Alt Therapy Session 2: Transformation - EP
For many artists, making music is a form of therapy—and as anyone who’s ever gone to therapy knows, you can’t just stop after one session. Six months after debuting with the first installment of his Alt Therapy EP series—a collection of heady, lovelorn tracks grouped under the theme of Disillusion—the Toronto-based R&B singer drops a second chapter with a more hopeful message: Transformation. “Honestly, while creating this EP, I was definitely in the thick of a lot of dark times,” Emanuel Assefa admits to Apple Music. “So my form of therapy is testimonials: saying it out loud, and putting it out there, and holding myself accountable.” But on Transformation, the evolution is as much musical as it is personal. Emanuel is the sort of artist who’s become more fearless the more vulnerable he gets, as his elastic aesthetic stretches out to accommodate disorienting orchestral balladry (“Magazines”), slack neo-soul jams (“PTH”), and two dramatically different versions of the centerpiece single “Black Woman”—a haunting, atmospheric arrangement that’s more Radiohead than R&B, and a club-bumpin’ reggae remix produced by Drake/Rihanna collaborator Supa Dups and featuring Bronx-via-Jamaica toaster Tarrus Riley. But those dichotomies are perfectly emblematic of an EP that pirouettes along the line between sacred and profane—we won’t tell you what the title “PTH” stands for, but there’s no denying its X-rated sentiment is rooted in a genuine pledge for long-term commitment. “I think a lot of the transformation that I'm going through right now is learning to keep promises to myself, trying to cut out a lot of toxic energy in my life and focus on maintaining healthy relationships,” Emanuel says. Here, he reveals his track-by-track guide to self-improvement.
Magazines “This song was inspired by a real situation that I found myself in with a wonderful girl. She's amazing, but I noticed she was trying to fill something up with a lot of negativity, and a lot of materialistic things. And I noticed a lot of behavior that would hurt her and hurt us, and we found ourselves in a lot of toxic cycles and a lot of dark places. We brought out the worst in each other, in a sense. There were a lot of things lost in those times—a lot of mental stability and peace lost in my day-to-day. So in that dark place, I was trying to iterate the way that I felt, while still talking from that foolish-heart perspective and just going with the flow and allowing things to unravel in a negative way.”
Black Woman “This is about the plight of Black women. It's centered around appreciating their contributions in my life and in the world, and I'm trying to ask questions about mental and emotional fortitude. Like, my mom has had to deal with a lot of glass ceilings and a lot of people saying no and a lot of shut doors. But to see the grace that she moves through life with, and to see her still be able to achieve everything that she wanted to achieve despite all that, it makes me beg the question of ‘How do you do it? How do you carry yourself in the face of disenfranchisement?’”
PTH “I've realized throughout my life that I am a romantic, and my intent for my future is to find one human being to fall in love with. This song is really about two lovers sharing that passionate act, that free love, while also talking about their hopes and their dreams, all within this safe space of love. They're the moments where you're the closest to heaven, or closest to the divine. You just get so high off that love, you know? Those moments are really special—they're the things we build lives around.”
Black Woman Remix (feat. Tarrus Riley) “Tarrus Riley is a legend, with songs like 'She's Royal.' He and Supa Dups presented the remix to me, and I remember hearing it and thinking, ‘Why am I bumping to a song that was making me tear up before?’ But what I want to achieve is to always maintain these ethics and these morals—regardless if it's a track about love or if it's something that's in the club, I want to always be able to stand on these things. So I feel like this track is a big testament to that: to be able to bop to a song that was about some real shit.”