Artist: Mother Nature
Album: Mother Nature EP
Release: April 1, 2016
Our Take: “Buy It”
The biggest question for the Champaign-Urbana music scene heading into 2016 was whether Mother Nature‘s debut EP would live up to the hype the hip-hop duo has earned itself throughout the last half of 2015. Klevah and T.R.U.T.H, the pair that make up Mother Nature, have each established themselves in their own rights with individual releases over the years, but nothing has come close to the buzz they made after debuting their collaboration at the Pygmalion Music Festival last September. Instantly, Mother Nature’s stature within the scene and whether or not they would outgrow it became a pertinent topic of discussion.
The long-awaited debut is finally rolling out this Friday with a release show at The Accord in downtown Champaign. It was announced earlier this week that the self-titled EP would be released via Heirship Records, giving Champaign-Urbana scene a further stake in the project’s early months. But after more than half a year of waiting for a full take of what Mother Nature would be like in the studio, the pressure behind its release had to be growing. It’s a make or break it test, despite the fact the pair of emcees have proven themselves time and time again on stage.
On the eight-track release, Mother Nature unfolds into discussions of social equality with a mantra that doesn’t tip-toe around what’s on their minds. Klevah and T.R.U.T.H aren’t afraid to speak up, especially as women of color in what has been undoubtedly some of the most tense years for equality in the past few decades in America and Champaign County. “We know some shit’s gotta’ change,” the two emcees tandemly profess within the first few bars of the EP. And the mere mention of Mother Nature as one of the best, if not the best, artists in Central Illinois right now proves things are starting to.
Mother Nature’s attitude extends beyond stepping up lyrically to societal barriers, though. The duo has resonated so well with the Champaign-Urbana music scene because it’s something it hasn’t seen in a long, long time. Klevah and T.R.U.T.H clutch onto a deservedly sure attitude in their performance, leaving any form of self consciousness far behind them while they step up and let you know they’re ready for the spotlight that is so clearly waiting for them to shine under, and you can hear the pair’s comfort throughout their debut EP.
When it comes to performing, especially hip-hop, the thin line between an artist’s total comfort and their timidness becomes something like a mountain between a good emcee and a god awful one. This is where Mother Nature doesn’t wait for the spotlight to come over them. Instead, this is where they bask under it, arms extended, and scream, “WE’RE HERE.” You can hear it throughout the EP in Klevah’s enthusiastic and genuine energy after each bar she lets out, and where T.R.U.T.H. raps smoothly within the confines of each beat and manipulates its speed and flow. On “Tweakin,” T.R.U.T.H is at her best, controlling the track like an audible massage. It’s not always apparent where each melody is heading in her portions of the track, but there’s an unspoken pact that makes you to trust exactly where she’ll take the next line. The track instantly stands out from its predecessors on the EP, not only because of its crisp beat but by the way Mother Nature changes the mood without jarring you or leaving you to question where the aggression in the first few tracks went — it’s there, just maturely molded to fit a new level.
It wouldn’t be surprising for Mother Nature to have half its tracks named in a number of Illinois publications’ top-10 lists by the end of the year. There’s nearly an entire EP to choose from, with “Tweakin,” “Afro,” “Hooky” and “Michael Jackson” standing at the top of the class. The quality of the songs on this EP haven’t been in question leading up to its release, but how they translated from a live setting to the studio was. Producers F.W.Y.T.A.I. and Rokmore (The Gr8Thinkaz) combined to help push Mother Nature’s sound into the stratosphere, with help from James Treichler’s post-production mixing. Tracks like “Mother Nature” — the duo’s self-boasting anthem — marches with an energy that matches that of the pair’s live shows over the past year. The triumphant beat speaks louder about the EP than you can possibly turn its volume. It shows just how serious Mother Nature took the process of recording it right and just how much artistic proficiency backs the project, from its emcees to its producers.
Mother Nature has left venues buzzing and crowds clamoring after each performance since debuting last year and each show has snowballed into the next, making Klevah and T.R.U.T.H’s project more of a local revolution than a flash in the pan. This EP is the next rung on a ladder Mother Nature should be racing up to see where it leads them. While the collaboration is still young, its momentum has been inclining consistently since its birth, which is the real news peg here. If there’s anything you take from Mother Nature’s debut, it’s that this isn’t another trending moment in the scene. Mother Nature isn’t showing any signs of fizzling out and it’s about time you pay attention if you haven’t been.
Klevah and T.R.U.T.H didn’t just put out an EP that will give them a few pats on the back and a “good job.” It’s an EP that will be remembered in Champaign-Urbana for years and surely, barring any surprises, is one that’s already sitting comfortably in contention for the best CU release of 2016 just three months into the year. But this isn’t a surprise to most. The coming of Mother Nature’s debut was more for affirmation of what’s been unfolding in a live setting over the past few months. The EP won’t do much to change the perceptions of anyone who’s seen the duo perform around the twin cities since 2015. Now, the only difference is the verdict’s finally in: Mother Nature’s here to stay and it’s nothing short of great news.