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The evocative new mixtape from Ebhoni, Good Dick & Weed, is a product of nighttime, connecting the dots and piecing together information from strings of late night texts, voice notes from the calls you choose not to pick up, as well as poignant diary vignettes curled up in the sink from the washroom of the Atlanta apartment she currently resides, where the low-key 19 year old feels her most authentic self. It’s also matter-of-fact acknowledgement of growing up on Weston Road in Toronto where her father sold drugs, waking up to ringing doorbells early in the morning, seeing notes left on her mother’s car and playing outside of housing complexes while her father was inside doing deals. On opening track “If You Know You Know”, she speaks directly to a night where gunfire punctured six bullet holes in the backseat window of her family’s car, and they had to temporarily relocate to her grandmother’s house, and openly wondered: what if she had been sitting in that backseat? Her parents divorced a few years back, and it was through Ebhoni’s own resolve to speak to what she felt was right that her mother (and now manager) found the agency to start a new life.

Good Dick & Weed is in many ways a family affair, born from a long lineage of women who have been their own support system. Encouraged to sing from a young age, Ebhoni’s grandmother paid for her studio sessions growing up, and the Caribbean music she heard over at her grandparents inspired the natural fusion of R&B and dancehall that made up her debut tracks. She grew up listening to artists like Lauryn Hill, Nas, and Mary J Blige; herself a child of the 90s, she channels a modern day Keyshia Cole in her effervescent performance, developing a keen sense of the best parts of what some would define as nostalgia: the era of mixtapes and tumblr, telling a story through visceral imagery and honest anecdotes, the internet in its rawer early form. Ebhoni has always had a knack for making everyday life feel like a work of art. The visuals for recent singles “All to Myself / Hit This” and “Tek Gyal Man” come with the ambiance of a lo-fi home movie, and were shot at local nail salons, gas stations and bowling alleys across her hometown, an unfiltered lens into where life actually happens. Good Dick & Weed paints snapshots of different cities in the same harshly ephemeral gleam, from Westwood to Wilshire, specific places made universal by the heartbreak and hopefulness within them.

Good Dick & Weed specifically wouldn’t have existed without its songs about Los Angeles, and the romance, disappointment and heady rush that comes from seeing someone new in a new city. The ten tracks pivot through the bright lit anticipation of walking into a party arm and arm, the exhilaration of infatuation and the intoxication of giving in to your impulses. They also tread into the jarring realities of people not being who they seem, being firsthand witness to substance abuse and depression, and having to reckon with a broken heart when you don’t have any of the answers. Initial products of those LA sessions, the lilting “Come Over” alongside the sharper, angularly produced “Westwood” represented a veer from some of her earlier upbeat compositions (the latter was “the first track that really feels like Ebhoni”), and when she got home she scrapped an entire campaign of music and wrote the rest of what would become Good Dick & Weed in two weeks, because life is complicated, love is hard to define, and the push and pull of being able to trust your own heart is integral to the heart of the music. Calling in fellow Toronto producers For the Night and Frances (spelling??), the project delves deeper into the auto-tuned rap highlighting Ebhoni at her most audacious while still mixed with a reassured pop sensibility that sees her more comfortable in her own skin than ever before.

It’s these dualities that make us real: even the name of the project reflects the contradictions that come with growing into the true versions of ourselves. “Think about how you’re feeling when you’re getting that good dick,” Ebhoni explains. “When you’re feeling yourself, feeling like a boss, like the life of the party. And then ‘Weed’, that’s my other side, the emotional side that less people get to see and understand.” A self-professed “shy” personality, Ebhoni was bullied through much of her younger years, to the point that at one point she missed a month of school and the police would have to escort her on her commutes. Putting up walls for her own self-protection, she’s only now beginning to draw from the power that comes from her own vulnerability. “I really have been through so much, and it’s important to show that to help others who might not have that platform.” Good Dick & Weed draws from this agency, a declaration of assured frankness that shows the choices you make don’t have to be perfect as long as you believe in them. Looking towards the future, Ebhoni sees this mixtape as indicative of just one pivotal moment, and is glad to have captured it in its rawest essence: no matter how times change, the feelings were always real. If you know you know.

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