At 23, Henry Steinway is already on his way to being called a “veteran” by music blogs, both dance-music centric and otherwise. The astronomical level of buzz generated by the man better known as RL Grime and his Los Angeles electronic music compadres has grown into something of a rarefied status. Led, at least at one point, by fellow super-producer Shlohmo, Grime’s WeDidIt music collaborative has become as influential as each respective member’s distinct sound.
Sonically, there’s a gravity underlying most of RL Grime’s tracks that’s palpable, setting them apart from the Internet’s bottomless sea of trap-breakdown-Tumblr supermixes; it’s more crushing than crashing, like heavy waves in the midst of a powerful current. Early remixes of Kanye West’s “Mercy,” Rihanna’s “Pour It Up,” and Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” each exemplified the adeptness with which Grime crafts songs that are both blistering and beautiful, all while maintaining an uncanny sense of cool (which is to say, some of those remixes sound as if they could replace the originals).
With the 2014 release of his debut LP, Void, Grime seized upon the opportunity to take his project to new aesthetic depths. Void is hardly a compilation of bangers — it’s more satisfying than that, with a feature list that ranges from Detroit rapper Big Sean (who’s no stranger to voicing so-called banger hooks) to Brooklyn’s nu-R&B wizard How to Dress Well.
As he continues to book larger and larger venues (this Thursday’s Velvet Jones being a glaring, intimate exception), Grime is growing into a powerful voice in a swath of the musical/cultural landscape that’s typically shrugged off or exploited by the so-called music industry. And the elevation of his profile, along with the expansion of the influence of the entire L.A. electronic music scene, is good news because Steinway and his ilk are creators rather than reflectors, even if some of their best creations come by way of reflection.
RL Grime plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Thursday, February 5, at 9 p.m. Visit velvet-jones.com for tickets and info.