Review: Endio’s “Black Romantic”

Endio’s new EP, “Black Romantic,” divulges the trials and tribulations of being a young Black man in love.

Album cover of Endio’s new EP, “Black Romantic.”

Nina Raemont, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

On “Black Romantic” by Endio, also known as Nnamdi Darlington the fourth-year Guthrie BFA student and artist, the production and vision is promising, though the lyricism lacks nuance.

The EP that premiered Feb. 19 is an amalgamation of R&B, alternative and rap music. Endio uses his voice to convey the vulnerability of being a young Black man in love, facing loneliness and the trials and tribulations of relationships.

The ambient vision of the music is strong, and it’s accompanied by crisp videos of him creating art — Endio is also a very talented painter; he painted the EP cover himself. The songs on “Black Romantic” flow seamlessly with one another, creating a storylike quality to the work with a solid beginning, middle and end.

The album begins with “Twilight (In Fair Verona),” and the first sounds the listener hears are iPhone pings and keyboard clicks. The thoughtful effects remind us that this is a modern spin on your average love story. Endio’s voice echoes and becomes theatrical through voice distortion and melody as he sings.

Endio, an artist and fourth-year BFA student at the University of Minnesota, poses for a portrait outside of FloCo Fusion Apartments on Saturday, Feb. 20. His new EP, titled “Black Romantic,” came out on Feb. 19. (Emily Urfer)

The most notable tracks on the album are “Strung Out (Heartstring Anthem)” and “Black Romantic.” These two songs showcase Endio’s effortful production, creative instrumentals and passionate voice. “Strung Out (Heartstring Anthem)” feels like a foot-tapping, sunny day song.

Another banger on “Black Romantic,” “U Don’t Have 2 Call,” concludes the work with an instantaneous bop. His artistry shines through his more joyous songs. He creates music that a bustling concert crowd could dance to, but when Endio tries to give depth to his music it becomes lackluster.

While his blending and production is strong and can only get better with time, his lyricism falls short in some of his songs.

In “Zelda,” he tells his love interest that her hourglass is vexing, something that’s hard to imagine anyone saying in earnest. In “Names (Ain’t Changed),” he sings, “I was too damn shy until I met Mary Jane/She ignited my sex drive.” Some lyrics fall short of romantic and stumble into cringe territory; others offer tired cliches and unoriginal rhymes.

Some songs, like the titular song, however, offer deep and vulnerable lyrics. “Black Romantic” is a seven-minute blend of horns, stinging lyrics, beat changes and twists. The song covers love and loss and his identity as a Black man. He’s introspective and broken but hopeful, repeating “We’ll carry on.” He questions whether anyone can love him as a Black man.

When he talks about his classes in school, he questions whether his skin was the reason people laughed at him. He describes himself as “a black sheep in a sea full of white.”

His debut EP display’s Endio’s promise as a performer and creator, but he still has room to grow into his sound and voice.

Grade: B-