If you’re feeling blue because you’re caught in a musical rut, I would advise you to dive into Rio Azul’s discography. Azul is a New Yorker, born and raised, using his background of poetry and spoken word to enhance his ever-evolving rap career. If you’re out and about in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or The Bronx, the latter being Azul’s hometown, there’s a chance you walked right past him. He frequents local spots that host freestyle cyphers, including Legendary Cyphers in Union Square Park.
If you haven’t, it’s my pleasure to shed some light on this amazing artist. Azul just released his long-awaited album, The Lighthouse Lounge,a 12-track invitation to sit down, relax, and let the music unwind you from the chaotic waves of life. In a conversation with Azul, he made it well known that this project is truly special, the highlight of his career thus far.
“This is one of the most special projects I have ever done. It’s taught me a lot about myself. It’s had me travel, it’s had me meet tons of people, and get my mind in the right space to not only understand what it means to make music, but the power that it has,” Azul shares with me over the phone. When we spoke, Azul was just getting home, entering a more relaxed state to discuss his upcoming creative offering.
Azul has been teasing fans with the album since June, when he dropped the debut single, “Stargazing”. For those who got the first slice, Azul says they got a good taste of what the Lounge has to offer. “It’s a little, bite-sized package of everything you’re going to experience,” Azul commented. “As you hear on the track, there’s multiple instruments going on, there’s a piano solo in there. It’s kind of half lyrical, half instrumental, which is the vibe, that’s where we wanted to go with this.”
The Lighthouse Lounge itself is a fusion of Hip-Hop and Jazz, Azul subtly hints at, creating the chill yet energetic atmosphere he’d hope to have in a spot with such a name. The lounge is a place of inspiration, love, and general openness, a sentiment that Azul does his best to translate through the music.
“I want anyone who’s listening to feel welcome, entertained, to enjoy themselves, safe, comfortable, and that they’re in a place that’s not where they are. If you close your eyes, I want you to imagine yourself sitting in The Lighthouse Lounge,” Azul explains. “That’s what it’s supposed to be, a space of inspiration and light for everyone. I imagine every table to have a nice candle, lightly scented. Definitely have a couple of glasses, you know. A beautiful night out.”
Azul worked with David Milkis, artistically known as MiLK, for this project, tapping him as a composer of sorts. Milkis repurposed several Hip-Hop beats, using live instruments instead of production software to achieve an orchestral sound and feel for the album. While the project is under his name, Azul credits all artists involved with the creation of this piece of work, especially Milkis.
“This is a showcase of all these people, including David. I’m a frontman in this, but I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish something so vastly unique without these people. It’s a whole package, but to me, with respect to my fellow artists, they’re the ones that are putting this canvas together for me to be able to paint on,” Azul clarifies. “[David] was the composer, so-to-speak, for this entire project. All of these songs were originally rap beats, and he repurposed them to create them with a band and come out with the product we have. I co-produced this with him, but his mind was able to come up with these canvases.”
The Lighthouse Lounge, outside of being the culmination of work from so many talented musicians, and the embodiment of his own musical adventure, is a marker of a very significant nexus of space and time for Azul. The loss of his father to COVID-19, particularly, is etched into the walls of The Lighthouse Lounge. His love of Jazz heavily influenced the album, Azul’s personal way of keeping the memory of his father with him, and his way of saying, “Thank you.”
“My father was a very busy man, but he always made time for me in the right aspects. Do I wish I had more time with him, yeah. I have incredible memories of my father and they continue to live on now. He was a big Jazz fan and just a fan of Sade, and old school R&B,” Azul reflects. “As this album is coming out, I’m also going through a huge metamorphosis in a lot of ways, and it’s definitely my magnum opus.”
“For something great to formulate, it just takes time. You know, it takes five years for a bamboo plant to germinate and grow out of the ground, just for you to be able to see it. Somebody once told me that, ‘As much time as it took, is as much time as it needed. Sometimes we think we’re wasting time. No. That’s as much time as was needed for that process.
If you like what you found at the lounge, check out more from Rio Azul. And be on the lookout for a beacon of light. That is how you will know the lighthouse is ready to let you in.