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Born in Congo, raised in Finland and influenced by US hip-hop and UK electronic music, Gracias is an artist with an international mix of influences that join together seamlessly with his album Elengi.

The subgenre of cloud rap has never really had an artist to make a stand and be the standard bearer for the niche style. A$AP Rocky and Mac Miller have dipped in an out of the subgenre with their Clams Casino collaborations but they both drifted towards more conventional beats for their major releases. With Elengi, Gracias has committed to producing an album which brings together a love for Burial-esque beats and contemporary hip-hop to create an ethereal and unique album.

'Elengi' means beauty and gentleness, and the album shows a shift to a more delicate sound for the man born Deogracias Masomi. The video for opening track 'Repent' shows a couple of innocent children discover a weakened Gracias in a forest. The track and video mirror the themes found throughout Elengi: discovery, adapting to a new place and heritage.

'Levels' and 'Paint Me a Picture' showcase these themes by mixing African drums with churning sub-bass lines and echoing synths. 'Slow It Down' is a more euphoric and upbeat track which is more hopeful than the lyrically dark track that came before it, which deals with substance abuse. Gracias' voice sounds a lot like J.Cole and his smooth vocal tone is equally effective over the more gentle tracks as well as Elengi's darker moments.

Occasionally Gracias' influences are too clear to see as 'Sada Yakko' is almost identical to Burial's 'Spaceape'. Thankfully, the rest of the album deviates from Burial-by-numbers and Gracias' talent as a producer is clearly seen as he switches from deep and dark tracks like 'Open' to more upbeat and brighter moments like 'OD Cumulus' (feat. Noah Kin). The African influence is ever present in the form of African drums and bells, which is found throughout the album.

The lyrical content deals a lot with his move from war-torn Congo to Finland at the age of four and the anxiety of being in a new environment. 'Even Out' is a track which moves away from the cloud rap formula with a more intense beat yet it retains the album's thematic identity with lyrics dealing with identity and acceptance: "What you worry about?/ Be about whatever you be about."

Gracias opened for Kendrick Lamar last year in Helsinki and if he continues to produce music as interesting as Elengi then he is sure to gain fame outside of his native Finland. Elengi may sometimes lack originality with the beats, but the niche Gracias is operating in has undoubted potential. A talented producer and rapper, if Gracias can spread his wings and move away from the restraints of his influences he may well match their achievements.

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