Ben Grenrock forgets about time now and then for a moment.
I’ve always been fascinated by hourglasses. Clocks and our atomically-synced digital equivalents may be more precise instruments, but the hourglass is both a tool and a three-dimensional metaphor for what that tool is used to measure: time, steadily morphing from future to past as it pours through the minute chokepoint of the present moment. At once finite and infinite, inexorable and elusive, time is our most precious resource. And as we can so starkly see in an hourglass, unless we reach out and take control of it, grasp it, upend it, it will slip away.
Sudan Archives appears to think a lot about her time and how she spends it. After moving to L.A. from Cleveland, the twenty-three-year-old vocalist, producer, and self-taught violinist made her debut on Stones Throw records last year with a self-titled EP of hip-hop inflected, Sudanese folk-inspired, fiddle music so intoxicatingly fresh it instantly catapulted her to prominence.
One of the songs off that record is called time “Time,” and into its rich sonic fabric Sudan wove a reflection on the all-too-familiar feeling of knowing that though she is completing tasks—doing this and doing that—she still feels as if she’s “wasting all [her] time.” The song’s production reflects that same sense of anxious entropy: a kalimba’s asymmetrical rhythm rubbing up against a violin melody that swings sharply up and down a scale like a pendulum, slicing through a backdrop of glitched analog sounds.
Released roughly a year after her debut, Sudan’s new single, “Nont For Sale,” is every bit as engrossing as her previous work, while displaying the young artist’s personal maturation. On the surface, “Nont For Sale” is part self-affirmation, part a disassembly of the toxic friendships that have cloyed at Sudan’s attention. But at its core “Nont For Sale” is about reclaiming agency over her time on earth in a song that is nothing short of gorgeous.
It’s not just that she has no time to waste on the friend who only calls her, “when you need something,”; as she alternates between rapping and singing of her various personal strengths, she is actively deciding to spend her time living life through a lens of positivity and power.
Where “Time” was a shape-shifting wave that rippled around the listener, “Nont For Sale” is a tightly controlled composition. A beautiful arpeggio of pizzicato violin flows evenly under Sudan’s seamless vocal harmonies. Trap drums ease their way in underneath the melody to provide a sturdy platform for her gentle swagger. Here, the artist appears resolutely at the helm of her destiny, guiding it through memories of an inspiring trip through Africa, past any negative vibes or uncertainties that may have once caused her to question herself.
Rather than the frantic grasping at sand that characterized “Time,” on “Nont For Sale,” Sudan lifts the hourglass off the table and flips it—smiling confidently at her own power, sourced from something as simple as perception. Hot off the legendary presses at Stones Throw Records, “Nont For Sale,” drops with the announcement of Sudan Archives’ sophomore EP Sink, due out on May 25th. Between its uplifting lyrics and its masterful presentation, hearing this young artist learn to take control of her time is well worth yours.