The Internet were “never supposed to be a group,” according to co-founder Matt Martian. Luckily they stuck it out. On this third album of beautifully crafted, genre-defying R&B-soul, Martian and fellow Odd Future producer Syd tha Kyd – plus musicians Patrick Paige II, Christopher Allan Smith, Jameel Bruner and Steve Lacy – have moved on from the cosmic soul and drug-referencing jams of their 2011 debut, Purple Naked Ladies, to Ego Death’s Grammy-nominated, groove-led musings on love and lust.
In a year full of exceptional R&B releases, all looking to push the genre beyond musical and lyrical stagnation, the Internet brazenly proves itself worthy of inclusion with their deeply personal, expertly executed Ego Death. Opening with Syd tha Kyd cooing the coolly confident lines, “Now she wanna fuck me,” the Internet’s Ego Death wastes no time in showing itself to be a refreshingly modern take on the usual R&B lyrical tropes. Positioning herself as a sort of postmodern, 21st century Teddy Pendergrass or Marvin Gaye, Syd works the microphone like she’s whispering in a lover’s ear, adopting the traditionally male role and, in so doing, turning the very notion of the music on its ear.
Matt Martians' design for Ego Death asserts that the Internet, which the producer co-pilots with singer/songwriter and producer/engineer Sydney Bennett, should be considered a band, not a duo. The names of the additional four -- keyboardist Jameel Bruner, guitarist Steve Lacy, bassist Patrick Paige II, and drummer Christopher Allan Smith -- along with those of numerous associates and guest artists, appear throughout the credits of the Internet's third and best album. While part of the appeal of Purple Naked Ladies and Feel Good was in their off-the-cuff and unassuming qualities, some of the songs verged on sketches and happenstance tangents that merely evoked a chemically enhanced and/or intimate mood.
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) is a group that brings about an immediate reaction. Whether the undying admiration of their legions of super fans or the visceral hatred expressed by many who see the band as violence-inciting misogynists, one thing is true, people have an opinion about Odd Future. But many of these opinions are focused on rappers Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler.
On the most recent episode of their podcast, The Music Snobs asked if the Internet are the only band moving R&B forward. Much debate and dissection followed, but what was never questioned was the validity of that initial assertion. This is because the Internet are doing something different from their peers, while also taking cues from groups of yesteryear.
The renewed critical interest in soul and R&B music that sprung up around the rise of Miguel, Frank Ocean, and the like over the last four years has helped award some much-deserved prestige on the form after years of undue neglect, but the push broke as much as it fixed. The music commands more respect now, but the accolades are disproportionately showered on a boy’s club of talented, offbeat songwriters circuitously linked together under the banner of "alternative R&B" by little else than the fact they all had very good albums out the same year. "Alt-R&B" isn’t just circuitous, though; it’s not real.
The Internet spawned from the Odd Future gold rush of the early 2010s. Core members Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians both played integral parts in the founding of the hip-hop collective before branching off to form their own jazz/soul/R&B project in 2011. That offers two lenses through which to view The Internet: They’re a group that draws relevance from past accomplishments while experimenting in other genres, or they’re one of the most engaging and well-rounded projects to come from a collective whose members have seen plenty of success.
Smoky bedrooms and stale airport terminals set the vibe for the third LP from the Internet, the Los Angeles funk crew fronted by singer, songwriter and lovelorn Casanova Syd tha Kyd. Over 12 warm, spacey tracks, Syd reappropriates the satin romanticism of classic Seventies soul for 21st-century girls who want to be with girls. She's got help from an impressive guest list of rising left-field stars: Janelle Monáe sends "Gabby" spiraling into a mournful waltz, while Syd's Odd Future pal Tyler, the Creator kicks off the kind of block party that dreams are made of in "Palace/Curse." The best tracks fade away into gravity-defying instrumental outros that make Syd's heartache feel sublimely serene.
Right from the beginning, “Ego Death,” the third album by the Internet, radiates confident lust. On the opening song, “Get Away,” the singer Syd tha Kyd talks about what it’s like to be an object of desire when you’re somewhere between the modest past and the success of an uncharted tomorrow. From the outside, she’s living “a life of luxury, models in my money trees,” but the reality is more relatable: “I’m still driving ’round in my old whip/Still living at home got/issues with my old chick.” As she feels her way to seduction even in these humble circumstances, the music behind her is aquatically soothing, communicating a sort of erotic safety.