores a scattering of these webs, but he never distils. Indeed, this is no post-facto love story roundup: “I’ve been working on this for like two years,” he told me, “It’s pretty much I’ve lived in Chicago almost two years, I was with my girlfriend for two years, the album was two years… it’s all one thing.” Avoiding entirely the cloudy remembrances that can plague a breakup record, Morimoto (first name Sen) has collected twelve tracks full of rich detail and conflicted sentiments – nodules of a story told in approximate real time.“ The narrative’s not strict or anything like that,” he continued, “and it’s not entirely specific to my relationship, but it kinda follows a relationship from beginning to end in terms of mood, how you feel about the relationship.” The record is a peak into the worlds that love creates – the complex of dynamics that we can never quite get back. It’s the good and the bad, the compassion and the rage, all somehow delivered with great humor and charm.
Sonically, Morimoto is drawing from a number of sources; he’s got the production flourishes and the jazzy r&b leanings of an Andre 3000, the MPC sampling chops of a Nujabes, and the earnestly contemporary soul inflections of a Frank Ocean. On “My Romance,” a section of loungey Chet-Baker-goes-Broadway sentimentality gives way to a seriously hip slice of swirling, psychedelic backtracking. Two tracks later, he’s spitting Chance-level nice-guy-swagger-bars atop footwork kick patterns. And that’s all before even mentioning the truly excellent vocal arrangements and sax playing throughout (he fondly recalled playing in a mob-affiliated Springsteen cover band in high school).
And although this is all mighty impressive, the project would be nothing if not for the charming story that it tells. It’s the story of a goodnatured, imaginative kid who moved from his Western Massachusetts hometown, away from his friends in the Dark World hybrid internet-rap/punk-rock collective to Chicago, to live with his girlfriend and ex-Nils bandmate Coco Gordon-Moore (daughter of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon). Morimoto told only a half-truth in saying that the album isn’t “entirely specific” to his relationship. References to favorite TV shows (The Gilmore Girls), a number of presumable inside jokes, and the refrain of “Daytime Drunken Sex With Your Ex” are among some highly specific and personal experiences that this album takes as inspiration. Thankfully though, they never get so heavy-handed as to outweigh the pure emotional flavor that lies beneath each instance. “Do To Me” is the moment when you think you might be onto something real. “30 Ways”, when you realize it was all a lie. Each of them one young man’s illustration and dissection of one or another of the lover’s tropes to which he can’t help but succumb.
What happens, though, after you release an auto-biographical, real-time concept album that ends in anger and rage? I imagine it must feel like one big period on the longest sentence of your life. I imagine it could leave you empty and ill equipped to start all over again, both creatively and romantically. Surprisingly, that hasn’t been the case for Morimoto – at least on the creative front. I asked him about his predictions for what to expect in the future – is the next project going to be another several-year endeavor? “Since I’ve been done with the album… making music has just been so much easier and faster.” He sounds like he’s just been freed from a narrative prison. “There’s a weird pressure to not release too much music or something… Like, how many albums does Beyonce have – five? She’s been around for so goddamn long! My friend and I were saying she should make a Soundcloud and be dropping shit every day!” He seems to regret the time and care he put into this album.
With my final question of our video chat interview, I asked Morimoto what he would have thought of this album as his 16-year-old punk rock drummer self. “I’d probably be into it” he admitted, “but I’d probably be embarrassed and wouldn’t tell anyone I was.” “Why?” I asked. He paused before elaborating, “Well at the time I was just making punk music, and like, bad raps. So I probably would’ve listened to it in headphones, not on speakers. I’m happy that that’s how I feel about it though. Because I think when you’re showing the most embarrassing side of you, you’re doing it right.” He finishes: “It just used to be embarrassing to put so much work into something.”
His hope for a Beyonce Soundcloud dump might suggest that he still feels that way. But just as any good art is embarrassing, so too is a life lived to its fullest. It’s the basis of a cycle with which Morimoto will certainly be forced to recon.