Music affects everyone differently, but it is safe to say it has the uncanny ability to make us feel and to entertain. This is what West Virginia native Thomas Okel’s second mixtape "Medicine" is all about—drawing its audience out of the harshness of reality and taking them on something similar to the magical Willy Wonka boat
Okel is a new, electrifiying hip-hop artist from Wheeling, W. Va who has taken great strides from the release of his first verse in September 2014. His style can be compared to that of the newer, darker Mac Miller and Earl Sweatshirt. The dark melodies on his instrumentals are very descriptive and offer imaginative wordplay that has no boundaries in its subject matter. Already with over twenty publicly released songs in his Soundcloud discography, Okel has tapped into a significant Internet audience and has worked with talented collaborators who have helped increase his exposure from a mere one hundred listens to thousands and
Okel first found his knack for writing music when late one night he wrote a rhyming poem. He was so amazed at what he had done that he kept going, writing several poems with the intent of performing them for friends as spoken word pieces. This soon evolved, as he decided to write some of them to music. When he finally met his audio engineer John McFarland in his first year at WVU, he began recording a few verses here and there to string together into one project as an experiment.
"I was finding my brand-touching on different music styles that I knew I liked and seeing which one worked for me," Okel said.
"Medicine" was released on Soundcloud July 14, and with it Okel introduced to us that personal sound he had been honing all spring. The whole eight track playlist flows very nicely from the opening piano keys of "Medicinal" through the dark horn synths and wavy strings that crop up throughout the mixtape. The lyrics are inventive, with clever takes on some of Morgantown night life’s greatest treasures as well as themes of peace, love, and the healing power of music.
"Music is my medicine. I was in a dark place last year…I had family issues, and I was struggling in school, but I was getting better at writing because I was doing it all the time," Okel said. "It was therapy for me, to get out of my head and onto the page."
Occasionally Okel will erupt into an explosive release of what seems like a hundred words a minute, as he expertly flaunts his developing writing skills and his rapid fire rhythm. But, his greatest moments come when he pulls his foot off the gas a little and coasts through songs like "Loungin" confidently with catchier and more memorable flows.
The whole mixtape sounds like cough syrup (in a good way) as it takes you away from the struggle of your real life. Okel mixes an ambient, electronic fusion of dance and classical instrumentals with creative and sometimes unbelievable rhymes and storytelling. The song "Ronin" plays like a swordfighting side-scroller over a haunting horn melody, as Okel tells the tale of a samurai on his path toward redemption and vengeance. Two other fantasy pieces, "Retrospace Therapeutic" and "Island Love," discuss Star Trek-esque space adventures and finding an exotic stranger to fall for on an island getaway, respectively.
Okel has no plans to stop the train he is on now, as he is already planning his next project. He says his work with John has really tightened up and gone from a chore to something he wishes he could do all day long.
"John and I have become much closer and learned to work together better," Okel said. "He has gone from my producer to one of my closest friends, and I like to give him a lot of freedom because I trust that he knows what is gonna work for me to make my song the best it can be."
"Medicine" can be found on Okel’s Soundcloud page, http://soundcloud.com/okel.