Imani Wj Wright: “So I Thought” – boldly conceived and brilliantly executed

Whatever you may think about “So I Thought”, it’s undeniably one of the most intriguing R&B singles put out – not just this year, but any year. The tone is muted and introspective, full of spectral guitar and lacking of everything else except a muffled bass throb and a subtle thumping beat. The lyrics are unequivocal and forthright, summarizing the acknowledgment and acceptance of a burnt out relationship: “So you…Tell me work’s been hard forever now. I know that you been down. Oh you been down for a while. Tell me you stay after. When I know it close at 6. Tell me you stay after. When it’s over, time to ditch…” Texture and experimentation are given free rein, and what gradually emerges is a record of enigmatic beauty, intoxicating depth and intense emotion.

“So I Thought” is brooding, bitter and unsettled – but at the same time self-aware and perceptive. The songwriting is unconventional. The shape-shifting structure, the minimalist guitar chug, and the distinction between verse and chorus which is almost imperceptible, will catch you off-guard.

The track feels like an absolute torching of the rules regarding what an R&B artist is expected to do. This is what they call a game-changer. And its creator is Imani Wj Wright, a 20 year old multi-talent from Baltimore, who has been on his grind for the past 13 years.

Photo by Lukey Lenz

Between his time at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins and an extensive stint at the American University under the auspices of the Washington National Opera, Imani has gone on to be a journalist for The Baltimore Times, and the London based magazine, Stereo Stickman.

Among numerous other accomplishments, which you can check out on his bio, Imani has also had mentoring from Grammy respected artists such as Khalid and Bilal. The aesthetic Imani Wj Wright pursues on “So I Thought” doesn’t allow for big, bold and noisy statements, instead he is close-up and personal.

The result is a real-life depiction of an emotional and psychological struggle towards unravelling afflicting truths.  It’s clear that when a song like “So I Thought”, feels raw or unpolished, this is in service of a greater objective; to showcase that music often takes the form of sketches rather than portraits, because ultimately that’s what our lives amount to in certain situations.

Often sentimental relationships promise to be rich full colored paintings, when in reality they turn out to be no more than rough unfinished charcoal sketches. And it is this unprocessed, rough-hewn feeling that Imani Wj Wright and producer Ocean brings to the table which speaks to the very specific way in which Imani intends for listeners to digest this track.

On “So I Thought”, Imani Wj Wright ascends his artistic ladder and reaches towards its heights, which is not an end to his means, but an endless process of creation. Believe me, this track is every bit as boldly conceived, brilliantly executed and irrefutably fresh as the hype you think you’re reading here.

****NOTE**** Imani Wj Wright and his band SwanoDown will be Performing at The Kennedy Center August 24th. Link to Performance Info:


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