Craig Northrup II doesn’t allow for a moment of craft complacency. Two years ago, he became iies — an artist who cam up in a revolutionary rap community that, in 2021, was still largely in its infancy. Since then, iies, has continued to grow alongside denver’s hip-hop community, both of which have morphed and redefined themselves. There is no end to their evolution. They can grow apart and together over and over, regardless of how big or small they are, and still this city will pave way for creative omnipotence.
The only thing stopping anyone here from doing what they want within the walls of a studio is themselves. And that’s not in the cards for iies. Recently, iies became a five-piece collective, made up of members who have performed alongside iies for months. Perhaps this past October’s release, “Homesickness.,” was a sign of yet another musical form — it’s a brilliant change of pace.
On “Homsickness.,” iies lets a faded memory rise from the ashes. with buzzing, underwater keys loop akin to Mulatu Astatke’s seminal record, “Tezeta (Nostalgia).” It’s an inherently distant arrangement. If the human mind’s compartment for nostalgia was played in a certain key, songs like this would be its background music. According to iies, this song “captures all of the magic of memories that we experience as we grow and inspires those to remember.”
The magical element of this song is hauntingly personal vocals by a triage of supporting cast members. Paul Jesse (whose 2023 EP Hello Paul Jesse, Pt. 1 deserves a bouquet of flowers) croons into the void with vocal reflection, not unlike popular works by James Blake. Soft spoken words by Kenny 6 fit into pockets of echoey instrumentation, and Hannah Davis brings it home with a deeply necessary moment of closeness on the backend of “Homesickness.”
iies is both composer and time-jumper on the record. His lyrics are scattered, not unlike a memory that jumps in and out of remembrance. But they’re delivered with intention — never a syllable wasted.
If this is so much a fraction of the sonic world iies can conjure from inspiration by days past and childhood playgrounds, lord knows what he can do with the future.
The iies collective performs at the Broadway Roxy 9 p.m.-1 a.m., February 24. Tickets are on sale here