Near the end of “Whispers,” one of several standouts from Medhane’s new album Own Pace, a male voice arrives to offer a pep talk: “You don’t gotta try and keep up with nobody, bro. You just can’t stop, ya feel me?” It’s unclear if Medhane is talking to himself, or if another man is trying to encourage him, but the speech crystallizes the LP: He’s trying to stave off stress and self-doubt before they eat him alive.
Medhane is part of the same New York City rap scene that boasts names like MIKE, Pink Siifu, Caleb Giles, AKAI SOLO, and Slauson Malone. All of them unpack anxiety in alarming detail, wallowing in the muck in the search for something brighter. Through pitched-down soul samples and groggy flows, they make music that feels disoriented—like the walls are closing in. So while Own Pace may not break new ground, Medhane’s candor is still refreshing. On “Walk With Me,” he’s trying to find his purpose: “Holdin’ on been the hardest to do,” he groans. “Depression in my blood, you amused and I’m hurtin’, but I’m numb to it in person.”
For much of the album, Medhane tries to reconcile himself with his surroundings, the family he’s lost, and the so-called friends with ill intentions. He’s also in a strange purgatory: he’s on the verge of greater recognition, but no matter the strides, he doesn’t always believe he’s enough. The song “Grapefruit” is about embracing the darkness as a teachable moment; it only helps solidify his resolve for when the glory arrives. “Seeking solutions, confusion but my head high,” he declares. “Made a promise I would get mine … can’t hide when the rain come.” By the time concluding track “2020sht” arises, Medhane sounds more self-assured; the pensive grumble becoming a full-throated growl. “Future seem outrageous,” he says, “I’mma change it.”