In a time when plenty of R&B artists could be confused for rappers who happen to carry a tune well, Abhi//Dijon usher in a welcome change: They make R&B with a romantic softness plucked from the genre’s past. Made up of the mononymous Maryland artists Abhi, 21, and Dijon, 22, the pair brings a modern twist to last generation’s R&B.
Based in Ellicott City, Maryland, the duo picked up a sizable online following over the last year with only a few songs on Soundcloud: “Horses,” “Let You Know” and “Twelve.” But earlier this week, Abhi//Dijon released a new self-titled EP—already attracting attention on various music blogs—that takes their sound a step further.
EP highlight “13” is the 13th song from the young duo, but Abhi and Dijon actually recorded it before “Twelve,” their 14th song, a standout that could have passed for a futurist B side to Silk’s seductive 1999 single “If You (Lovin’ Me).” Stylistically, the progression makes sense: The duo says that “13” marked their first foray into conventional song structure, and “Twelve” followed the same path.
“If we had to describe ‘13,’ it reminds us a lot of Justified-era Justin Timberlake and The Neptunes without much of the same musicality or production value,” the duo writes (self-deprecatingly) in an email. “We’re still learning how to write, and ‘13’ is the most traditional structure we’d attempted.”
But Abhi and Dijon don’t take the same traditionalist approach to lyricism. “We both really like the idea of creating little fragments of scenarios and situations that don’t necessarily need to be anchored to some overarching set of characters, settings or narratives,” the duo writes. “But we aren’t great at trying to fit a set of lyrics or ideas into a song before the song exists…We form the lyrics from melodies that naturally come out as the production kind of grows.”
Abhi and Dijon, students at University of Maryland in Baltimore County and College Park, respectively, split the creative heavy-lifting when they’re not tied up with school and work. “We do production together, always in the same room at the same time,” they write. “We both come up with the melodies and Dijon sings.” (Though Abhi sang backup on “Horses.”) The EP came together in fits and starts over seven or eight months.
Abhi and Dijon might describe the process as a learning experience. “From the first song we’ve made—somewhere in June or July until now—our biggest thing is just knowing our limitations as writers and producers and working to realistically build and progress,” the duo writes. “We [are still learning] about mixing and having sounds fight for space, and we think our biggest accomplishment with the EP [was] keeping things as simple as we can.”