In 2018, Chicago teenager Ravyn Lenae had released three exciting EPs where R&B met neo-soul, her exploratory melodies and harmonies at once playful and beguiling. But just as the hype was building, the singer-songwriter seemed to disappear.
Four years later, this dropping off the radar turned out to be time spent crafting her debut album, Hypnos. Taking its name from the ancient Greek personification of sleep, the record operates in a woozy, sultry, dreamlike space, with gleaming production overseen by Chicago drummer Luke Titus. The likes of Kaytranada, Phoelix and long-term collaborator Steve Lacy help build a glimmering sonic galaxy full of vibrating basslines and strings that ripple like silk sheets.
The real standout is Lenae’s voice, a breathy, wispy falsetto that falls somewhere between Aaliyah, Janet Jackson and Nao and wields lightness like a superpower. Sometimes she is delicately searing, calling out ex-lovers for their disappointments (“I fucking hate you, don’t ever speak my name”, on Mercury); on 3D she coos sexily that she wants to take things slow “’cause I don’t need a boyfriend”.
By the end of Hypnos, Lenae is closing her eyes to make a wish, encapsulating the way the album brims with the boundless possibilities of the night. Whether she’s calling you to dance, to bed, or to fly through the stars, Ravyn Lenae’s cosmic debut proved worth the wait, full of slow-burning slow-jams that should become classics.