[March 30, 2016]
By Jake Feder
What do you get when you mix the infectious DJ Mustard sound with an incredibly clean sonic aesthetic from across the pond? Ella Mai and her breakout release, “Time EP.”
The recent 10 Summers imprint signee really struts her stuff on this project, utilizing impressive R&B vocals and brash social commentary that serves as an authentic window into the soul. She touches on seemingly played out subjects like bad boyfriends and getting lit in the club, but her maturely transparent bird’s-eye view of the aforementioned topics livens them up to the point of surface-level originality. Her admirable and almost surprising acceptance of patriarchal transgressions is highlighted on the borderline interlude, “Old Dog, New B*tch.”
She responds to a possible two-timer of a love interest by saying at one point, “Two can play the game, I ain’t tripping” (within the increasingly prevalent hook-up culture, this is perhaps a necessary outlook to have for males and females alike).
This is not to say that Mai has it all figured out, though; on the intro track, “Switch Sider,” her brain and her heart are at odds with one another. Despite the fact that her man is philandering all over the place, she can’t seem to cut him off, as exemplified by the start of the prehook: “I’m the one that’s holding you down/You the one that’s hoeing around.” She is at a crossroads between commitment and the pursuit of feelings and actions that come with attraction; whereas an individual in his or her later years would most likely value the former over the latter, she, like many youths, succumbs to the allusive promise of the latter.
Another excellent facet of this EP is the versatile presence of DJ Mustard beats. The LA native is already renowned for his distinct ratchet backdrops that inevitably turn into radio chart toppers, but he definitely works to show off his other musical faces. On “She Don’t,” for example, he brings in airy flutes and various other jazzy elements to complement his classic hard-hitting bass drops and bouncy snares; he contrasts this effort by incorporating house music elements like a Major Lazer-esque hook on “Don’t Want You.”
All this and more is why everyone needs to check out Ella Mai’s breakthrough work, “Time EP.” Look out for more content from the British songstress in the coming months.