The latest chapter in Lil Gohan’s planetary-themed tape series, Neptune might be his most accomplished to date. Like the icy planet that it takes its name from, the nine song project is vast, looming and comprised of many complex, atmospheric layers.

The Sounds of Love’ is the project’s intro, its glimmering beat masked by moaned, detached vocals that often sound as if they are transforming into something comprehensible, but instead fade out. The title of this track is apt, as love in itself is often a hard concept to express with words. When Gohan finally comes crashing in, his voice sounds incredibly full and it’s obvious that he’s reached a whole new level of ability with his singing. The rapper has proven himself to be a master of utilising autotune to enhance the emotional range of his voice, and the second song ‘Since I Met Her’ is no different. An extremely rich, flavourful track, it is also the first to bring in the lyrical themes of love and desire. The instrumental breakdown at the end of the track; which brings increased attention to the campy, joyful synths; is definitely a top moment in Gohan’s discography and a clear metaphor for the intense effect that love can have on a person’s emotions.

The third track ‘Symmetry’ has elements that are reminiscent of the shorter Asteroid on my Belt! project that dropped in May due to the return of both $aiko’s crystalline production and Gohan’s deeper, more passionate vocal tones. It’s definitely a standout song and will undoubtedly please long time Gohan listeners that have picked up on subtle musical deviations across his vast discography. The beat selection continues to impress, as on ‘Near’ the synths swell dramatically to compete with the waves of effects being thrown on top of Gohan’s increasingly dynamic vocal acrobatics. On the flipside, ‘Soul In Two/Curse, Pt. 2’ is a gorgeous R&B cut featuring some of the strongest melodic songwriting of the man’s career despite largely sticking to more traditional rap flows. There is a lot of versatility on Neptune, but every song is tied in to a narrative of heartbreak and reunion. The scope of the project is admirable, as it clear that Gohan has taken a lot of time to arrange this project in a way that is gratifying both sonically and lyrically.

There is no better example of bringing the best of these worlds together than on ‘Come Home’, the clear highlight of Neptune’s nine part odyssey. Self-produced (the first example of this that I have found in Gohan’s music), the song features warm, comforting vocals that express feelings of loneliness and desire ‘Some nights I feel so alone, so baby won’t you come home?’ he asks on the song’s hook. The use of a skit in the latter portion of the track is particularly impactful, it brings attention to the conceptual aspect of the track in a very sudden way. If it is the intention here to present to the listener a situation based on real-life relationship issues, then it is an enormous success.

The rapper himself informed me that the outro ‘Words from a Lover’ is actually the full version of ‘The Sounds of Love’ at a normal speed, and that the two tracks represent the first meeting between two lovers and their reconnection a lot later down the line. I think that this is such a relatable tale to almost anyone in this fast-paced, technology-oriented age that it will strike a chord with not only Gohan’s core fanbase but any lucky enough to tune into Neptune as their first experience of his musical journey. It is unknown whether this will be the final chapter of Gohan’s space adventure, but I fail to see how he can top this, as it’s easily his most diverse, well-fleshed out, ambitious tape to date. Absolutely essential listening for any fan of pop rap, plug, and the more atmospheric aspects of modern R&B.

Listen to the project in full here.

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