tell me your feelings and i won’t tell you mine is out now on Columbia Records.
Few artists are spearheading the flourishing mainstreaming of lo-fi hip-hop like Canadian rapper, singer-songwriter, and producer Powfu. A genre that has sprouted in earnest over the last decade, last year’s international hit “death bed (coffee for your head)” was an unprecedented reaction to the genre’s rising popularity and the catchiness of Powfu’s emo-rap leaning flow and introspective songwriting. Featuring a sample of Filipino-British singer beabadoobee‘s debut single, “Coffee,” the multi-platinum release has amassed over two billion global streams while peaking at #4 in the UK and #23 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
For the 22-year-old artist, the viral song – uploaded to SoundCloud and YouTube in 2019 and later released by Columbia Records – resulted from years of experimenting with different genres, rapping over melodic, lo-fi beats, and fusing life-long sonic influences. “Growing up with my dad in the house, he would always play pop-punk music, so like Simple Plan, Yellow Card, and blink-182,” shares Powfu by phone. “I still listen to that stuff. I love punk music. I love the angst in their voices. So that’s a big inspiration to me, and I try to incorporate that in different ways and then also hip-hop.”
“When I discovered SoundCloud, the first genre I was listening to on it was hip-hop beats with no vocals, and I was kind of obsessed with it. I just loved listening to it, and I didn’t know of any people adding raps to it at the time, so I started finding all of these lo-fi hip-hop beats and writing lyrics for them. That’s kind of how ‘death bed’ was made as well.”
Releasing music for just a few years before his breakthrough, Powfu was shocked by the viral success. “It was really just random, I had no idea that it was going to be the song that blew up my career but I remember looking at YouTube and it was gaining a lot of views, like over 10 million and I was like what the heck? I look at TikTok and it was blowing up on TikTok. I don’t even know how it got on TikTok. I remember just scrolling through all these videos of people using it for different things.”
In true Powfu fashion, however, a year later, the Vancouver artist continues forging ahead with the same work ethic, tinkering with an already proven recipe for success while striving to reimagine cross-genre soundscapes, create stunning visuals to accompany his releases, and experiment with punk-pop and lo-fi hip-hop on a slew of solo and collaborative releases. All efforts leading to the development of his new and seventh EP, tell me your feelings and i won’t tell you mine.
Perhaps his most personal release yet, the reflective five-track project finds the newly-married star flexing his confessional lyricism and creative vision to capture his current chapter of life, and give Gen Z new angsty anthems for expressing a spectrum of deep feelings, processing emotions, and navigating the human experience.
For Powfu, the EP’s title and overall meaning hold deep significance. “The title was inspired by a bible verse I was reading. I forget what bible verse it is, but I don’t know; I feel like that’s kind of something that I struggle with, especially in my relationship is; I’m constantly feeling different things, and I wanna just spurt it out all the time, you know, and I’m trying to get better at holding onto certain things. I feel like it’s good to communicate in relationships, but I feel like there are also little things you don’t need to be saying all the time and to get better at listening instead of just saying my thoughts.”
Striving to work on communication and focus on his relationship, tell me your feelings and i won’t tell you mine was first teased with “tinted green” featuring Mila Moon and Jomie, where a jaded mindset drives to sabotage a budding new relationship, and “soda stream sky” featuring KNOWN., highlighted by the refrain, “time is telling me my only remedy is love/something that I’ve never felt before.” Released on October 8th, Powfu connects with longtime cohorts and new musical collaborators while also delivering the project with three new songs, “ice heart,” “a castle by the sea,” and “snowflake.”
“I feel like every time I release music, it gets a little bit better in terms of production and stuff,” reflects Powfu, “so it’s a showing of all the work I’ve been putting into it and also the music videos I worked really hard on with my friends. I’m excited to release it all.”
“snowflake,” featuring Jaden and frequent collaborator Sarcastic Sounds, opens the project on a lighter note. “Falling like a snowflake, catch you in my hands / I can make your heart melt waitin’ for the chance,” Powfu sings over a subdued melody. Just one of the standout hooks on the EP, the song is perfectly complemented by Smith’s verse. “I wish we got to meet in person, but it was through our management,” shares Powfu from his home in Canada. “I wrote the hook, and I thought Jaden Smith would sound good on it, so I got my management to send it to his team, and then he liked it and recorded a verse, but we never actually talked to each other.”
Highlighting the song is a snowy, hyper-stylized music video showing off the visual leap this project holds. “It was made with one of my best friends, AZE. We feel like the song paints a lot of emotions, so we wanted the video to be like no talking or voicing the words, we just wanted to paint a little story, and we also wanted to chase a lo-fi anime look to it. I feel it turned out really good; we ended up going to like five different locations and added some effects.”
Married for a little over two months, Powfu’s new EP also features “a castle by the sea,” a song originally written as a wedding surprise for his wife, Tashi, for their special day. “I was purely just writing it for my wife. She’s really into punk music, and that’s one thing that we always listen to together, so I was like, man, I want to write her the best song ever and have little punk aspects in it, and I finished it I think like two days before the wedding. I was really excited about it.” Like “snowflake,” the song is also accompanied by a visual filmed by AZE, though much like the song, it was originally intended only to capture Powfu’s wedding.
“I didn’t even know I was going to use it for a music video. I got married two months ago now, and I just wanted AZE to film some of it. I never did anything with the footage but thought it would be kind of cool to make a music video out of all of the wedding footage, so I edited it all together. I feel like it’s a cool, personal video.”
Despite the intimate song and video, Powfu doesn’t believe his recent nuptials have affected his creative process. “I still feel like the same person. Even though I’m married now, I feel like it hasn’t changed too much of my writing. I still feel sad at times and stuff, you know, but I have this whole new part of my life that I’m able to write about. “a castle by the sea,” for example, I would’ve never written that if I wasn’t married.”
He’s right. Sadness and deep feelings are projected throughout the EP with poignance and through subtly sharp bars. Especially on “ice heart,” an emotional rollercoaster produced by Tsurreal wherein Powfu grapples with feeling like a failure in simultaneous aspects of his life, later confessing, “I guess being a failure is what I’m blessed with,” after missing an important birthday and messing up his relationship. A song he shares is receiving a music video days after the EP’s release; ice heart’s genre-bending lullaby melody creates a hypnotic soundscape as Powfu’s punk-fueled vocals sear with pain.
Drawing from a diverse palette, tell me your feelings and i won’t tell you mine is Powfu digging deep and finding new success after a monumental chart-topping single. A difficult feat to accomplish. Unable to tour due to lockdowns in Canada, Powfu shares he’s already crafting his next release. “I’ve got a lot of music stored up and I feel like it keeps getting better, so there’s going to be another EP hopefully soon.” Until then, enjoy his latest, tell me your feelings and i won’t tell you mine.
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