Image via Jack McKain/Instagram
The album artwork for YUNGMORPHEUS’s latest EP Burnished Sums came to the Miami-bred rapper as a revelation. Painted by LA artist Okey Ofomata, the image features a faceless, nearly nude man that is dragging a boulder-like object with Sisyphyean exertion. YUNGMORPHEUS first saw the painting that would become Burnished Sums at a gallery opening in LA hosted by Ofomata, the artist responsible for the cover art on the rapper’s recent respective tapes with Theravada and ewonee. Prior to the gallery showing, YUNGMORPHEUS already had been kicking around Burnished Sums as a possible title for his upcoming EP. It was seeing Ofomata’s painting – which was not officially displayed as part of the exhibit – that clarified the title’s deeper meaning for the rapper. YUNGMORPHEUS immediately claimed the work.
“To burnish something means to get it or rub it down to its truest core,” YUNGMORPHEUS said. “I was thinking about the things you acquire by going through that. Like what you can gain from going through that arduous process of really fucking trimming away the fat.”
Such an approach is perhaps reflected in the
Burnished Sums’s lean runtime at six songs and sixteen minutes. Despite the EP’s shorter length, YUNGMORPHEUS packs a hefty punch, eschewing hooks and choruses for straight-up verses that highlight his effortless flow and knack for beat selection. On “Figure-Four Leg Lock,” he offers biting assertions about his own come up as a rapper against the grim politics of the world around him. “Money the motive I mighta did it for some tokens / Pigs probably clap a brother just for a promotion,” he raps. The track samples soul singer Roy Scott’s 1971 song “The Prayer,” which prays for the violent demise of white supremacist and segregationist George Wallace. With beats from four producers and two guest spots, YUNGMORPHEUS takes full advantage of every second on the tape.
Ofomata’s Burnished Sums serves as the perfect visual metaphor for the title YUNGMORPHEUS had in mind. According to the rapper, the figure in the image and the exhausting toil they appear to be undergoing is representative of the physical difficulty demanded by creative excellence. It also speaks to a consistency in approach over time since music making – like dragging heavy objects by hand from A to B – is something that takes patience and time. The very notion of movement is essential to the music of YUNGMORPHEUS, whose first introduction to hip-hop was b-boying as a kid in Miami.
By his own definition, YUNGMORPHEUS has burnished his sound throughout 2022. In May, the rapper dropped BAG TALK DELUXE with Pink Siifu, an extended version of the duo’s 2019 collab tape of the same name. On the tape, YUNGMORPHEUS shows off his lyrical chops, going bar for bar with Siifu and matching wits with a guestlist of heavy hitters that includes the likes of Fly Anakin, AKAI SOLO, and Chuck Strangers. YUNGMORPHEUS followed up the deluxe LP with a pair of albums crafted by a single producer, releasing SLANG CASINO with Obijuan in July and Up Against the Wall; a Degree of Lunacy with rapper-producer Theravada in August. On both projects, YUNGMORPHEUS displays his chameleon-like ability to match the sonic backdrop of his collaborators while holding onto his own distinct voice.
Burnished Sums was the rapper’s fourth full length project of the year. It is also his first solo release with beats from more than a single producer, a decision that perhaps signals a career shift for the rapper towards further developing himself as a solo artist. “I think it was time,” the rappers said. “Come on over here now. Come into Morph’s world now. You enjoyed what you heard before? Now begins the canon.”
I had the opportunity to get on video call with YUNGMORPHEUS to talk about Burnished Sums, his b-boy years in Miami, and the evolution of his creative process. – By Ryan S. Kim