Terius Nash digs into his songwriting vault for a leisurely stroll through his single favorite subject.
The-Dream’s last project, 2019’s Ménage à Trois: Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3, opened with the sound of two people fucking in a rainstorm. The singer had spent years describing sex in a variety of locales—from the beackseats of every luxury vehicle imaginable to a padded room in a psych ward—but this time he decided to cut out the middleman—himself—and just present the raw act without adornment. It set the tone: This wasn’t a record to create a dance challenge to; this was music made for one thing and one thing only. In an era when some of the biggest rappers in the world proudly proclaim celibacy, Terius Nash is a throwback to an older, more explicit era.
What came next was 39 tracks that replaced the cheeky metaphors and innuendos of his past work with straight-up filth. It never justified the king-sized runtime, but the magic of his songwriting still glimmered occasionally. His followup, SXTP4, is nearly a quarter of the length, suggesting a more cohesive affair, trimmed of fat. Instead it’s another leisurely stroll through the studio for Nash as he strings together a satisfying batch of R&B—but only really strives for transcendence once.
But what a moment that is. In many ways, “Hard 4 Me” is one of Nash’s most stripped-down tracks ever, glued together by a smattering of synths that sound like they came straight from an old Casio preset. Its emptiness leaves space for his sultry squeak of a voice, which is divine at carving out melodic pockets in the groove. Here he uses it to beckon a potential lover to come over after work and, true to recent form, he wastes no time with pleasantries: “Come straight here and take your shit off,” he asserts.
It feels like something made in about 15 minutes, but its rough-hewn finish feels like proof of Nash’s ability to sit down at any given instrument and crank out something infectious. The two tracks that precede it, “Notice” and “Spiritual,” play like alternate versions of the same song, with Nash exploring different directions he can take its chords and lyrics; it feels like we’re witnessing a Pro Tools session in real time. Its overflow cements the fact that “Hard 4 Me” is the project’s centerpiece, with the rest of the works sounding fairly low-stakes in comparison.
The opener may be the most egregious example of that, as all clues point to it being a scrapped reference track for Diddy. Not only are the Bad Boy Records’ founder’s signature ad-libs all over it, but the verses also seem to be written from his perspective, with a reference to his former partner Notorious B.I.G.’s passing woven in. On the opposite end, the closer “Coltrane” is a pile-up of piano strums that goes nowhere, bookending the album with two equally perplexing showings.
“Wee Hours,” revealed in the project’s digital liner notes to be cultivated from a Jhené Aiko demo, fairs better. On it, Nash shows off his signature vocal style where he isolates syllables and stretches and scrunches them until they become their own melodies, just like he did with the “ellas” and “ehs” of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” nearly 15 years ago now. Aiko takes the horniness baton and runs with it by boasting how she keeps hair ties and scrunchies on her just in case her hands need to be tied down. The pair make it all sound sweet, handling the hardcore subject matter with softness.
The one other notable moment here is the aptly titled “Fuck My Brains Out,” another song on SXTP4 pulled from the archives—this time in its entirety, as it was first released almost a decade ago in the leadup to his fourth album, 1977—but nonetheless continues Nash’s streak of making admirable Prince pastiche. It’s no “Fast Car,” “Yamaha,” or “Hell Mary” off Vol. 1, 2, 3, all of which were dazzling in how they reworked the Purple One’s trademark sounds into something refreshing and relevant. But its glossy finish, pounding rhythm and emphatic howls demonstrate how Nash is of a dying breed of R&B singer, one that builds roaring muscle-car engines of funk to move arenas with. He hasn’t shown that capacity fully in a while, and here he again just gives us a taste.