REVIEW: Smooth vocals, varied sounds dominate new Sleep Sinatra album

With a rap career heavily influenced by rappers of previous eras, like Mobb Deep and Wu Tang Clan, Lincoln-based rapper Sleep Sinatra dropped his fifth full-album, “Sources of Nature,” on April 9. On it, Sleep Sinatra raps to beats you won’t find on mainstream pop-rap, but rather in genres with smoother rhythms, more similar to jazz or R&B.

Sleep Sinatra formulates this project like an old school record, having both an “A” and “B” side, each containing five tracks. Every song on “Sources of Nature” features complex instrumentals accompanying whatever observation of the world around him he is trying to describe, switching up the pace enough for it to not get monotonous.

Introducing the album, side “A” begins with “Resurrection.” Energetic strings are the core sound at the start, and they grow stronger as the hi-hats and bass enter. From here, Sleep Sinatra uses the built-up energy to monologue a brief preface for the album and says that what he presents here isn’t “no run of the mill recycled s***,” but that it’s “intricately manufactured, quality product.” He claims this project is unfiltered and undiluted and hopes it gives the listener something to actually think about.

“Survivalist’s Theme” is where Sleep Sinatra shows he is one to keep on going, and he identifies what he goes through. Lines like “trauma got me high-strung, just know when I might snap out when you tryin’ (something) dumb” and “from all the death I’ve seen, I know my sight is numb” highlight what makes his life particularly difficult. But, through all of this, Sleep Sinatra realizes “this ain’t a game at all, I’ve been exchanging thoughts while remaining raw.”

Following an interlude and “A Fools Game,” the title track closes out the first half of the record with a dreamy and spaced-out beat accompanied by tongue-twisting lyricism. Rapped at top speed, it may require a few listens to get the full message of this song. But the gist of the song is clear enough — his path in music has been anything but a straight shot. Sleep Sinatra ensures that he remains humble on his way to the top in the last few bars of the song.

Side “B” crescendos the album, with each track sounding more grunge and distorted than the last. “Scanners” sets this off with a busy-sounding track intro and a wavy keyboard controlling the flow in the background. Rapper Flashius Clayton joins Sleep Sinatra on this track, and both of them banter back and forth with rhymes for the duration, with Flashius’ gruffness contrasting Sleep Sinatra’s smooth vocals.

Track number nine, “Generations,” is where the record really steps up its intensity, and not necessarily in a bad way. Though there are a lot of background sounds, the busyness works as long as the sounds don’t drown each other out. The concept of this song, much like the album, doesn’t hover any particular topic for too long but can be mostly narrowed down to recognizing the rat race that comes with any career and how the hunger for cash flow is a necessity.

“Blue Ruins” is the final song on the album, and it instantly tries to etch itself into the listener’s ears with immediate abrasiveness and layered vocals. Here, Sleep Sinatra seems to effortlessly transfer his lines from brain to mouth, talking about anything from smoking marijuana to how he leaves behind his personal demons for something greater than himself.

“Sources of Nature” is a wild ride, with Sleep Sinatra adding new elements to every track and not restricting himself to a singular sound. But just as wild as this album is, it’s equally slow enough to subtly head-nod to. This record is pleasantly distinctive and a perfect summer vibe, following life through the lens of a Lincoln up-and-comer — a perspective the music industry could use more of.