A lot of artists make music with the goal of appealing to others, fitting in with whatever’s popular at the moment, or simply to make money. For Chicago duo Mother Nature, it’s deeper than that. The duo met in 2011 at the University of Illinois and founded a nonprofit that runs a music-based youth development program that has helped hundreds of kids, and their connection to hip-hop drives the creative process.

On their new mixtape SZNZ, out now on Closed Sessions and produced entirely by labelmate BoatHouse, Mother Nature’s ethos and energy is in full effect. Speaking on the project, Mother Nature issued a statement: “We seek to awaken our communities to acknowledge and replace the consumption of death and low vibr8tional frequencies that cause ills and confusion, particularly within our youth. Through SZNZ, Mother Nature brings a balance to the mainstream airways and platforms, cutting thru clones and rebuilding the foundation of true hip-hop culture.”

The intention is laser-focused, but it doesn’t limit the sonic world that Mother Nature is creating. From the euphoric “CLOUDZ” with Sir Michael Rocks to the ominous “GOOFIEZ” featuring Valee to the knocking “GEMZ,” this project is forward-thinking and consistently left of center, a far cry from anything reminiscent of a throwback. It’s proof that a solid foundation offers endless potential for building and rebuilding.—Jacob Moore

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