Last night was something special, and kind of a dream come true. Seattle based hip hop artist, Gowe, has been really promoting his upcoming project ‘Nostalgia Forever’ due out May 5th, 2020. This may not mean much to some, but to Gowe’s fans, this could be some of the best news we’ve received all year. Gowe released his debut album ‘We Are Hypergiants’ back in 2012, but I’ve been a fan of his since 2010 when he released “Song For Dad.” He dropped a series of singles(what ya’ll know about “See The World” and the “Rocketeer Remix?”), ‘The Beautiful Journey EP,’ and ‘Summer Breeze Sonatas’ before his first official album. I’m not quite a day one fan, but I feel like I come fairly close. After his 2015 release ‘Music Beautiful,‘ Gowe kind of went ghost on the music scene. That’s why this listening party was important and intriguing to me.
I started covering Gowe related news in 2017, when he announced that finally found his biological mother( His 2012 single “I Wonder” brought attention to his story). In 2019, he started releasing singles and seemed like he was riding a creative wave, and finally announced he would be releasing a body of work in 2020. In April he released the first single “Arrival,” giving his fans the first real taste of what we could begin to expect from the forthcoming project. Then Gowe announced he was going to have an exclusive virtual album listening party, and he graciously reserved a spot for me.
The event started promptly at 8PM(PST), which was 11PM my time. Gowe thanked us all for coming, as there were almost 30 people in virtual attendance on Gowe’s virtual stream. Gowe stated that this project ‘Forever Nostalgia’ pulled bits and pieces from his childhood, and a lot of that takes shape in the sound that the project was built upon. This project was experimental in nature because it meshes the lyrical dexterity and depth of hip hop with synthwave, a synth driven form of music. There is synth on every song but producer Sam Ock varied the synth in unique and interesting ways.
The very first song Gowe played for us was the first single released from the project “Arrival.” Gowe told us that this song is about people who have passions they want to follow but they get snuffed out. The second verse spoke to people starting and stopping following their passions. The second song was “City Allure” with a featured singer on the hook. The singer’s name is CiCi and she’s from Los Angeles, Gowe loved her sound and reached out to her to work with her. Her voice adds a sound to this song that can’t really be described but it compliments the track perfectly. The image that Gowe had for this song is that of a cityscape. The cityscape is alluring and symbolizes chasing your dreams, but not for the fame and riches. The next song is “Rearview” and symbolizes the halfway point of the project and is the slowest song as well. As soon as Gowe heard this melody he knew two things: That he was going to use it for the project and that this was going to be a love record. The setting for this song is way off in the future in a post apocalyptic society and there is a beautiful sunset. However instead of focusing on the beauty of the sunset, the character is thinking about that one particular relationship that just never worked out.
At this point the project took us on a journey from highs to lows and Gowe brings us back up with the fourth song “Big Time.” Gowe likes to break up the subject matter so it’s not heavy all the time, so on “Big Time” we wanted a party track with a celebratory feeling to it. It speaks to feelings of anti-materialism, reinforcing the notion that how much you have doesn’t make you who you are. Also, I loved that saxophone solo near the end of the song. Gowe had to really encourage his engineer to really turn up that saxophone so it could get the love it deserves. The next to last song is “Regal,” and it’s one of Gowe’s favorite songs lyrically. Gowe picked up pieces of this song during his trip to Hong Kong. While he was there he got on the subway and just watched the people. The vibe he got was that everyone on the subway was stuck in a fast paced rat race and that they were really sad. To Gowe that experience the song symbolized what it looks like to spend your whole life chasing financial gain and how that fails to satisfy you. This experience reminded Gowe of the book of Ecclesiastes. The final song of this project was “Neo Ultra” and Gowe loves this song. The title “Neo” meaning new and “Ultra” meaning revolution, speaks to a new revolution that Gowe hopes to inspire. The first verse speaks to Gowe’s Asian American identity. For those who aren’t familiar, Gowe is an American, was adopted into a Chinese household, but found out that he was actually Korean. The second verse speaks to the struggle of all independent musicians, contractors and freelancers. This song really serves to inspire people to push on and follow their dreams, and by doing so, they can inspire others.
After the playing the project in its entirety, Gowe gave those in attendance the space to ask questions. I asked him what did he want people to walk away from this project with. Gowe responded he wanted them to walk away sonically feeling like they had never heard synth wave on a hip hop record. He hopes that people find that weird but interesting. He wants his listeners to walk away lyrically inspired to continue to follow their passions, that people understand the independent hustle, and that there is a community for them. Another person asked what did this project teach Gowe about himself. This EP taught Gowe that he still really loves making music and it made him appreciate his community. He also shouted out Sam Ock, who produced and engineered the entire project, and James Han(formerly known as J. Han but better known as Uzuhan.) When asked what his favorite songs from the EP were, he responded with “Rearview”(his fave to drive to), “Regal”(His fave woke song), and his favorite as an anthem is “Neo Ultra.” The final question posed to Gowe was what was giving him life recently. Having more alone time and time in the Word and prayer was his answer.
In conclusion, this intimate virtual listening party was quite the experience. I’m already a fan of Gowe’s music, but getting a peek behind the curtain has made me much more appreciative of the way he operates. Instead of continuing to make music that was more forced and a transaction than an expression, he stepped away from a season. Gowe puts an enormous amount of thought into his projects, and though this one is only six songs long, please believe that Gowe has more in store. He assured us he is thinking longtime with this release and he’s going to have merch that ties the story line together. I can’t wait for the world to experience what a few others and myself experienced last night. In four more days you will experience ‘Nostalgia Forever.’ Go ahead and pre-order and pre-save the project today.