CallMeKarizma LLC, (c) 2017
Minnesotan rapper and singer Morgan Francis Parriott, more widely known by his stage name CallMeKarizma (or Riz for short), dropped his latest self-released EP Emo on February 24th, and it is a beautiful but heartbreaking piece of art with influences from indie, alternative, and hip-hop music. The songs are catchy, and the lyrics are painstakingly relatable, acting as a sort of catharsis that allows the listener to lament his or her imperfections and alienation, which ultimately leads us to realize that we are in fact far from being alone in the misery of our mistakes.
On “Sleep,” Riz articulates how he is tired of being taken advantage of, and on “Bad” he sings, “Sick of being what average is/Sick of being the laughed-at kid/I guess it’s not that bad.” “Rain” presents him on an acoustic ditty that gains momentum and instrumentation as he pines for a lover who leaves his texts on read. The lyrics of these songs are blunt and often bitter, and that honesty makes them so powerful. He is bitter about the many people in his life that have wronged him, but he is also bitter about the mistakes he has made himself. And this is all set to contrasting guitar riffs and synth lines that are easy to bob your head to and sing along to when you’re feeling down.
“I Still Love You” begins with only a clear guitar riff and Riz’s vocals, and this continues through to the first chorus where he declares, “I f***ing cheated on you/I’m sorry I’m sorry I am.” As soon as the narrator’s (note: Riz stated in an interview that this is a response to Jessie Reyez’s song, “Figures,” so this song is from a character’s perspective, not necessarily his) predicament becomes clear, the drums come in at the second verse. At the second chorus, synths are added, yet all of these additions feel extremely jarring; they are not totally coherent, as they all seem to be moving at slightly different tempos. They all mesh well with his voice, but not with each other. However, this incoherence is intentional and clever. It demonstrates how this relationship is far from perfection and ease, yet the narrator still feels love for this person — he is sonically admitting that he’s a mess, and he regrets his actions. But his love is real. It is additionally important to notice that he samples the riff from Reyez’s song, and builds onto it; this combination of conflicting instrumentation signifies the confusion and competing feelings of the guilty cheater.
There is literally not a bad song on the entirety of this EP, but I must admit that “Zombie” and “I Want You” are my two favorites. In “I Want You,” Riz characterizes what it feels like to be in love with a person but not wanting to have those feelings anymore. He feels that this relationship has and always will be destined for disaster, but he cannot help how much he wants to be with this woman. She continually breaks his heart, but when the music cuts out in the bridge and he mutters, “I still can’t get over you,” the emotions cut deep to the core and tear the listener’s heart apart. He is trapped, and unhappiness seems inevitable. This depiction of love is difficult and contradictory, but the contradictions demonstrate realistic complexities of loving someone; people aren’t perfect, and this song gives us some gloriously painful insight into how complex this imperfection is. This confusion and hatred of one’s own feelings can be applied to a variety of situations, and it indicates that being human means wrestling with treacherous complexities that create the mist that makes life so hard to navigate.
“Zombie” is my favorite song simply because I fall apart every time I listen to it; I love when music makes me feel something, and this song is so successful in doing that. The overarching theme is summarized so well in these devastating lines: “I talked to God to see if I’m the only one like this and/He said, ‘Oh kid, I got some bigger problems to fix.'” Like in “I Want You,” the music cuts out at the end of the line, and this allows us to zero in on Riz’s vocals and feel the emotion behind the lyrics. Actually, when he quotes God, his voice becomes slightly more monotone, and the hopelessness behind that artistic decision is overwhelming. Our singer feels desolated, as he is told to rely on medicine to cure his isolation and depression; he compares the meds to candy received on Halloween, and he becomes a zombie that kids dress up as on October 31st. Bright background synths are contrasted with an especially deep bass line, and the stream-of-consciousness lyrics are effective in demonstrating how people may see him as disoriented. The repetition of the word “zombie” in the chorus encapsulates the feeling of slogging through life as a member of the undead, and the soft percussive offbeat hits remind me of a zombie slowly taking step after step, jerkily creeping through a dark and empty city, having no real purpose to his bleak and miserable existence.
I found CallMeKarizma’s stuff online a while back because the Gomez brothers from The Summer Set (one of my favorite bands) were promoting that they produced on his tracks (kudos to them by the way, their production is so clean and flawless), and I was hooked. It’s only a matter of time before Riz totally blows up in the mainstream — his music is raw and painfully honest while also being catchy, and that is something that a wide variety of people can connect to. The album is titled Emo, which seems appropriate based on the emotional lyrics, but the cover art indicates that it is actually an acronym for the phrase “Everybody Moves On.” This is the perfect tagline to describe the loneliness, heartache, bitterness, and self-deprecation that this body of work encompasses, and the cracks on the cover depict the cracks of a broken heart. The image of the smiling young Riz is jarring, but the real meaning lies in the fact that it looks like a doll — that smile is not real, that happiness is not real. Everybody moves on, and as an individual, you will eventually be abandoned; even God has “bigger problems to fix.” Nevertheless, one can find solace in knowing that he or she is not the only one that feels this way, and in that the listener will leave this album happier than he was before pushing the play button. Riz makes it feel acceptable to wallow in self-misery for a little bit, and that is cathartic. Maybe in this realization that we are not alone, and that desolation is a part of being human, we can turn the phrase “Everybody Moves On” on its head so we can move on ourselves to try and seek out joy. Thank you to CallMeKarizma for giving us this EP — it is an absolute must-listen.