Arin Ray floated into his 2018 debut album with the verse, “Sometimes I really lose my patience.” Considering how he tapped into our "hidden emotions" on Platinum Fire, we could really relate to that statement in anticipation for the next project.
But no more "Stressin," we’ve got what we have all been eagerly waiting for in the form of Ray's 15-track sophomore album, Hello Poison. Ray is well received in the R&B community for his euphonious infusions of neo-soul, hip-hop and contemporary jazz, creating tracks that have you swaying and singing all at once, energised but in your feels.
The Cincinnati born serenader’s protean nature is unsurprising, however, considering the legacy left by his percussionist father, church chorister mother, and an aunt who spent her career as a vocalist for Marvin Gaye. "A new bounce with an old-school feel," is how Ray describes his art, and we cannot disagree. With "Communication," featuring Shelley FKA DRAM, and "Fuck Y’all," featuring SiR, as our Arin Ray gold standard, does Hello Poison represent the continuance of a rise to the top of R&B? To keep it succinct, we have decided to highlight a couple of tracks and delve into our favourites on the project.
Released prior to the album with a visual as sensual as the hit record itself, "Gold" is best described by Ray himself like a "classic Issa Rae" scene. The aforementioned star of HBO’s hit show Insecure has provided viewers with some of television's raunchiest scenes and "Gold" creates erotic imagery comparable to such. Ray emphasises his desire to savour the first time with a special someone, and "Gold" symbolises just that. Woozy wordplay is layered over a smooth yet full-bodied bassline, which compliments the intense sexual ambience that the R&B star builds on with his account of the scene. "Gold" is a song that everyone’s going to want in that evening playlist. Come on… We all have one. Right?
Moving on… It just has to be addressed, how can a Brandy complimented Terrace Martin instrumental get any better? Well, Arin Ray! Need we say more? "Storm" discusses the turbulence of a romance, but in a juxtaposing fashion provides a relaxing mantra-like experience. One may conclude a different perspective, but for us, this track provides a remembrance that tough times pass, whilst providing encouragement to persevere. "Storm" is a listen for the soul, providing satisfaction in its recruitments, message and angelic ad libs.
Our pick for song of the album comes as a contender for the best outro we’ve heard in recent times. Ascension to a higher realm feels possible the moment "Nothing’s Forever" begins. Paradisical instrumental served with an indulgently rich bassline, can only be topped with the finest of garnish and that comes in the form of the familiar silky rhythm that Ray provides. But sensual seduction doesn’t end there, with Ray’s final message on the project recruiting the chimerical veteran that is Ty Dolla $ign and the mellifluous vocals of Rose Gold. Our first listen found us entranced by what felt like endless waves of melody. But like your favourite dessert, you have to have seconds to feel satisfied, and to get into the lyrics we did just that (Okay… maybe we didn’t stop at seconds).
As the track's title would suggest, Ray and Ty address the end of a serious romance.
“No more regrets to take with me” concludes a short but nectarean chorus, epitomising the substratal message as one that—despite tones of loss and heartache—is of acceptance. The damage caused is acknowledged and attempts to repair have been made, secrets have been told; and despite "Nothing’s Forever’s" emotional intensity, a sense of being at peace with whatever outcome arises can be felt. The epilogue of this melody and entire project concludes with the lines, "It's poison. It’s Truth. Thank you." Thus, Ray alludes to the verses curated for Hello Poison to have derived from his reality, suggesting his sophomore album’s headline is a confrontation of his own predicaments.
Out for just over a month but already firmly in our favourites for 2022 so far, Hello Poison has a lot to offer and it seems Arin Ray hasn’t fallen victim to the sophomore curse that haunts many. The influence his family talent provides and the tough times he has alluded to in the past have undoubtedly contributed to the passion and desire that can be heard in every track. With Platinum Fire and Hello Poison as your first two albums, one must look to the future and combine both titles… Hello Platinum? You never know, if anyone has the ability to reach such heights, then Arin Ray has to be in the conversation.
FYI: If you’re already looking for more Arin Ray for your ears, then look no further than Terrace Martin’s "This Morning," featuring the man himself and another rising star – St. Louis’ very own – Smino. Enjoy.