Neon-tinted lyrics slash through the darkness as the lyric video for “Emoji,” the new single by Alex Dutty, gets started, and while simply designed with the basic goal of giving us a righteous opportunity to sing along to this sleekly appointed hip-hop gem, there’s nothing ordinary about this visual experience, nor the song that it sources its soundtrack from. Joined by Black Rose on vocals, Dutty issues one of his most balladic rap jams so far in “Emoji,” and furthermore, continues to establish himself as one of the most reliable players in the genre with yet another indie smash.
Alex Dutty has evolved so much as an artist in the last half-decade, and anyone who has been keeping up with his professional journey will instantly recognize his growth here in even the most cursory of listens. He seems so relaxed, confident and in his element in “Emoji,” and to some extent, more in-tune with his organic artistry than he has ever been in the past. Together with Black Rose, he drives home one of the most elaborate harmonies of the season in this track, all while making it look effortlessly easy from begging to end.
The beats here are pretty aggressive, but the rhythm itself is very smooth and unassuming when compared to the direct nature of the vocal track. When juxtaposed, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in music theory to hear the difference in tempo between the instrumentation and Alex Dutty’s urban croon, but thanks to the evenly distributed melody created from the synth and the keys in the background, the song never descends into complete discord and chaos. “Emoji” is compositionally as multidimensional as what one would expect to find in a classical symphony, and it exploits the diverse tonality of its star singers beautifully.
I really like the way that this track was mixed; while riddled with eccentricities that are reminiscent of Wyclef Jean’s more experimental stuff, there’s nothing overindulgent here to smother the finer points in the song in needless frills. The texture of the music is preserved as to give us the same chill-inducing experience that we would have when seeing Alex Dutty live in concert, minus the rousing addition of crowd noise of course. Listening to this single definitely makes me wonder how much of this magic translates to the stage environment, because if even a tenth of the dynamic presence Dutty and Black Rose share here were to carry over to a live setting, theirs would be a show that I wouldn’t want to miss out on.
2019 has brought some really moving hip-hop to my desk thus far, but “Emoji” is unquestionably among the cream of the crop. Alex Dutty and Black Rose are a match made in heaven in this song, and I really hope that it doesn’t mark the last time that they share the studio together. Based on the strength of this material, they could easily produce an entire album of striking tracks as a pair, but for the time being, this single is definitely the best collaboration that either artist has participated in to date.