Daniel Allan and Reo Cragun are, once again, leveling up. The web3 trailblazers have both had groundbreaking years with Daniel’s Glasshouse, Reo’s Frameworks, and the LNRZ project all making waves. But they have their sights set higher. They want to put web3 music on the map. And they want to do it with Criteria. Their first full-length project as a collaborative unit–the 8-track EP, as its name implies, seeks to set a new standard. Sporting partnerships with Sound, Bonfire, OnCyber, Spinamp, and Argpeggi–the 2500 edition drop, available to the public on December 16, is ready to raise the bar, and so is the music.
When Daniel and Reo met in November of 2021, their collision sparked a unique synergy. Daniel had been a fan of Reo’s music since college, meanwhile, Reo had been taking web3 notes from Daniel. Having arrived from opposite entry points–Daniel native to web3, Reo coming in after years of touring and navigating the traditional music industry–their mutual admiration and eagerness to learn from each other facilitated rare creative alignment. “It’s not often that you meet people, especially in music, that you’re just like, ‘Oh shit, we’re going to be lifelong friends and collaborators,” says Reo. “Two people with the same drive and same ambition… it clicks like that. We very quickly became really close friends.” Now a top artist on Sound and the CEO of creative incubator, LNRZ–Reo is all in on web3 proving himself as a leader in the space. “Daniel helped me a lot when it came to navigating what was a whole new world for me a year ago. It was very humbling,” says Reo.
Daniel, already having made history in the space this time last year on the heels of Overstimulated, faced a different hurdle. “Since the beginning of documenting my artist journey I’ve been really open about my process,” writes Daniel in the Criteria announcement on Monday. “One of the biggest pain points for me has been prioritizing the quality of my art while being a pioneer in web3.” Suffering from imposter syndrome while facing the very real challenge of time constraint, Daniel needed to find confidence in his artistry alongside his web3 bravado. “When all the web3 stuff happened for me I definitely felt like a phony in a lot of ways,” says Daniel. “I was getting this weird cosign from this space that wasn’t necessarily the traditional music industry.” He needed to feel sure that his music held up. “I'm very much an artist just as much as I’m the web3 guy with the bucket hat,” he says.
Criteria chronicles the journey to newfound confidence. Grounded in a shared goal to bridge electronic music and hip-hop, Daniel and Reo deftly hone the marriage of the two genres–a sound they believe will be core to the future of music. Utilizing their strengths while staying open to each other’s feedback, the result is sharp, clean, and appropriately nuanced. “Our angle on it was to try and find a way to bring the two worlds together without having it feel too forced,” says Daniel. “It definitely would have felt too forced if Reo wasn’t like ‘dude, cut shit back,’” they both laugh.
The title track and most rare NFT in the collection, accounting for only 1% of the 2500 editions, sets the stage. “‘Criteria' is the opening statement,” says Reo, “It’s self confidence and maturity.” After swimming through a lush and gently building 21 second instrumental intro, the listener is thrust into an immersive experience as the beat drops and Reo’s vocal comes in swinging. “Yeah, I do not wear my heart on my sleeve, I cannot let them see in too deep. Cause I know they can use it against me, only one I can trust is me,” he sings. “Criteria is self awareness. The whole thing was–if you’re feeling the emotion, don’t be afraid to talk about it,” says Reo. “That’s part of fitting the criteria–good energy is part of the criteria, believing in others is part of the criteria–all these things that add up to who we are as a whole.” A self reflection on personal development and the trials and obstacles previously overcome–”Criteria” is the sonic expression of what it feels like to get to the other side. The track’s hook, and Daniel’s favorite bar on the EP, “They finally taking me serious, playing my songs, and they’re feeling it, now that I fit the criteria,” reflects their awareness that true confidence has to come from within. “I've never been in a beef before, but I feel like that’s what it would feel like to win a beef,” says Daniel playfully. “I hear that shit, and I’m like, ‘we’re about to pull up and change everything. And I've never really had that confidence about my music before… Everyone has the artist insecurity. Some days you’re like, ‘I'm the best ever,’ and other days you're like, ‘I'm not shit.’ So when I listen to “Criteria,” in a lot of ways, it’s a reminder to tap into a little bit more confidence.”
After “Criteria,” comes “Gassing You Up”–a high energy rocketship fueled by production flexes, an infectious dance beat, chopped vocals and a totally addictive chorus. Then there’s “Supercharged,” the most frequent edition and the first single slated to be released on Spotify, and it hits like a rush of dopamine. Daniel and Reo are on top of the world. Reo’s range is in full effect, showing off velvety vocals reminiscent of The Weeknd matched only by his wavy rap style. Meanwhile, Daniel’s production chops shine through in a perfectly balanced cocktail of bass and synthy-goodness. “OK YES,” comes next, packing its own punch with a bouncy, island-type beat before falling into crunchier, intentionally chaotic stacked vocal layers repeating the lyric “OK YES.” Hooky, danceable, and dripping in swagger, it’s clear by this point in the EP that Daniel and Reo have found their lane, and they’re having fun in it. “Reo’s most common piece of feedback is ‘Cut the fat.’ He’s like, ‘Stop going overboard. What is the best part of the song? Let’s just get there as fast as possible,’” says Daniel about their writing process. Reo’s advice and Daniel’s willingness to edit pays off. There’s not a dull moment for miles–and they’re driving fast.
At the EP’s midway point, the journey of rebirth reveals itself with a dramatic change of pace. Less than a minute long, “Recalibrating” momentarily slows everything down by way of dilapidated, melting vocals representing an ego death at the turning point. “Towards the beginning, you’re talking your shit and feel on top of the world and then “Recalibrating” is meant to almost be a psychedelic experience, where everything falls apart and then you come out on the other side. You’re really just like a different person,” says Daniel.
Reborn, vibes are high. “It’s really cool to see how much we’ve developed not only as artists and musicians but as people in the last year that we’ve known each other. I remember Daniel a year ago and the kid is not the same,” Reo says with a huge smile on his face. “It’s too funny to see the evolution of Daniel. It’s been really cool to see him come into his own.”
Rounding out the project with a guest feature and some Beach Boy-style harmonies, “More In Love” with Grady adds a dash of sparkle–and a little oxytocin. “He pulled up to my house and made the chorus in like four seconds in typical Grady fashion,” says Daniel. “I blinked and it was done.” A longtime supporter of Daniel’s music, Daniel credits Grady for giving him a much needed boost early on. “Having him on here just means a lot,” says Daniel.
Concluding the EP with tracks “OP” and “Out of Touch,” Daniel and Reo turn up the bass and bring home the narrative. Both are simultaneously flashy and self-aware. On the synth-laden “Out of Touch,” Reo sings: “I’m out of touch with you, I fell in love with it. Is it too much for you?” “The reference there is kind of about falling out of touch with the old version of yourself,” says Daniel. “It’s a dual meaning,” Reo adds. “It’s like falling out of touch with a younger version of myself and also falling out of touch with other people who were big influences during that time when I was in a very different place. In order to grow and mature I had to fall out of touch in order to get in touch with the things that I was trying to attain mentally.”
A start-to-finish triumph milestoning Daniel and Reo’s individual and collective watershed moments, Criteria is poised to achieve its mission. And as they push towards web3 music’s breakthrough moment, both Daniel and Reo are committed to staying humble. Pulling inspiration from chess, the yet to be unveiled collection artwork is a reminder to do so. “We made the pawn the most rare because we realized at the end of the project, no one is better than anyone else,” says Daniel, “We’re like, ‘Don’t get in your own head.”
“And that’s how we fit the criteria,” Reo laughs.
Article by Wallace Morgan for “High Frequency,” NOISE’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe for more.
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