Over the years, singer Lonnee Stevens and producer Antman Wonder have provided listeners with plenty of aural gems. Lonnee, with his deeply-personal projects under his Novel alias. And Wonder, with countless quality backdrops — including work with Chicago’s Add-2 and An Ode To Reasonable Doubt with Skyzoo. And now, the two have come together to form Summer of ’96.
1996 was an amazing year for hip-hop. Largely considered the final run of the music’s Golden Age, we were blessed with classics like Nas It Was Written, OutKast’s ATLiens, The Fugees’ The Score, JAY-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, Pac’s All Eyez On Me, and plenty more. That summer marked the culmination of hip-hop’s maturity, a period when groundbreaking artists deftly melded rap, jazz and classic soul into a singular sound that would remain influential for decades to come.
“1996 was the coming of age for music for my generation,” says Stevens. “Everything sounded so new, just as we were coming of age as creative people.”
Drawing inspiration from the individuality and innovation of that foundational year, Stevens and Wonder formed Summer of ’96 to discover new pathways into the juncture of hip-hop, jazz and R&B on their debut album, Splendid Things Gone Awry, due out this Friday (July 21) via Unsociable Music/RED.
The music is entirely original, using live instrumentation and no samples, with compositions created and played by Antman and restructured and adde onto by Stevens.
“Today everything is synthesized,” Stevens says, “but back then everything was sampled, and it was sampled from soul and jazz records. When we got together we decided we wanted to make a record that sounds classic but using all original stuff.”
To help build excitement for the project, Summer of ’96 have recruited Royce 5’9″ for a new single called “Not A Rich Man.” Check it out below.