Vancouver's IAMTHELIVING and Teon Gibbs Put a Soulful Spin on Heady Themes on 'JNGL'
Published Jun 02, 2021The streets of South London and the savannahs of Botswana couldn't be more different, but from these two distant places comes a unique and exciting new musical collaboration. Rian Peters, a.k.a. IAMTHELIVING, grew up in South East London and was absolutely charmed by the sounds of classic soul and R&B artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder before following his destiny to the West Coast of Canada. Teon Gibbs was born in Botswana and also eventually settled in Vancouver after moving around the globe through most of his upbringing. It was in Vancouver that Gibbs and Peters connected, discovered shared musical passions, and decided to collaborate on their fantastic new EP, JNGL. The EP showcases both performers' magnetic charisma and, through the album's five tracks, a thoughtfulness that you rarely find with such young creatives.
When Peters sings, "Tell me can you feel it?" right at the top of the EP's lead track, "Puppa," you would be lying if you said you couldn't. The production is a blend of head-bopping beats courtesy of producer Cheap Limousine and Peters' buttery vocals. On its own, that seems like it would be enough to guarantee the track would soar, but when Gibbs breaks through with his first verse, it sends the proceedings into the stratosphere. His flow is something special, perfectly complementing Peters' vocal style and adding some extra heat to an already spicy track.
The duo are not just content to make you want to dance, though. Throughout the EP, they address topics like addiction ("Translation"), race ("Where Do We Go from Here") and environmental concerns, but they tackle these heady issues without sacrificing any of the record's bounce. Combining both their natural ability at blending serious themes with soulful tracks makes the EP considerably more engaging. It's this thoughtfulness that sets these two apart from many of their contemporaries and makes you realize how impactful this pairing is. Album highlight "Distance" wouldn't feel out of place in Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' repertoire. The filtered hi-hats and Peter's irresistible soprano have that throwback quality, but Gibbs keeps things entirely in the now with his surefire rap artistry.
Vancouver isn't typically known as a hotbed of hip-hop and R&B, but with Gibbs' and Peters' respective solo work and their collaboration on JNGL, that should change soon. At only 17 minutes, the EP does feel a bit short, but that is mostly because the duo are adept at keeping everything moving at a brisk pace — it's all so good that it's hard not to feel slightly sad that there isn't more to dig into.
The pairing of these two talents — with not only great songs and production, but also a willingness to go to places that most artists would be afraid to — makes JNGL a collaboration that we hope happens again in the future. (Tiny Kingdom)