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Feux - 'Opal Blues' review: ethereal explorations of mental health and happiness

Feux - 'Opal Blues' review: ethereal explorations of mental health and happiness

‘Opal Blues’ is the mark of an artist willing to disturb the clichés of modern rap.

Feux is a visionary. Not many artists can truly champion independence from label executives, managers and agents, but he can. The rapper’s come a long way since making the brave decision to drop out of university and take music seriously. ‘Life?’, a compelling single which chronicles this period, is his most streamed to date, laying the foundations for a sound that steers away from conventional hip-hop tropes and towards a multiplicity of genres. 2021’s EP ‘Dubious’ delivers Feux’s stream of consciousness over medicinal beats, re-imagining the likes of boom bap, indie and R'n'B into one. Since his last release, the wordsmiths only got bigger, and as ‘Opal Blues’ recalls, the journey has taken its toll on him mentally. If Feux’s previous projects saw him coming of age, ‘Opal Blues’ addresses his concerns with finding out and accepting who he truly is.

His debut album, ‘Opal Blues’, marks a definitive step in Feux’s discography. Countless eps and mixtapes can be found on his streaming profiles but the fluidity of this record and its subject matters makes it feel more tangible than others. Fans are taken on a journey through his psyche and plunged deep into the artist's internal pursuit of happiness. “What am I waiting for?” he shrieks in dulcet tones on ‘Moonstone’, “remember you aren’t alone, bro” he reassures on the title track: this juxtaposition between self-suppression and empowerment is cleverly explored throughout.

‘Devil, Be Gone’, one of the album’s many highlights, calls for peace as he begins to acknowledge the complexity of his subconscious. Combined with whirring melodies and a deft guitar break, the opening vocal collage is unnerving, and until Feux assures us he is “trying to be the best that he can”, the atmosphere remains this way. Alluding to both his mental health and artistic endeavours, the track sees Feux express a rare moment of braggadocio. “Think about the shit I’ve made, most of these man can’t make, and I’m like half their age, and still I’m not taking no breaks” he raps fiercely, acknowledging the drive that’s been both the source of his success and sadness.

Further into the project, more sombre cuts like ‘Ameour’ display the baggage that comes with loving other people but being unable to love yourself. In this quest for contentment, he finds "Opal", who begins to guide him through the dark and into brighter days, but the rapper still finds it difficult to appreciate his own existence. Ray guns zap through the lucid trap beat whilst bilingual verses tumble over Feux's medley of harmonies.

It feels like a disservice to keep pulling out singular tunes as 'Opal Blues' flows well in its entirety. Tracks like ‘Nights’ and ‘Salamander’, however, have serious replay value outside of the record’s narrative. Produced by Mac Mantra and Yogic, the latter’s Kaytranada-esque beat is dangerously catchy. Feux and 5EB make full use of the instrumental’s modern funkadelia, spitting multi-flow verses boldly to inject some energy into the album’s ending and bid adieu to the listener.

On 'Opal Blues', Feux remains aware of his vision but considers the mental challenges that have come with his journey thus far. It’s easy to forget that artists are human beings, and the fear of being unable to fulfil one’s pursuit of happiness can affect the veneer of confidence they often hyperbolise. Sounding more assured of his art than ever before, ‘Opal Blues’ is the mark of an artist willing to disturb the clichés of modern rap.

Written by Liam Cattermole (@liam_cattermole)

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