It’s through learning the language of beat production that local hip-hop artist Hirow has found freedom in his own songwriting, and most recently, he’s articulated his own take on internet-foraged electro hip-hop with his new album, Hell is Empty Vol. 2.
Hirow’s journey with crafting songs began when he got into beat making and collaborating on others’ work after high school several years ago.
“I wanted to get into engineering vocals, because if somebody sent me stuff I wanted to be able to mix it for them,” he said. “I put my own vocals on the beats mainly just to learn how to mix them. I liked the process of the whole songwriting thing more than I thought I would like it, so I naturally gravitated toward it.”
On Vol. 2, Hirow has shaped a dark synth landscape similar to 2018’s Hell is Empty Vol. 1 — a reference to Shakespeare’s Tempest: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”
Descending into trippy filters and resurfacing with crowds of sound and detuned textures, Vol. 2 connects industrial hip-hop with tangents of soulful rhythm and blues tunes. The consistencies of the beats amplify or distort the vocals, displaying Hirow’s cohesive yet experimental style.
The first track, “Control,” starts mellow and moves to a harder beat, setting the tone for the rest of the album, he said, which has a certain type of aggression to it.
Inlaid with a haunting aesthetic, the song, “Found,” captures a self-aware stream of consciousness with lines like, “I don’t lie but don’t tell every truth / I control your mind just like the news” and “I just numb the pain when I’m in doubt / I didn’t want to make it trickle down.”
Outside of the electrical storm synth and bold lyrics on Vol. 2, Hirow retains an optimistic yet humble attitude toward making music.
“It’s just a matter of putting stuff out and liking what you do so you can keep going,” he said. “If you are doing it for the long run, you’ve got to stick to your true self and believe that it’s really going to work out. You can fail at everything else, you might as well attempt it.”
To him, if you approach the day-to-day with the idea that everything is doable or anything could happen, it helps you be open with yourself and not shrink away from sharing what you’re making. The artist’s way may be a lone road for the most part, but if you really love it, that within itself is perseverance.
“Just knowing that any day anything could happen, it’s such an ingrained part of me,” he said. “That’s the boat I’m in fully: just faith.”
The album release show for Hell is Empty Vol. 2 will be held at the Tin Roof on Feb. 18, which isn’t too shabby a way to start out a new year.
“2021 wasn’t too bad, I feel like I did a lot of learning,” he said. “2022 — I have really high hopes.”
Listen to the album on Spotify: