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grouptherapy. live up to their name in more than just the personal nature of their songs. There’s that kind of interior excavation going on in the Los Angeles rap trio’s music, but there’s also a reconciliation of genres that feels more like healing than a novelty and comes with a specific magic conjured by the union of members Jadagrace, SWIM, and TJOnline. If making music is a journey of recovery, grouptherapy. are more than happy to take a few risks along the way to get closer to closure.
On their just-released new album i was mature for my age, but i was still a child, grouptherapy. use hip-hop as their sun with treasured Black musical traditions in closest orbit: soul, gospel, jungle, and house are exposed as the siblings they are. “smiles :)” centers jazz piano, Karriem Riggins-style drums, and spacey underwater synths to help create the record’s most vulnerable moment. The mantra: “My smile is choking me,” a humanity-uniting dilemma that means different things to each member of the group.
What’s being hidden? It’s fair-weather friends and suicidal ideation. It’s unresolved trauma. It’s the effects of isolation exacerbated by the fact that you might not be physically separate from other people. It’s the fear of not living up to your ancestors. There is an absence of hope, but the despair is not overwhelming, thanks to an abundance of beautiful melodic moments from vocalist Jadagrace that unfurl out of the looped piano. This is where the comfort of “smile :)” comes from: not in platitudes, but with its entreaties to be fully seen. In doing so, the song sees others clearly and without judgement.
“This is the album we’ve been trying to make for the last 5 years,” grouptherapy. said of the new project in a press statement. “This is for all the kids who had to grow up too fast, to take care of their caretakers, to leave their innocence behind to survive. Your scars make you who you are, but sometimes you have to re-live how you got them to heal and move forward. We made this as our roadmap to catharsis. Hopefully this helps someone else reach it too.”