Spiritual songwriter and rapper’s music is at once soulful and abrasive – listen to newly released Virtuous now
Adolphus Ennūi’s music veers between harshness and softness, tenderness and abrasiveness – yet even at its heaviest, it’s always soulful. “I like setting moods,” Adolphus says, as we drive further into the hills of Holmfirth, Yorkshire, towards the forest chosen for today’s photoshoot and interview. “I’m never consciously trying to make a hard-hitting rap song, or a dreamy lullaby – it’s more a mood I want to translate.”
Raised in Huddersfield before relocating to nearby village Holmfirth, Adolphus started to make music initially to get away from his quiet conservative surroundings. Growing up with a close-knit group of likeminded friends, each with a love of music and art, it was only time before Ennui started crafting his own work.
Ennui’s work can only be described as endearingly hypnotic, ambient rap; there’s a celestial undercurrent to the music, manifested in track ‘It Always Rains Here,’ as well as Ennūi’s earthy vocals and melodic guitar hooks. “I wouldn’t say I’m massively religious, but I do think that spirituality is important to keeping yourself balanced.”
Intrigued, I spoke to Ennūi ahead of the release of ‘Virtuous,’ discussing his bourgeoning love of rap, growing up in rural Yorkshire, and music as a healing power.
Your work has a sound suggestive of certain artists; who are your influences and how did you begin?
Inspiration wise, the first few rappers I listened to during my early teenage years were the likes of Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32, progressing onto American rap with a focus on hip hop artists such as Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Tyler, The Creator was a key figure for his creative use of the piano, entwined with rap lyricism which for me evokes a sense of confessional reflection. Subsequently, I started learning to play the piano; finding that I could play rather naturally, I grasped the instrument quite quickly and from there felt a desire to consider producing and experimenting further with sound layering, whilst Earl Sweatshirt’s work influenced me to sculpt my own rap voice.
With the aforementioned influences and learning to play the piano, would you say they had a tangible impact on the genre of your own music?
Definitely. They’re viewed more as alternative rap music so to be influenced by such individuals is a big thing for my own writing, as they were at the forefront of alternative rap, seen to be pushing music with heavier beats but also melodies entwined. So, for me to be primarily impacted by them affects how I work and pushes me to experiment further, deeply consider the lyrics and be constantly evolving a more individual sound.
Regarding the individual nature of your music, what are your songs about, and does the meaning you wish to convey impact the song-writing process?
There are aspects of songs which relate to events or emotions personally felt throughout the past few years that have progressively shaped me, namely love and loss, but as I’ve grown more in consciousness I’ve wished to use my skills and ability to help other people, so there are certain times in songs where the theme will be to spread a message that may be responded to uniquely by each listener, but always with the intention of inciting positive feelings such as love or compassion.
Do you think music is a form of healing then?
Most certainly. For me I use writing as catharsis for myself to help me relieve my mind of increasing emotions, but for listeners it can be healing through words expressed like a meditative experience or on purely melodic terms, with certain frequencies resonating with people to produce an atmosphere of calmness or sought melancholy, depending on what they need. I wouldn’t say I’m massively religious, but I do think that spirituality is important to keeping yourself balanced.
In terms of the process, do you have a set way of creating music?
It can vary song to song, but on the whole I usually have an instrumental running through the background and write to that, verse and hook. I’m never consciously trying to make a hard-hitting rap song, or a dreamy lullaby– it’s more a mood I want to translate. Then I piece the verses together, and think about how it should flow.
There certainly is a mood created, an organic one that comes across not only through sound but also in the visual aesthetic; would you say by living within a more rural scene the setting impacts your work?
Yeah certainly, being in the countryside Holmfirth has some beautiful spots, my favourite being the forests, which each have their own different energies; being able to get out into the open and embrace nature so easily is something I love and this sense of freedom and rawness in these places influences the flow of my work. In my music videos, my friends Francis and Joel had the idea to use the forest and create this meditative piece; it was perfect, we shot scenes in various parts of the woodland, day and night, and the energy was incredible. Although I’m planning to move to a city in future to find new places, I’ll miss living and working in a place like this, there’s this natural harmony that I want to embody in my music.
You mentioned your aims of residing in a city; what are your aims now, is there anything exciting coming up for you and your music?
For sure, in the last six months I’ve had more attention with my work; I’ve been played on BBC Introducing West Yorkshire a few times so that’s exciting and endearing really, that my sound is being appreciated and shared outside of where I live. Further afield, I’ve had a lot of musicians and creatives, particularly through Instagram, wanting to meet up and work on projects, a lot of them based in London. Meeting up with these people is great– just talking about music gets me motivated to create more, and being in a city inspires me in ways the countryside doesn’t. Being there brings out new fresh sounds to my work. But right now, I’m focusing on the release of new material, all written and produced by myself and producer HI,HUMANITY; it’s a profile of my life since I started writing music to where I am now, documenting the various emotional movements in my life, the artists and producers I’ve been inspired by. There’s a growth in there you can see, as I’ve altered and grown.
interview and words by Lucy Cunningham