After hearing the first few bars of “The Story,” the opening track to Roni Marsalis’ debut EP War of $-H3-Art, you’d be forgiven for thinking the track would be lighter than air. But the feathery keys and distant sax belies a much weightier narrative about family, pain, love, and acceptance anchored by a monologue expressing a deep affection for friends and family. Roni Marsalis seems at home turning sacrifice and pain inside out, a skill that takes equal parts artistry and introspection.
But that isn’t the only thing Marsalis is a master chemist of: She mixes musical styles with a deft hand, combining sounds as disparate as Apani B and Ellie Goulding in the span of three minutes on “Maybe…” Her lyricism is still magnetic, though, and the confessional, raw nature of her songwriting is what makes her unique in a landscape where hard truths are few and far between. (Boosie Badazz’s powerful In My Feelings. (Goin’ Thru It) came to mind when listening to War of $-H3-Art for the first time.) When she brings that power to the stage, watch out.