Toronto-based rapper and producer Sean Leon is on a mission to revive the city’s hip hop scene with something unconventional, futuristic and eclectic. Leon has skyrocketed into new sonic dimensions, juxtaposing hip hop with house, trap, and funk, with the release of “Sean Leon (The Death Of)”. From start to finish, the record plays like the film score to Leon's life, revealing his values, vices, and regrets. Coming in at 32 minutes and 16 seconds, Leon has carefully composed a single track that embodies the characteristics and quality of a high-calibre album.
The track starts off with glitchy, space-like synths that build up in suspense before shattering into endless reverberation. Organs quake the surface, and Leon invites listeners into his mind – a simulation where he is the protagonist. Instead of starting at the inception, he brings us to the final destination, the coffin. Leon welcomes us in as he narrates a recurring dream that’s been haunting him – the recounting of his life’s story. Soon enough, violins chime in, mourning over what is to come next. Get ready to settle in as Leon uncovers the journey that led up to this moment.
The death of Sean Leon.
The first round of the simulation begins. A funky beat starts on cue, backed up by the heightened pitch of Leon’s voice chanting, “I think I fell again,” – a quite fitting statement for the track as Leon’s voice floats curiously over the beat like a satellite orbiting in outer space. Leon reflects on what he did wrong over the course of his life saying, “I could have done better, I should have done better”.
A few minutes in, and the jaunt takes a sharp turn for a darker-toned trap track where Leon speaks of those he’s cut off along his journey. It’s a “me vs. me” dichotomy, but it’s a lot more complex than it seems. The song flows into a futuristic sounding hymn, complemented by the tenacious vocals of fellow Toronto musician, Adria Kain. At the 13-minute mark, Leon speeds it up, rapping swiftly over pan synths as he warns the audience with a lesson he has personally learned, professing that, “Flexing for the new chain might put you on the food chain”.
Leon then shows off his multifaceted musical prowess as he jumps headfirst into a hypnotic go-go beat. The track slows down for a peek into Leon's old conversations over an urban jazz soundtrack before sailing into the smooth cooing of electric guitars. Its aura is an intoxicating medley of blissful memories, mixed with the sadness of what could have been. The tender strings contrasted with Leon’s voice reverberating hypnotically over the track brings to mind the signature experimental sound of Frank Ocean. The music cuts and we hear Leon lamenting with a female acquaintance.
Somber piano arrangements come in for the last episode in this simulation. Leon speaks of the internal and external struggles that plague his mind, from domestic turmoil to police brutality, singing, “they don't love you till you gone,” acapella-style with Adria Kain. Leon’s muffled thoughts end off the half-hour long track, as he slowly comes to terms with his senses. Leon recounts his dream – what he has seen, heard and felt along this mystic jaunt. He tries to figure out if he really was the main character in this simulation, as he explains over hazy layers, “Every time I get close enough to see, every time I get close enough to know, to be absolutely certain…I wake up,” just as the track ends.
“Sean Leon (The Death Of)” is the peak of creativity in Toronto. Sean Leon’s idiosyncratic musical style is here and it’s here to stay.