American musician Bazzi was at some sort of a crossroads at the start of 2018. He'd released hit single Mine, which was a hit, but it was still part of a discography that hadn't really decided what it wanted to be. That's where his new mixtape, Soul Searching, comes in, to serve as a bridge between the old and new in both a musical sense and a life sense.
Bazzi has grown lots since his last release, both as a musician, and personally. He's toured with Camila Cabello and Justin Timberlake, released a hugely successful debut album, Cosmic, and those experiences have been distilled into this new mixtape. Speaking to Billboard about the mixtape, he said it's his most confident, and personal, work yet. “I’m questioning myself less, I have a bit more confidence in the studio with knowing what I like and what I want to hear,” Bazzi said. “My sound is more definitive, and I feel more confident in experimenting and taking risks.”
It's an album of introspection, rather than fiction. Where Cosmic was based off a fictional story of love, Soul Searching is a collection of Bazzi's last 18 months. Speaking to HYPEBEAST, Bazzi said “My last project was very much driven by fear of love and relationship. Soul Searching was, after the last year and a half, with all of the stuff I’ve experienced, kind of looking inward and taking a look at myself, my feelings, and my own personal happiness, my own personal pain…really talking about that, kind of creating a home and community for people to connect to."
Collaborations are also something that Bazzi made a focus of the mixtape, if only sparingly. Featuring two hip-hop heavyweights in 6lack and 21 Savage on Fallin and Focus respectively is not only a demonstration of his ability to weave through genres on the one project but also highlights his ability to hand-pick those who he will work with best, rather than a piecemeal approach. These are a pair of rappers that are at the peak of their powers, proving Bazzi has got his finger on the pulse, rather than attempting to phone in collaborations.
Indeed, the pair of tracks sound seamless and prove to be highlights of the mixtape. 21 Savage, in particular, brings his A-game on the sensual Focus, and elevates the track to a new level, rather than overwhelming Bazzi's production. He's keen on another high-profile collaboration, saying in his Billboard interview that he'd love to collaborate with Billie Eilish. “I think she’s so unique and creative and it’s inspiring for her to be as aware and doing what she’s doing at such a young age. It gets me excited for the future of music and the future of thinking. I think she’s really important and I’d love to work with her.”
I.F.L.Y is a confession of Bazzi's love for Australian-born girlfriend Renee Herbert, and is a sign that he's not afraid of baring his soul. While in the past, he might have sung about chasing girls, with this single he talks about having found what he was looking for. He's not afraid to be vulnerable, which is a tearing-down of the persona that he may have presented in the past. “I want people to really know me and not create some sort of facade and false image of me."
The name of the mixtape is apt, given its lyrics. Album opener Humble Beginnings is an ode to Bazzi's success, as well as his hunger for more. "Countin' the bands, countin' the digits
Wasn't born rich, wasn't born privileged" illustrates the hustle that Bazzi has had to put in to get to where he is now, but not only that, a sign that he isn't going to stop anytime soon. “Soul Searching is really identical to the title, really it was just a soul search, a process of me constantly looking at myself and growing into the human that I aspire to be.” The growth mindset is evident on this mixtape, and it'll hold him in good stead.
With Soul Searching, Bazzi not only presents the next evolution of his music but the next evolution of himself. It's an intimate mixtape that truly brings you inside his world, and is a step towards achieving his musical vision, whatever that may be.