At 19 years old, Tunji Ige is a quintessential Renaissance man: he's currently a sophomore at West Chester University studying communications and, in his "spare" time, he's cemented himself as one of the most promising up-and-coming artists. The producer/singer/rapper dropped an overwhelming, slick track "Bitches In a Sports Car Pt. 2" back in May, and followed up with the far more ethereal "Kingdom" but it was on "Day2Day" (featuring Wonda) that Ige's catalog, and career, started to take off—then came the Michael Christmas and iLOVEMAKONNEN remix.
From there, Ige has perfected a suburbs to street, teenage perspective on life, love, and angst with his music, which he has now packaged into The Love Project, a 13-track album entirely self-produced. The idea behind the project was to simply dictate things he's encountered in his life: "teenage angst, heart break, and common issues of a young black teenager in 2014 and juxtapose these themes with a gritty, street hip-hop album." Over the last two years, Ige put all of his own experiences into the project. "I wanted to use vocabulary, slang and phrasing that would be understood by this demographic," Ige tells Complex. "The art represents this young hero of hip-hop who is here to save it. So many times over the recent years theres pivotal albums that appeal to one crowd—I wanted this to appeal to all and with this in mind, I had the idea to make a song in every realm of hip-hop. I wanted a simpy love-dovey title—The Love Project—to be the hardest rap album of the year."
Ige pulls inspiration from different environments he's lived in, and friends he's had—from Section 8 housing to the suburbs to, as he calls them, "downtown street hipsters too people who eat kale and listen to pop punk." "I feel with rappers whose agenda isn't targeting the streets, we are written off as white washed or corny and it's not the case of this album," Ige says. "I wanted this to have an impact and not aim to be just the best within my age realm but the competition. Established rappers—I want to scare them."
He recorded the entire album in his basement and home and dorm room at West Chester University with no budget, no label, and no press prior to tracks released this year. Instead of dropping a mixtape, Ige has perfected an album as a piece of art. "Emotion through every song and also to document a time in my life," he says. "The music was always a muse to escape and express. This is only the beginning."
As mentioned, The Love Project is the full package beyond the music, complete with a stunning booklet filled with Renaissance imagery that shows a rise, fall, and rebirth, along with images of love-related symbols. You can scroll through the booklet above and read an explanation of it below:
"For instance, we see an image of the mythical Icarus after he's fallen to earth after flying too close to the sun. The Caravaggio painting of the beheading signals the shift on the album from lighter songs to darker ones, and leads into Tunji's final statement, 'The Ex Song.' To contrast these images, certain pages show modern items vacuum sealed on a white background, almost like time capsules of each item. The combination of renaissance images and modern ones creates a visual spectrum for the viewer, similar to the mix of classic sounds and modern ones on the album."
Stream The Love Project below and catch Ige at Pigeons & Planes' No Ceilings event this month. Details here.