Local solo musician Sinclair Wheeler recently released a free mix tape titled Rhythm & Blues. On the surface, Wheeler (who raps and sings as an R&B/hip hop artist, in addition to playing both electric and acoustic guitar) might be compared to mainstream rap artist Lil Wayne, who (arguably) taught himself to play guitar on his renowned “rock” album Rebirth. Unlike Wayne, however, Wheeler carries many years of experience as a guitarist and songwriter. His sound is silkier and his lyrics are less toxic, while his charming demeanor and sultry subject matter remain on par with the swaggerful Weezy.
After a difficult summer in 2009, Wheeler pledged the next year to a more eclectic musical exposure and experience. “I vowed to myself that I was going to dive head first into the music scene in 2010,” he says. “This summer I attended my first music festival (Wakarusa on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, AR) and it was UNBEILIEVEABLE!” This revitalized passion for music, incited in part by the tolerant state of open-mindedness that is prevalent at festivals, is continuously evident from start to finish on Rhythm & Blues.
Opener “Bienvenidos” is a short three minutes, but makes a relevant pop culture reference (The way we live our life is something like Jersey Shore/ except a little more street because we rockin’ Dope Couture) before moving into a sampled beat from one of Wheeler’s favorite Brazilian guitarists, Rosinha de Valenca.
On the second song, “Unthinkable”, Wheeler’s guitar literally takes over singing responsibilities. Wheeler explains, “The song is something new I’m trying to play with. It’s by Alicia Keys and what I did was take the beat and try to mimic Alicia’s voice on my guitar.” Smooth, fluid rhythm and a sexy, lone guitar line make this a stand-out track, both on record and in a live performance.
The mix tape’s third song is called “PL”, an abbreviation for the artist Pretty Lights, whose work Wheeler remixes on the track. He calls out to the festival scene (Steppin’ outside in the middle of the night/ Don’t know if it’s the Molly, but I know it feels right/ Such a pretty moon. Such pretty stars/ Such a pretty sky. Such Pretty Lights) before dropping a recognizable, worked over Pretty Lights beat.
Chicago-based emcee Prob Cause makes an appearance on the mixtape for two consecutive tracks; first with the nostalgic homage to Chi-Town “Summer In The City”, followed by the raw and grimey dubstep tune “Blog Rap” which offers advice for aspiring artists: The music industry is changing. Change with it or you’ll get left behind. That’s why I need a blog, not a label.
“Out of Control” is one of the few pieces boasting all original beats and lyrics. Like many other subtle hints hidden sporadically throughout the album, this song references Wheeler’s discovery of the music festival scene and the effect it had on him. The chorus states:
“Out of Control”
“Forget About It” and “Hot Toddy (Remix)” both venture into a rougher sound that feels less like rhythm and blues and more like hardcore rap, but the crossing of musical boundaries and multi-genre appeal further adds to the credibility of the mix tape.
Wheeler hopes to release another mixtape before 2010 concludes. “It’s important in this day and age to provide fans with enough music to keep them engaged,” he says of today’s music-listening audience with uber-short attention spans. Wheeler continues, “Mike Posner gave me some advice and I plan on utilizing it to the max. He told me to ‘Make hot shit and give it away for free. Then tour, tour, tour.’”
Okay, so maybe the Weezy comparisons aren’t so out of line…