The Central New York hiphop scene has been increasingly active in the past year, with local artists releasing new singles and albums, creating new collaborations, and organizing shows around the region. Case in point: Cortland-based rapper Corey Loveless, who dropped his latest album, “Sunsets Over Burning Cities,” on Dec. 20, and who will play a release show at Ithaca’s Sacred Root Kava Bar and Tea Lounge on Jan. 4.
“Sunsets” was actually Loveless’s fifth release of 2019 – his previous album, “Bright,” came out a few months earlier – but it differs from its predecessors. “This is my first fully fleshed effort putting a lot of time into a concept and a sound,” he said in a recent interview. “The idea I was trying to convey through the whole album was, in general, taking the good with the bad.”
Working with producer and engineer Ryan Pierce (aka Process), the 21-year-old Loveless put together a cohesive album that showcases his deft style and personal lyrics. (It does come with a Parental Advisory label for its explicit content.) “Sunsets Over Burning Cities” also features guest appearances by J.J. Wølfe, who’s also a member of Loveless’s group Dim 136, Ithaca’s Anthony Kannon, and Process himself, who not only produced and engineered all the music on the album but also features on three songs.
“I told Ryan the concept for the album, and he got so excited and took it exactly to where I wanted to go,” Loveless said. “I was so surprised – the first three beats he sent me, I said, ‘This is exactly it!’”
“Sunsets Over Burning Cities” is separated into three acts, each introduced by a poem that sets the tone for that section of the album. “It’s set up visually like how a sunset over a burning city would be,” Loveless explains. “So first it’s the sunset, then the burning city, then the ash. A lot of the songs really talk about topically either about the high moments in life or the low, and taking them all into one picture. So each section of the album is a portion of the picture.”
For an example of contrasting the good with the bad, Loveless points to the song, “Sunsets,” which has the lyric, “I was born while choking, I was given life at its first harsh moment.”
“My umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck when I was born, and I have mild ADHD to possibly high-functioning autism, most likely because of that,” Loveless said. “So while I was born choking, I was still given life at that moment. It’s encompassing that concept of taking the good with the bad at the same time.”
Loveless is also particularly proud of a few other songs on the new record.
“A lot of this album is me reflecting back on life, but at the same time, ‘Lately' is definitely a favorite of mine – it’s probably the most lyrically dense on the project – and ‘Red Light’ and ‘Rose Garden’ are also big accomplishments,” he said.
“’Memories’ is definitely a step out of the norm for me, for sure,” he added. “That was one of the last songs I wrote to, just because of how out of the pocket it was for me. But the sound of it fit that section of the project so well that I needed to make it work. I just loved the beat so much. I was really proud of the song – writing the story, I was able to convey my childhood.”
Fueling the Fire
Loveless’s father was in the military, so he moved every three years growing up. He was born in Illinois, moved to Massachusetts, then Ohio, Italy, and Idaho. After his parents got divorced, he moved with his mother to Plattsburgh in upstate New York, and then to Cortland to live with his father for his junior year of high school.
“Things just weren’t going well with my mom and I – there just wasn’t enough structure in the house,” Loveless said. “She worked a lot to provide for us, which I’m very grateful for, but I was getting mixed in with the wrong crowd, and I was doing poorly in school. I took a moment to reflect on my self, my life, my decisions, and thought maybe if I went to live with my dad, I’d get on a little different path here and fix things up. So I ended up going to high school here, graduating, and going to college and getting my associates degree at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.”
Loveless’s attraction to hiphop was first sparked by his sister's record collection.
“My father was a DJ, so he would always have KRS-1 and Public Enemy records around the house, but my mother wasn’t too fond of me listening to thosem” he said. "So I was actually introduced to hiphop by my sister, who had Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Kanye records. I got super into Lil Wayne, Eminem, 50 Cent, Jay Z – Jay Z is still my favorite rapper of all time – and once my dad realized I was taking an interest in hiphop, he showed me the origins – the Sugar Hill Gang, KRS-1, Public Enemy, NWA – and brought me through the history of hiphop since the beginnings. So it’s been my life ever since I was in fourth or fifth grade – and I actually started rapping in sixth grade.”
A Growing Scene
Loveless is proud to play a part in the burgeoning local hiphop scene, in which many of the artists are close friends and collaborators.
“I think it’s the most unified as a genre of music has been in the area for a long time,” he said, noting that many of them came together under Kannon’s lead to put together a well-attended show at the Haunt in mid-October. “That show was completely artist-organized via group chat and we made it happen because we all know each other. That’s the power of us working together.”
By the way, Corey Loveless is his real name. “I used to make up names to rap under – I had like 30 others – but I realized my real name is the best stage name that I could ever have,” he said.
If You Go
Who: Corey Loveless
What: “Sunsets Over Burning Cities” album release show, with guests Anthony Kannon and Dim 136
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4
Where: Sacred Root Kava Bar and Tea Lounge, 103 S. Geneva St., Ithaca
Cost: free, but donations are welcome
Check out the video for “Hard Work,” featuring Anthony Kannon.