Every story worth hearing hits deeper than words on the page. For Trap Wave pioneer M Huncho’s debut album, this latest phase arrives with a new aesthetic (see: a mask designed by Louis Vuitton skateboarder and British designer Lucien Clarke), hang-me-in-a-gallery artwork (painted by acclaimed British illustrator Reuben Dangoor) and a charged-up motivational reload.
“Mental health can happen at any moment and for me, lockdown was that point,” explains Huncho. “But I came out of that moment stronger and so motivated that I don’t need motivation for another god knows how many years. I came out and told my manager I’m doing this, this, this, this – put all the pressure in the world on my shoulders.”
First came sessions with a team of cherry-picked producers, where Huncho armed secluded studio sessions with a catalog of classic albums with the help of executive producers QuincyTellEm and Niall from his management team. J Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive because of the content – “what he’s talking about, the pictures he’s painting.” Future’s Dirty Sprite 2 for the instrumentals. Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for the gruesome, replayable rap beats. The list goes on: Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.a.a.D City, Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. Gunna’s Drip Season 3… classic upon classic.
Gone are the days of pulling beats from producer’s bags and YouTube for Huncho. Instead each beat on this album was created solely for this album, all arriving from the camps Huncho set-up.
“We had the album artwork up on the wall. From each of those records we took something we loved, put them all in a blender, then mixed them up and drank the juice,” he explains. “’Then we’d go through the beats with the producers and make something from scratch.”
The purpose of the curated sound design was “to sweep people off their feet – for people to say I’ve never heard this type of music come from the UK.” But between soaking up the influence of generation defining albums at nightly studio sessions came another mission: to open up. About family business (“I’ve got a song for my unborn daughter and my unborn son”), being haunted by ghosts (on “Vivid”) and cruising through life’s forever-shifting circumstances. Hence the name Chasing Euphoria – which represents the positive and negative connotations of searching for a life filled with happiness, security and positive well-being.
“The one message that always makes me ponder is when someone says ‘your music saved my life,” says Huncho. “What did they listen to that made them change how they live? This record became about letting people in and showing them there’s no difference between me and you – we’re both human beings.”
Personal and artistic growth is the life force that powers Chasing Euphoria. As a result, Huncho felt it right to create a new mask for this new era, to represent his evolution into a new person. To do this, he and designer Lucien Clarke looked toward Japan and samurai art. “The idea of being a samurai – untouchable and feared – resembles me in beast mode,” he explains of the new mask’s enhanced design, adorned with Lucien’s textbook white marker Sharpie writing. “It represents growth, motivation, fearlessness – and that I’m here to take everything. I want my flowers.”