Introducing Giveon, a GRAMMY-nominated, Drake-collaborating R&B force to watch
After making an appearance on a Drake freestyle last year, the R&B one to watch is making a strong entrance with music of his own - and it's damn good.
In the last year, chances are you've come across a musician named Giveon.
The Long Beach, California-born musician has become synonymous with R&B's next generation over the last twelve months, placed on a pedestal after collaborating on Drake's Chicago Freestyle - where his sultry guest feature was originally misidentified by fans as a Sampha feature, to give you an idea of his sound and skills. Since then, he's dominated every move he's made: breakthrough solo singles, four-track EP packages and co-signs galore showing his many strengths, and how he's built on them since his initial entrance back in 2018.
In saying that, Giveon's rise has been a long time coming. Born Giveon Evans, he grew up in Southern California amongst a broken home, living alongside his brothers under the watch of his single mother. She was the one that saw Giveon's earliest talents, inspiring his journey through musicianship early on and fostering his connection to artists across the R&B spectrums - "black women heartbreak music," he's joked in the past - as those that would later end up fueling music of his own.
"That genre is the heartbeat of my sound," he said in an interview years ago now, showcasing the earliest blueprint of his sound still visible through to today. "Although what I create sounds different, those artists taught me melody and how to write something that connects emotionally to the listener."
As an 18-year-old with a deep-rooted connection to musicianship, he experienced a transformative session as a part of the GRAMMY Museum's songwriting program, where was taught to mould his voice to the sounds that his favourite artists had built careers off; Frank Sinatra a pioneering example. He fell in love with the connections he could spark through his vocals - inspired by the women before him - and the low-slinging baritone he was soon becoming a master of seemed to fit perfectly within his favourite R&B artists, and how he could foresee being transformative in the future. I don't think he realised, however, how transformative he'd end up being himself.
In 2018, Giveon made a debut with the earliest beginnings of his own work. First, came Garden Kisses, a tender expression of masculinity that plays with gender expression by emphasising the craft of the women who defined his earliest music tastes - Mary J. Blige and Sade being two examples. It was intimately rich in a way that reaches out and provides comfort; in a way defined by artists - like Sade and Aaliyah - that played such an influential piece in his past. The easygoing second single Fields made it two from two, and like that, Giveon was away.
Skipping forward, and while his Sampha-like feature on Chicago Freestyle proved pivotal in his breakthrough success, it was his solo Heartbreak Anniversary that made Giveon such a captivating force reckoning with success. It's a stripped-back, yet bold moment of self-expression that's full of the low-slung intimacy that's evolved over the years; dark-cut percussion and hazy melodies smoking amongst his enchanting vocals, which from the get-go, feel like full experience - something that stops you in your tracks, and won't let you go back to whatever you were doing until it's over.
Heartbreak Anniversary came out a year ago now, and while he's released work since then - his 2020-released, GRAMMY-nominated debut Take Time and October's four-track When It's All Said And Done being key examples - Heartbreak Anniversary is the one single that people keep coming back to, somewhat entranced by the way that Giveon can move you with the heartache of his vocals, and the potent lyricism that's within them. Hell, they're even finding new peaks on the chart a whole 12 months later; the single making moves throughout the world thanks to newfound resurgence.
"Heartbreak Anniversary is just the anniversary of a heartbreak," he says. "Say you guys are heartbroken on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. Every time Valentine’s Day comes around you kinda revisit the pain and revisit the sorrow. So with this song, I tried to make pain sound beautiful."
In saying that, you shouldn't be skipping over what else has come. Take Time is obviously impressive - it's nominated amongst Ant Clemons and John Legend for Best R&B Album at the GRAMMYs, for crying out loud - and When It's All Said And Done builds upon that, adding newfound edges to Giveon's work that shows how he's further built his sound. That evolution is something sure to become particularly present on When It's All Said And Done... Take Time, a compilation of the two halves that with its release this week, is sure to bring Giveon further into the spotlight than he's ever been before.
"The anniversary for the release of Take Time is creeping up on us all....what a year it’s been," he wrote on Instagram, announcing the release. "My first two EPs were stories about a chapter in my love life. The bright spots and the nuisances. I really just used music as a vehicle to exhibit all of my vulnerabilities and truths... the fact that so many people are moved by my stories leaves me speechless everyday. I’m beyond grateful and blessed to have you all along every step of the journey."
There's bound to be plenty more to come too, but in the meantime, Giveon is having a moment - and you'll be dumb not to jump on board. Introduce yourself to the force to watch as Heartbreak Anniversary makes long-overdue waves, and strap yourself in for what's to come - it's bound to be some of the most impressive, heartfelt music on the radar.