While Dominican producer Maeloo’s music fits squarely into the downtempo house scene, he sets himself apart from the pack with a clear soft spot for raw Southern hip-hop on his debut EP, ネオ ンの夢 (Neon Dreams). Everyone from Gorilla Zoe to Future to Lil’ Scrappy gets nods here, as the chopped and screwed vocals from some of their biggest hits are weaved around bold, sunny beats.
Maeloo first teased us with “Chopped Moons,” the brief, thumping track that flipped Zoe’s “Hood N***a” over a lazily meandering beat with a dark piano echo. The rest of Neon Dreams is decidedly more joyful, while maintaining the chill vibes. “Sakura” opens with warm synths and ethereal vocals, before segueing into the hook from Future’s “Move that Dope.” Elsewhere, “Golden Coins” follows a similar format, but with more urgency in the guitar-laden track, which leads into the refrain from Lil’ Scrappy’s “Money in the Bank.”
When Maeloo isn’t paying homage to the Dirty South greats, he combines plentiful, bright synths over laid-back drum kicks. “Neon Dreams” is a smooth bedroom track with enough lingering synths and screwed vocals to leave on repeat for, um, longer sessions. “The Trip” recalls Frank Ocean’s “Whip Appeal,” while “Cruise Control” sounds like it could have been crafted for any of Teedra Moses’ lush R&B/house mixtapes. Aside from creating these brilliantly mashed up instrumentals, Maeloo could easily find a side hustle in producing for R&B artists with a lounge sensibility.
Neon Dreams is an excellent introduction to Maeloo’s sound. It’s a distinctly more sexy and soulful side of his previous efforts as XK, but it also preserves a hardcore edge. Any downtempo house producer can make music that would make you want to zone out, get lifted, or make love; Neon Moons hits all those marks and then some.