Listening to ℮ by Ecco2k is like joining a multiracial genderless metrosexual on their quest to consume as many psychoactive drugs as possible during a snowy Stockholm winter, all in the hopes of virtually (or actually) escaping to a warmer, more ethnically diverse, and less binary heaven. 2019’s ℮ was the first solo record by Ecco, born Zak Arogundade Gaterud, who has taken art-pop and contemporary R&B to the most beautiful places yet explored by Sweden’s Drain Gang, an independent cohort of Stockholm-based rappers, videographers, and producers.
Eerie soundscapes of dissonant chords, low-frequency synths, and crisp electronic drums are the perfect substrate for Ecco’s vulnerable exploration of the ways they were pushed into isolation because of their racial and gender identity. Growing up a biracial Swede of Nigerian descent, Ecco was a target of discrimination, forcibly sequestered into Sweden’s alternative and underground crowds. With some high school friends and a desire to emulate Chief Keef’s DIY internet rap style, Ecco embarked on a creative career that now spans the better part of a decade.
While Ecco’s whole body of work grapples with general themes of alienation, their first long-form musical LP familiarizes its listeners with Ecco’s personal struggles and experiences. As incredible as this album is sonically, it is also worth noting that Ecco is also involved in fashion (as both a designer and a model), music video direction, and visual art. The cover art is strictly black and white, which reinforces the idea of a binary, and the music video for the track Peroxide features Ecco alone on a dinghy in a wind farm, further underscoring the project’s messaging about isolation. Make no mistake though, this album is no pity party. ℮ is full of poeticism, themes of resilience, and the confidence that comes in realizing one’s true identity. Ecco’s debut LP e crystallizes a massive shift in the aesthetics of what a rap artist can be through its crossover of alternative rap and art pop. It is a project that is empowering in its vulnerability and its willingness to stick its nose up at the establishments that influenced its creator. Fans of alternative rap, art-pop, and techno will adore ℮, but all listeners will inevitably appreciate its inherent beauty. See Crest and PXE for further listening.