By Izzy Yellen
In the midst of LU-aroo festivities and end-of-year business, senior Romelle Loiseau, also known as Darnell Smitherson, released his first album “New State Usual.” After completing a few extended plays and playing many live shows, he uses the album as a culmination of his feelings at Lawrence in a music form. He recorded, rapped and produced the whole album by himself, save for the tracks that featured guest rappers, singers and producers.
After a couple listens, I can say the album is really growing on me. The album is dense and there is a lot to take in, so it requires more than one listen. Loiseau tackles many subjects in the duration of the album—intrapersonal, national and universal.
The first song, “New State Usual: Sanction,” and “A.T.S.P.” capture both the essence and overall sound of the album, Loiseau shared. The former introduces many of the lyrical themes prevalent throughout “New State Usual,” such as race, identity and development.
“A.T.S.P.” encapsulates the often-chill demeanor and variety of sounds used in the beats. There is a lot to the instrumentals, not just percussion and bass. The song also contains interesting bits and pieces of narrative, concluding with the titular mantra, “all things shall pass,” emphasizing the hope he has.
The immediate contrast from “A.T.S.P.” to “1,000 Words” was one of my favorite moments in the album. While both the vocals and beats in “A.T.S.P.” are subdued for the most part, “1,000 Words” is anything but that. Produced by one of his guest artists, it is fast moving, exciting and chaotic. It also features a spoken word approach as opposed to rapping, providing another contrast to the rest of the album.
These were just a few highlights in the hefty 19-track album, but there were many more incredible moments. However, the best part of “New State Usual” to me was not the music, but how personal it was. Loiseau really put himself out there with the content of this album, baring all—his frustrations, emotions and hope, among other things.
After listening to the album, I had a chance to talk to its creator about his influences, how Lawrence helped him and the album in general. This opened my ears and eyes even more to his genius and talent.
For one thing, I got to see how Lawrence helped him record and create the album. When asked about how the school helped physically, Loiseau said, “Lawrence gave me the resources I needed,” in reference to SOL Studios. Without their equipment and booth free to students, he would not have been able to record the album, at least not until he could afford to do so himself.
“It [being at Lawrence] made me feel enough emotion to channel into a 19-track product” he shared regarding the sentiments he felt while at school here—both good and bad. “It makes me happy, it makes me upset, it pisses me off … there’s so much to talk about. And I feel like I got just a little piece of it, but Lawrence definitely gave me that experience.”
With so much going on in the world and so many current events being talked about at Lawrence, the facts are hard to avoid. Loiseau felt this and instead of just reacting the way most students do by talking about the issues, he made an album to share his perspective.
As for his plans after graduation, he will be taking a year off to relax and see where the album takes him. As he puts it simply, “Family and music for the next year.”
However, don’t fret if you want more music from him. He says to keep on the lookout, because there will definitely be more. “I’m a man who has feet that never stop moving,” he made clear. He’s always working on something, so stay tuned.
“New State Usual” by Darnell Smitherson is on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.